September 11 is a day that is now forever synonymous with one of the worst tragedies that Americans have ever had to face. On that day, a growing al-Qaeda launched a series of attacks in multiple locations – two attacks were launched on the Twin Towers in New York, another one struck the Pentagon, and the last attack was crashed in the countryside of Pennsylvania after the passengers of the flight overpowered the hijackers (1). Not only did those attacks leave devastation behind – along with it were anger and determination. After much investigation, the United States government found that it was the growing forces of the al-Qaeda that had launched all the attacks on that day. At the time, their organization had already been connected with other attacks against Americans. They were also known to ally themselves with the Taliban – a political movement in Afghanistan that has caused a large governmental discourse within the country. The aftermath of those attacks resulted in the historic invocation of NATO’s Article 5. According to Brittanica.com, Article 5 allowed, “its members to respond collectively in self-defense, and on October 7 the U.S and allied military forces launched an attack against Afghanistan” (1). In what is now known as the Afghanistan War, the Taliban collapsed and was defeated in Afghanistan and the Afghani government started to rebuild what the religious faction that previously controlled their country destroyed.
Though the intentions were to exact justice on the attacks committed on American soil and to overthrow an extremist organization that continuously committed crimes against humanity, the execution by the U.S government did not yield entirely positive results. One of the biggest failures that stemmed from the toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the U.S.’s continuous presence in the Middle East is the persistent growth of the organization that is now known as ISIS – Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (2). Its origins can be traced all the way back to the Osama bin Laden led al Qaeda. When the U.S invasion of Iraq started, al Qaeda’s goal immediately became expelling the Western invasion and to restore an Islamist regime to the region. Their goal was to spread Sharia Law; an extremist religious belief based on traditional Islamic practices, throughout the Middle East – mainly concentrated throughout Iraq and Syria, hence the name. Despite much of the West’s best efforts to combat the growth of ISIS, over the course of the last decade, they have still been able orchestrate large-scale attacks that have devastated large amounts of people. Amongst those attacks in the West claimed by ISIS was the now infamous Paris bombings and Pulse Nightclub shootings (2).
One of the biggest contributions to the growth of ISIS is their vast amount of weaponry. No longer are they armed with crude guns and bombs made from scrap metal pieces. Their armory supplies now consist of weaponry essentially provided by the United States government as well as other Western (European) nations. The Conflict Armament Research has reported that of the tens of thousands of items recovered along the ISIS frontlines, much of it were from the United States arming the Syrian rebels and other allied forces in the area (4). As the United States continued to train and arm the Syrian rebels and create a stockpile of weapons in the Middle East, they inadvertently continued arming the growing ISIS (3). CAR (Conflict Armament Research) has about a dozen cases of just the United States unwittingly arming the Islamic State. Within their investigation, they recovered rockets, machine guns, assault rifles, and missiles amongst other things – all of which have serial numbers that can be traced all the way back to supplies and shipments from the US government. The United States government has used different companies and given them government contracts to help arm theirs and their allied forces in the Middle East. Of all these weapons that were sent to help arm the rebels and allies, ISIS was able to take ahold and gain custody of large quantities of weapons (3). So instead of arming the people that we were helping, the government ended up helping arm the very organization they wanted to overthrow.
Now, a lot can be said as to why the United States had to have continual involvement in the Middle East. To the public, the goal was to help topple an ever-growing extremist organization. However, while our government and their allies were trying to do so, they managed to also help the growth of an even worse threat. Their counterterrorism efforts ended up birthing the growth of a bigger organization with a now further reach. Not only did the United States and the other Western nations help inadvertently supply them weaponry, but the more the West interfered with Middle Eastern affairs and the more our xenophobic tendencies against Muslims arose, the more the Islamic State are able to influence others to join their forces. A huge factor in ISIS’s success in recruiting people is the West’s, mostly the United States, ethnocentrism.
In regards to ethnocentrism, when we first launched a counterterrorism attack in the Middle East, our goal was to fight back against a terrorist attack committed against Americans on American soil. Our attack served a purpose. We investigated, found the root of the attack, and we launched a counter attack. As the years progressed, it no longer became a counterattack. We dismantled both the al Qaeda and the Taliban. That was our purpose and that purpose had been initially fulfilled. What we did not foresee was the continued growth of a now newly found threat. This threat now posed a great danger to our current allies and us. What the United States government did not understand because they saw it from the lens of one of the country’s biggest tragedies and their most recent experiences in a war zone was that to these people, the Middle Easterners that have been recruited by the Islamic State, our government was the terrorist. We launched an attack on their soil. Having been born myself in a land that had its fair share of being war-torn, whoever held the guns and posed the biggest threat to my family were the terrorists. From the US and Westerners perspective, we were saving these people. We were freeing their region from an extremist regime that forced them to live in what we believe and know to be subpar human conditions. However, we were the ones bombing them, forcing them out of their homes, and uprooting their entire lives. People who once had a family, an education, and good lives were now being forced to run because they no longer had homes. They were being forced to seek asylum from the very people who helped cause their lives to turn upside down or forced to join the likes of the Islamic State. If you were a civilian in this situation and this war was happening in your own backyard, do you join forces with the people who you knew were bombing your country or do you turn to the open arms of a local militant group who convinces you that the foreigners do not care about your well being and that they exist to get these foreigners out of your country? The United States has become the biggest threat in their lives. This is no longer 17 years ago when the al Qaeda was bombing us in our backyard. This is now 2018 when these young men and women who openly join the forces of the Islamic State weren’t even aware of the al Qaeda’s actions against the United States. September 11th will always remain a poignant point in American history. For the younger generation, knowledge of that day is no longer first hand, however, we make sure that we never forget. We teach about it as part of our history. Our mistake is in thinking that knowledge of our history is also being passed down to their younger generation. That is our biggest downfall because though we might think we are still battling the demons of 9/11, what we are actually doing is creating an enemy of a younger generation that has close from none to minimal knowledge of our own history and only knows us as the country that destroyed their homes and killed their families.
In conclusion, though our initial efforts were valiant and admirable, our more recent actions have inadvertently created a bigger enemy that a new generation now has to combat. We may have won a part of a war but we have now created an equally or possibly larger problem that only looks to be growing at a faster rate. On top of the United States’ failures like unintentionally providing weaponry to a terrorist organization, the government has now also created a great propaganda for the Islamic State to use. It also does not help that our current political climate and much of our country has a large anti-refugee, anti-Islamic (and mistakenly ant-Muslim) attitude. We are only creating a further divide against our enemy and giving them larger metaphorical ammunition to use against us and gain them more followers and supporters.