More than 20 years later, are we ready to face up to the human toll of the war on terror?

By Norman Solomon, The Hill

As the anniversary of 9/11 approaches, candid public discourse about the “war on terror” is long overdue. Hindsight offers an opportunity to take a fresh look at the official pronouncements and unheeded dissent that came soon after September 11, 2001. The outlooks that prevailed at the time set the stage for historic disasters.

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“Our responsibility to history is already clear — to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil,” President George W. Bush said in a speech at the Washington National Cathedral three days after terrorists took nearly 3,000 lives. A week later, he told a joint session of Congress that the impending war “will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”

Such resolve was inspiring to many. But the president’s vow to “rid the world of evil” was an announcement of an absurd goal, and it amounted to declaring endless war on an inexhaustible supply of enemies. Yet in a suddenly traumatized nation, suffused with grief, any concerns about such rhetoric were apt to seem beside the point; they got short shrift in the nation’s capital and news media.

At the start of October, a week before the U.S. attack on Afghanistan began, Detroit’s Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton warned that “those who would rush to war and escalate the cycle of violence are completely out of touch with reality and with lessons of history.”

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