22 Years After 9/11, It’s Time to Reassess the U.S. War on Terror

Interview with Norman Solomon, author of "War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of Its Military Machine," conducted by Scott Harris

On Sept. 11, people across the U.S. honored the lives of 3,000 men, women and children who died in the terrorist attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and aboard the airliner that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania 22 years ago. Six thousand more were injured on that dark day. Over time, some 3,000 first responders and others have died since 9/11 from cancers and respiratory disease linked to their recovery work at the World Trade Center site.

The human costs of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil are incalculable, and so too are the lives lost in the many wars around the world that followed. According to a recent report from Brown University’s Costs of War Project titled “How Death Outlives War,” 50 scholars and scientists reviewed the latest research and found more than 906,000 people, including 387,000 civilians, died directly from post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Another 38 million people have been displaced or made refugees. The report estimated that the post-9/11 U.S. War on Terror may have indirectly caused at least 4.5 million deaths and cost the U.S. federal government $8 trillion.

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with author and long-time peace activist Norman Solomon, co-founder of RootsAction.org. Here he talks about why he believes it’s time to reassess the U.S. war on terror, and some of the important issues covered in his new book,  “War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll of its Military Machine.”

NORMAN SOLOMON: When we look at the terrible crimes against humanity that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, it’s really a grave moment to just contemplate the souls that were extinguished, the injuries as well as the deaths, the grief of those who were left behind. The loved ones who will never be with those who they loved suddenly taken from them.

And part of the huge distance between human beings that the United States government has created an accentuated in the last 22 years since 9/11 has been to essentially establish de facto two tiers of grief: the grief that matters and the grief that doesn’t. And certainly all of the grief and suffering that resulted from what happened 22 years ago should be validated, should be honored, should be respected.

The problem that I write about in the book, “War Made Invisible,” is that in response to the crimes against humanity that occurred on 9/11, 22 years ago, the U.S. government has engaged in a so-called war on terror that has been ongoing crimes against humanity ever since beginning in October of 2001, with the attacks on Afghanistan.

And we don’t hear in the U.S. mass media or political discourse the extent of the suffering, of the crimes, of the deaths that have occurred in ostensible response to or we were told, retribution and retaliation after the crimes of 9/11. In fact, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Libya and several other countries, the Brown University “Costs of War Project” had documented that more than 400,000 civilians were killed by the post-9/11 U.S. wars.

So, if we want to look at it in mathematical terms, for every person, every innocent soul who was killed on 9/11, the United States wars have extinguished the lives of more than 100 equally innocent souls since then. So what does that mean? It means that we have been often quite passively, people in the United States observing, watching, often approving of a situation where displaced rage, anger, fear and militarism have taken one life after another life, adding up to more than 400,000 civilians who are just as innocent as those who were in the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

SCOTT HARRIS: Norman, in your book, you examine our government’s post-Vietnam strategy to wage war around the world and minimize anti-war opposition and protests that we saw during the U.S. wars in Southeast Asia in the 1960 and ’70 and thereby overcome the so-called “Vietnam Syndrome” — the fact that we use all this aerospace precision, quote unquote, guided missiles, cruise missiles as well as more recently, these weaponized drones to attack groups of people or individuals.

Maybe you could just summarize that as well as the media role in how the United States’ war planners overcame what they claim to be the Vietnam Syndrome.

NORMAN SOLOMON: Even during the last years of the Vietnam War, as U.S. troops were gradually being withdrawn, the actual violence was increased through the bombing runs, the tremendous use of firepower from the air in Vietnam as well as in Cambodia and Laos.

And so, it’s a political configuration that seems to warmakers in Washington to be a solution to de-fuse the extent of anti-war agitation and opposition in our own country, because it’s less visible, because there are fewer U.S. troops involved. And that’s been the pattern in recent years as well and it’s had political effects. One of the reasons I wrote this book was to say that contrary to the title, “war made invisible” is absolutely, utterly unacceptable, morally and ethically.

We need to have the visibility of war in order to stop it. And that means to recognize in human terms around the world, including in our own country, these destructive effects. And when U.S. news media basically play along with the hiding of the real effects of war, which has been a routine dynamic, then we become distanced from our own humanity in our names with our tax dollars — the United States continues to kill, continues to maim, continues to frankly terrorize with drones.

And yet, somehow we are encouraged to believe that that’s not the case.

For more information, visit “War Made Invisible” book site warmadeinvisible.com,
Norman Solomon’s website at normansolomon.com, Roots Action at 
rootsaction.org and Institute for Public Accuracy at accuracy.org.

Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Norman Solomon (28:22) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.

For the best listening experience and to never miss an episode, subscribe to Between The Lines on your favorite podcast app or platform: Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherGoogle PodcastsAmazon MusicTunein + AlexaCastboxOvercastPodfriendiHeartRadioCastroPocket Casts,  RSS Feed.

Or subscribe to our Between The Lines and Counterpoint Weekly Summary. 

Subscribe to our Weekly Summary