The Afghanistan and Iraq wars have been the longest in United States history. They have cost the nation $4 to $6 trillion dollars, the lives of millions have been lost or destroyed and they are creating a more violence and a mass refugee crisis.
There are many lessons the United States needs to learn from 9/11 and, if we fail to learn them, we will continue to repeat them. At the recent commander-in-chief forum both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump did not demonstrate that they have learned these lessons and they proposed continuing on the same path the U.S. is currently on. Another four or eight years of war during their administration will ensure more devastation. Only Jill Stein has put forward a plan to defeat ISIS without more war, i.e. cut off their funds, cut off the supply of U.S. weapons to the region, and win the hearts and minds of the people.
The U.S. needs a new 9/11 commission that will examine what occurred on 9/11, including a review of all the evidence developed by citizen activists, and even more importantly, that will examine what mistakes were made in the U.S.’ response to the attack.
In The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission, the co-chairs of the commission, Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, wrote “we were set up to fail” and described their lack of access to critical documents and other evidence as well as inadequate time and money. Harper’s Magazine described the 9/11 Commission report as "whitewash as public service" – a document that "defrauds the nation." The new inquiry needs to not make the mistakes of their effort. It needs to be given sufficient money, time, and access to relevant classified information.
Perhaps more important than what happened that day are the issues of how the United States government responded. In hindsight, the mistakes made are more obvious, even though many people at the time made these points.
Immediately after the 9/11 attack the Bush administration allowed and aided members of the Saudi Royal Family to leave the country. With the release of the “28 pages,” that had been redacted from the joint Senate-House report, it is evident that members of the Saudi Royals were involved in funding or aiding those accused of the attacks.
The next mistake was treating 9/11 as requiring a broad military response rather than a targeted response to capture the suspects, especially Osama bin Laden, with the goal of bringing them to justice in an international court.
Many people now agree that the war in Iraq was one of the greatest mistakes in U.S. foreign policy history, even though both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump supported it (despite Trump’s false claims as there are documents showing his support). There is no longer any question that the U.S. invasion was based on lies because there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; and Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack. Both of these facts were known at the time of the invasion.
How did US foreign policy go so off track and respond to 9/11 with a war against a country that had nothing to do with the attack? At the same time, no one in the Saudi government was investigated and neither were Saudis, who are now known to have aided and abetted the attack. A new inquiry should ask, why?
The results of these wars and the expansion of drone wars have produced disaster for the region, the United States and the world. The disasters continue with the largest refugee crisis in history -- 65 million people -- a problem stimulated by the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria as well as numerous countries subjected to aerial drone attacks such as Yemen. This U.S. military policy continues to destabilize the Middle East and is now destabilizing Europe.
The inquiry should also investigate whether the military response and wars have reduced terrorism or increased it; whether it has created more terrorists than it has destroyed and whether radicalization of some Muslims in the United States have roots in a response to U.S. wars.
Fifteen years after the 9/11 attack we still feel sorrow and pain for the thousands who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center and for their families. We also feel the pain and sorrow of the millions of lives destroyed by the U. S.’ response. Unless we face up to the mistakes made, mistakes that began before the attack and have worsened since it, we will be doomed to repeat them. The first step is facing up to the realities of 9/11 and the realities of the disastrous aftermath.