16 years ago, we began a “war on terror” that will never end

On the 16th anniversary of 9/11, a prescient Hunter S. Thompson column from the day after the attacks was shared on social media. Thompson wrote at ESPN on Sept. 12, 2001:

The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.

Thompson couldn’t have been more right. More than a decade and a half since the attacks, the United States has led regime change in Iraq and Libya and is still bogged down in the longest war in American history in Afghanistan. During that time, Al-Qaeda has been diminished but remains. A group even more extreme that al-Qaeda, the Islamic State (also sometimes known as ISIS), has risen in the power vacuums created by U.S. interventions.

After 9/11, we went into Afghanistan to oust the Taliban that had been harboring Osama bin Laden. That was a clear-cut objective that had popular support in the United States and around the world. In 2003, we went into Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11 though the Bush Administration sold it that way. Today, that war is remembered as one of the worst foreign policy decisions in U.S. history, particularly because it had nothing to do with 9/11. The two greatest beneficiaries of that war in Iraq were Iran and ISIS. The Obama-Clinton supported toppling of Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi gave extremists an even better foothold in that country.

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