(Image from IMDB)
Fourteen years ago, I wrote two pieces about the attacks of 9/11 and our response to them. They contained their errors, of course. But in the wake of the Paris terror attacks of today (not to mention the attack in Lebanon), I wish so very much that the most important message in them had been heard. I want to quote Stop the Spin once again:
The greatest failures, however, have been in the pig-headed approach by US (and Israeli) foreign policy in addressing the very real problems that fester in the Muslim world…. Republicans have committed evil deeds in preventing the resolution of the Palestinian crisis in Israel, perhaps the worst of which was George Bush advisor Richard Perle urging Israeli delegation to walk out during the 2000 presidential election for the . That act, so profoundly disloyal to the United States, was but one of many examples of collusion between the far right of this country and religiously intolerant, i.e., anti-Muslim elements in Israel. But the problem is far broader than the right-wing of this country. Both political parties have supported autocratic regimes, including Kuwait, rather than giving preference to nations willing to institute democratic reforms. If we are not a beacon of hope for the world, who will be? As CIA Analyst Raymond Close has said,
“What worries me most, in the final analysis, is that our attacks on the targets in Afghanistan and Sudan [in 1998] were reminiscent of what we call “vigilante justice” in American folklore. This kind of policy weakens our leadership position in the world and undermines the most effective defenses we will have against the terrorist threat: a commitment to the rule of law, dedication to fairness and evenhandedness in settling international disputes and a reputation as the most humanitarian nation in the world.” 
Finally, there is the question of whether a “war” will defeat terrorism. Major General Julian Thompson notes the obvious difficulties of the terrain . Legal analyst Jonathan Turley says, rightly, that war is something that states engage in and that declaring war on bin Laden merely magnifies him . A declaration of war does not facilitate anything except the usurpation of Congressional powers by the president. This effort — to undo Constitutional protections and strip the American people of legal safeguards to their rights — is well underway. By so doing, they have poured the blood of sacrifice of American patriots from Nathan Hale to Martin Luther King, on the ground. It is a sorry truth that our elected officials would probably rather turn this nation into an armed camp than admit that they made mistakes.
The defeat that the terrorists cannot endure is a defeat in the court of Muslim public opinion. Terrorists should be treated as criminals, albeit criminals with massive firepower. If possible, they should be captured and tried for crimes against humanity. The United States should take steps to redress massive injustices in Muslim lands, including the slaughter in Indonesia, which we facilitated . To reprise Raymond Close’s penetrating words: “[T]he most effective defenses we will have against the terrorist threat [are] a commitment to the rule of law, dedication to fairness and evenhandedness in settling international disputes and a reputation as the most humanitarian nation in the world.
See also Tangled Web, where I pointed out that the constant Republican attempt to undermine a Democratic president and undercut basic rights such as the right of assembly instead undermined our efforts to combat terrorism, and weakened us as a nation.
Now, 14 years later, we are still allied with regimes that support Al Qaeda and ISIS, notably Turkey and Saudi Arabia, as well as autocratic regimes that create the repressive conditions for Salafism to prosper, such as Egypt. We are undercutting our real allies against ISIS and al Qaeda, Iran, Russia and Syria. We have made no progress in stabilizing governments on the African continent, where wars rage in a dozen countries. We have yet to address any of the causes of grievance in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Indeed, we aggravate the grievances by keeping Guantanamo open and by subjecting Arabs and Muslims (not to mention random persons of color) to harassment.
Sure, the terrorist actions are a way of fighting back because Syria is getting pretty hot.
Groundhog Day only ends when we start thinking.