On September 20, 2001, nine days after Osama bin Laden’s brutal terrorist offensive against the United States, President George W. Bush declared a “war on terror.” It was the first time in a history with much more war than peace that the White House was involved in a war of global scope defined in such grandiose terms. The popular desire for revenge, retaliation and punishment was masked in a conflict without limits and without possible metrics to fight “for everything we love and against everything we hate”. The premeditated murder of three thousand innocents with commercial airplanes converted into cruise missiles had been planned in Afghanistan. A tribal, lawless and violent country destroyed by the civil war that broke out in 1989 at the end of the occupation of the Soviet Union. Here the Kremlin found its Vietnam thanks to US aid to the mujahideen insurgency. With the success achieved, Washington lost its interest in Afghanistan, which became, under the influence of Pakistan, a theme park for fundamentalist terrorism. Embarked on an escalating spiral of violence, Osama bin Laden was in Washington’s crosshairs long before 9/11. And after the terrorist blockbuster of Al Qaeda, the George W. Bush administration knew full well that the largely Taliban-dominated Afghanistan should be the first target of its “war on terror.” In a matter of three days, the president received the backing of the federal Congress to destroy the organization responsible for 9/11 and the country that served as his refuge. March 19, 2003 AFP After the Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden, the Anglo-American offensive in Afghanistan began on October 7. The operation, called ‘Enduring Freedom’ (“Enduring Freedom”) had extensive and active international support. Germany, France, Italy, Spain and even Russia were among the countries that shared the objectives of the United States and recognized the right to self-defense in the face of a 9/11 considered as a declaration of war. The anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, with Pentagon air support, was able to take Kabul in November and Kandahar in December. But despite appearances, the Taliban, far from being defeated, chose to withdraw. And the chaos of the battle was used by Osama bin Laden to disappear in the remote mountains of Pakistan. This prevented the United States from achieving its two main objectives in Afghanistan, embarking on a long occupation to deal with an insurgency war. The global threat of terrorism In 2011, the toughest year, 130,000 international troops (of which 90,000 were provided by the United States) were deployed on Afghan soil. During that time, which involved a huge military effort, especially for NATO, Islamist terrorism became a global threat, with a decentralized structure and a totally international dimension, both in terms of assassins and targets, through the media and networks. social. Related News report Yes 20 years of the Iraq War: A Thousand and One Nights without Saddam Mikel Ayestaran standard No Chronology: 20 years of the United States invasion of Iraq Carlota Pérez Very soon Afghanistan would be dethroned by another second front in the “war against terror’: the Iraq of Saddam Hussein, a stubborn survivor of the failed invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. The George W. Bush government built its ‘casus belli’ against Iraq based on two false arguments. First, the links between Al Qaeda and the Baghdad regime. And second, the Iraqi development of chemical and biological weapons against the prohibitions imposed by the UN. For the “neocons” who were then steering the US strategic helm, the bogus combination of Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction was intolerable. Beginning of the war The Iraq war, which began with aerial bombardments on March 19, 2003 and a massive ground offensive the next day, lacked from the outset the international support that the Afghan war had. With divisions not seen since the fall of the Iron Curtain, European leaders in particular (with the notable exception of José María Aznar and Tony Blair) believed that there was no credible link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 and that the use of force against Iraq lacked the necessary legal justification within the framework of the United Nations. Despite all these differences staged in the UN Security Council, few doubted that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, that he posed a threat to the entire region and that he had outgrown his usefulness as a counterweight to the Iran of the ayatollahs. . Among his record of very serious violations of the most basic human rights, he highlighted the use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish minority and the continuous practice of sectarian assassinations to control the Shiite majority in Iraq. No Weapons of Mass Destruction In the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, attempts were made to use Saddam Hussein’s record as a justification for his overthrow. President George W. Bush had already included the Baghdad regime in the so-called “axis of evil”, along with North Korea and Iran, all embarking on the development of weapons of mass destruction and with few qualms about their eventual use. And in Washington traumatized by 9/11, Congress continued to offer the White House a bipartisan blank check. Despite coming to the Oval Office as a critic of military interventionism abroad, Bush became a champion of “regime change” for Iraq. He had the arrogance of wanting to export a democratic system to a country with no interest in a common national project of freedoms and tolerance. And as in Afghanistan, the war that began twenty years ago was relatively expeditious, ending in a matter of three weeks allowing Bush to declare “Mission Accomplished” on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. However, the postwar period quickly turned into one long and terrible nightmare that would cost the lives of an estimated half a million Iraqis. As historian Ian Kershaw explains: “The invasion, the treatment of Iraq by its conquerors, and the power vacuum that Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship replaced, were a gift to international jihadist terrorism.” Of the 500 attacks registered in 1996, in 2006 it went up to 5,000. This escalation includes the massacre in Madrid on March 11, 2004, the same year in which 26,500 attacks were recorded in Iraq alone. The Iraqi tragedy has left scars around the world that are hard to heal. Donald Trump used “forever wars” to get to the White House in 2016. Libya was a minor but equally counterproductive intervention. France has endured nine years in the Sahel without achieving much. Afghanistan was the longest operation of all, until it collapsed with the humiliating flight from Kabul in August 2021. When the United Nations General Assembly voted last March to condemn the invasion of Ukraine, some 35 countries they chose to abstain. Among them, key states such as India, Pakistan or South Africa. Many in the so-called “global south” continue to cite Iraq as the basis for their distrust of Western intentions. Two decades later, the balance of a war as corrupt as the one in Iraq should not serve as a justification for the violent revisionism shared by Russia and China. Entering the second year of aggression against Ukraine and anticipating an increasingly possible attack on Taiwan, both Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have tried to advance the twisted argument that the West owes them one. But repeating the Iraq case in a perpetual loop as a reason not to face the attacks of dictators is to give up a better world.