The election of President Joe Biden under extremely questionable conditions was hugely welcomed by many in America and Europe.... The leaders of countries that are the enemies of the United States seemed even more delighted. Iran's then President Hassan Rouhani said on November 5, 2020: "The next US administration will surrender to the Iranian nation". (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
September 11, 2001 was the first time the United States had been attacked on its mainland since 1812. Nearly 3,000 people were killed. Americans reacted with determination and dignity. American flags were soon everywhere. The idea that the attacks should not go unpunished seemed unanimous. It was promptly proven that the attack came from al-Qaeda; on October 7, the US military started to crush the rear bases of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and the Taliban who housed them.
Twenty years later, the situation is on its head. Solemn commemorations were held in Washington, Shanksville and New York, but anxiety and anger pervaded the atmosphere of the country. US President Joe Biden attended the commemorations but did not speak. Instead, he released a videotaped speech in which he said he would hunt down "those seeking to do harm to America" and make them pay. These words, to many people, seemed hopelessly out of touch. The United States had just surrendered Afghanistan without even an attempt at resistance in an atmosphere of chaos, duplicity and defeat. The Taliban are in power again, and al-Qaeda -- intermarried and effectively interchangeable with them -- at their side.
How an American administration could give the power back to the same enemy -- offering victory to Islamic terrorism and inflicting on the United States an unprecedented humiliation -- requires understanding what has happened in the US since 9/11: a relentless work of undermining the United States to erode and destroy its power, and its will to defend itself and victoriously fight its enemies.
President George W. Bush set his goals quickly after the 2001 attack. As early as September 14, he said: "Our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil." Three days later, on September 17, he spoke of the terrorists:
"We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century.... [B]y abandoning every value except the will to power–they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism... The advance of human freedom – the great achievement of our time, and the great hope of every time–now depends on us... We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail".
Bush spoke of a "war on terror": "Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there." "Every nation," he added on September 20, "in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."
Almost immediately, the unanimity that seemed to exist began to break down. On September 24, a liberal magazine, The New Yorker, published a series of reactions to the attack written by supposed intellectuals. Most expressed reservations about the reaction that had taken shape. A political activist, Susan Sontag, hinted that the attack was probably the fault of the United States: " this was not a "cowardly" attack on "civilization" or "liberty" or "humanity" or "the free world" but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed super-power, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions". Hostility to President Bush, to freedom, and to the will to wage war began to take shape. The rest of the Western world followed a similar path. The leaders of several countries in Europe said they supported the United States, but many seemed lacking in firmness.
On January 29, 2002, President Bush, in his State of the Union address, referred to an "axis of evil", and cited three countries: North Korea, Iran and Iraq. On October 7, in a speech on Iraq, he explained in detail the many crimes committed by the Iraq's president at the time, Saddam Hussein, and stated that the US was considering war if Saddam Hussein did not choose to declare and destroy "all of its weapons of mass destruction", "end its support for terrorism", and "cease the persecution of its civilian population".
The notion of an "axis of evil" was swiftly declared "simplistic and dangerous" by various commentators; and throughout 2002, the hostility of many in America and abroad in the Western world towards Bush's policy grew stronger. It became even more pronounced after President Bush's speech on Iraq. Two European prime ministers continued firmly to support the United States: Britain's Tony Blair and Spain's Jose Maria Aznar, but French President Jacques Chirac, who had long term financial links with Saddam Hussein, opposed the war, tried to save the Iraqi dictatorship, and brought behind him Germany and most of the rest of Europe.
Saddam Hussein chose not to comply, and in 2003, in a matter of weeks, the war was over. Islamists, however, had come to Iraq from all over the Muslim world to fight "the infidels," wage holy war, kill and die, and an insurgency started that lasted until a US troop surge in 2007. By 2008, Iraq was stabilized, but what the late journalist Charles Krauthammer called the "Bush derangement syndrome" -- which he defined as "the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush " -- began to emerge.
Relentless, frenzied protests swept across the United States and Western Europe. Protesters held up signs comparing Bush to Hitler and declaring him the worst terrorist on earth. Books were published accusing Bush of war crimes. A propaganda film by filmmaker Michael Moore, based entirely on conspiracy theories alleging Bush family ties to the Bin Ladens and Saudi royals, received the Cannes Film Festival's 2004 Palme d'Or and enjoyed worldwide success. The film left out all the crimes committed by Saddam Hussein. That he had exterminated dozens of thousands of Kurds with chemical weapons a few years before 2001, and his other crimes against humanity, apparently did not matter, and Saddam Hussein was described as someone who had never possessed weapons of mass destruction. Although Bush said from the start that he was not waging war on Islam, he was accused of it anyhow. That Islamic terrorism was still a clear and present danger, and that eliminating terrorists could be a good thing, was ignored. Instead, Bush was accused of creating terrorists. During Bush's presidency, no further terrorist attacks in the Western world took place -- a situation that was also ignored. For millions of Americans and Europeans, from 2003 to 2008, the only monster on the planet, and the only danger to eliminate, was President George W. Bush.
This was the context for the election of Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008. Obama had described himself during the election campaign as a redeemer: the embodiment of "hope" and "change". Three months before the election, in July 2008, he had visited Germany, where he promised to "finally bring this war to a close". His past as a community organizer was considered by most journalists a positive quality. After a triumphant election, he at once asked his administration to stop speaking of the "war on terror", and instead to use the watered-down expression, "overseas contingency operations". He never spoke of "terrorists" and replaced the word with "violent extremists".
On May 21, 2009, he rejected the entire foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration. "We went off course," Obama said, and promised to take the country in another direction. On June 4, in Cairo, he delivered a speech praising to Islam and criticizing the United States.
Regarding Afghanistan, which he called "the good war," as opposed to Iraq's, Obama imposed the most restrictive rules of engagement on the US military, a decision that resulted in the deaths of many US soldiers. In 2011, Obama supported the seizure of power in Tunisia and Egypt by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization defined even by some Muslim countries as terrorist. He withdrew America's combat troops from Iraq, with the result that al-Qaeda, which had been destroyed under George W. Bush, was reborn under another name: Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). ISIS proceeded to conquer a vast territory which, thirteen years after the destruction of Al-Qaeda's bases in Afghanistan, became a new center for Islamic terrorism and a source of inspiration for Islamic terrorists worldwide. Islamic attacks, which had virtually disappeared during the presidency of George W. Bush, reappeared. The years 2015-2016 were marked by a grisly wave of them throughout Western Europe and the United States.
Obama developed and approved the signing in July 2015 of the Iran nuclear deal. Although it was sold to the public as preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, it in fact did just the opposite and did not prevent Iran from pursuing its quest for nuclear weapons. Iran also received from the Obama administration billions of dollars which the mullahs quickly used to fund various Islamic terrorist organizations, thereby making Iran the world's leading financier of international Islamic terrorism. Although Obama did eliminate Osama bin Laden, the assassination did not curb the spread of Islamic terrorism taking place at the time.
The press and the public in the West treated Obama as if he were an idol. Although many bloody attacks took place in Western Europe during his presidency -- and although Western Europe suffered heavily from the creation of ISIS and the disorders created throughout the Muslim world during his term (more than a million migrants burst into Europe in 2015-2016) -- the leaders of Western Europe did not stop praising him.
For many in America and Western Europe, the election President Donald J. Trump came as a shock. Although Trump had defined the war in Iraq as a "terrible mistake" and had criticized George W. Bush, he was and still is subjected to continuous demonization from the press, the media, social media, the CIA, the FBI, the IRS, the Department of Justice even more hostile than that undergone by President George W. Bush.
Trump, during his campaign, used two expressions borrowed from Ronald Reagan: "Make America great again" and "Peace through strength" -- revealing that the direction he intended to follow was not at all the same as Obama's. It was clear that he would fight Islamic terrorism. Trump destroyed ISIS, eliminated its head, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, suffocated the Iranian regime economically to deprive it of being able to finance terrorism. He advanced peace in the Middle East spectacularly, as none of his predecessors had, with the Abraham Accords, signed at the White House on September 15, 2020. No major Islamic terrorist attack occurred under his presidency. Yet, to this day, many in America and the rest of the West continue to pour out intense hatred against him. Western European leaders continue to criticize him and portray him as uncouth.
The election of President Joe Biden under extremely questionable conditions was hugely welcomed by many in America and Europe. Biden was widely described as embodying the return to "professionalism" and "seriousness" after four supposedly horrible years. The leaders of countries that are the enemies of the United States seemed even more delighted. Iran's then President Hassan Rouhani said on November 5, 2020: "The next US administration will surrender to the Iranian nation". Communist China's President Xi Jinping said nothing but instantly stepped up military provocations against Taiwan and Australia, India, the Philippines and Japan.
From the first days of its existence, the Biden administration spoke of terrorism, but seemingly to refer only to "white supremacy" and "domestic terrorism" -- evidently meaning Republicans and other Americans who had voted for Trump. Concessions to Islamic terrorism quickly followed. On February 12, the Houthi militia was removed from the Department of State list of terrorist organizations and started to receive US humanitarian aid. A few weeks later, their attacks on Saudi Arabia resumed. On February 18, the UN sanctions on Iran reinstated by Trump were rescinded, and economic sanctions partially lifted. Iran could now deliver missiles to Hamas, which used them in May to launch a massive attack on Israel.
The Afghan disaster was put in place. The Biden administration, unlike the Trump administration, had shown the Taliban and al-Qaeda that they had nothing to fear. The American media and the rest of the Western world hardly commented on the deceitful, catastrophic and deadly way the United States surrendered Afghanistan. A few former Obama officials criticized Biden. An editorial of the French newspaper Le Monde spoke with joy of the "long list of humiliations suffered by the United States".
Several European leaders said they feared a return of Islamic terrorism to Europe, and started to react as most European leaders have reacted for decades: by trying to appease those who threaten their countries. On September 14, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said, "to have any chance of influencing events, we have no other option but to engage with the Taliban." The Biden administration appears to want to do the same. On September 3, it began funding "humanitarian aid programs" in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. On September 9, White House press secretary Jen Psaki praised the Taliban as "businesslike and professional".
Other members of Congress and political analysts hold a different view of the situation. "We're going back to pre-9/11 right now," Representative Michael McCaul, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee said on September 12, "but it's worse, it's worse because now they're [the Taliban] fully armed with our weapons, our helicopters and pallets of our cash".
Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said:
"I hope that it's just something that has an impact for decades, I hope it's not centuries; it's the most profound loss for the United States, certainly in our lifetime... this most recent, most painful, colossal, epic failure in Afghanistan has literally breathed life into the radical Islamic terrorist movement, not just in Afghanistan, but around the world. "
Former President George W. Bush now speaks differently from how he spoke during his presidency. He is now using the same words as Obama to designate terrorists -- "violent extremists" -- and has been tracing an equivalence, no matter how false, between "violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home".
Meanwhile, the only person under investigation for the completely avoidable strategic failure of America's surrender to the Taliban in Afghanistan is decorated US Marine officer, Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, currently in the Marine Corps brig at Camp Lejeune, for violating a "gag order" to bar him from asking senior leaders for accountability.
The author and former Black Panther, David Horowitz, asked:
"What do you call a party that treats 81 million unvaccinated Americans as domestic enemies.... but allows hundreds of thousands of unvetted illegal migrants... to cross U.S. borders and be flown into the heartland by the United States Air Force? And once there – to get free medical care, welfare payments, and education?...
"What do you call a party whose leaders require all of America's soldiers to undergo indoctrination in an ideology that calls for the 'dismantling' of America and tells them that their oath to defend the Constitution is an oath to defend a document that codifies 'white supremacy'?...
"You call it treason."
Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.