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Is the War on Terror Working?

Updated on April 21, 2018
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Hollies and Health is an author who enjoys writing about life, love, and books. She enjoys watching anime and munching on burgers.

President Bush's War on Terror


For those who witnessed the Twin Towers collapse during the 9/11 attack, it was one of America's most earth-shattering moments, of when we realized that, when we entered the new century, things were about to drastically changed. The event redefined certain assumptions, such as the fact that we were safe in our own country, and changed the way we thought about freedom. Even more telling is the way it changed how we thought about our fellow humans, especially those that were different from us.

Ever since former President George Bush declared his 'War on Terror' as retaliation against 9/11, many American citizens have gone on to try and fight this terror themselves. Whether that be through the military, the internet, or even through their own actions, there's no doubt that the war on terror has influenced us in ways we couldn't even imagine. From the rise in hate crimes to the spawning of ISIS, to this day, we're still fighting this war, on the inside and out. So, despite everything that's happened, is this 'War on Terror' worth it? Did our accomplishments mean anything in the end, or are we just fueling the fire for more war and violence?


Afghanistan and Iraq

The War on Terror began as a military campaign that President George Bush instigated against the terrorist organization al-Qaida. It encompassed two majors wars, the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War,

The Afghanistan War began in 2001 and was separated into three phases. The first phases consisted of overthrowing the Taliban, group that provided sanctuary for al-Qaida. The second phase consisted of dominating the Taliban militarily, before rebuilding the foundations of Afghan society. The final phase began in 2008, in which, under President Obama, American forces would protect the population from Taliban attacks, coupling with the gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan. The war lasted 13 years, and became the longest war fought by the U.S.

The Iraq War started in 2003 with the U.S's invasion, alongside other allies, of Iraq in order to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Although Hussein was deposed, there was violence between two Islamic religious factions; the Sunnis and the Shias, as well as resentment against U.S forces. Through this, both Iranian troops and al-Qaida supported violent groups that continued to fight against the troops. This was an incredibly unpopular war, because the Bush administration had said that Iraq possessed WMDs, or weapons of mass destruction. Not only were these later claims proven to be false, but other claims that Iraqi officials were working with al-Qaida were also proven untrue. In the end, the war had costed hundreds of thousands of deaths, as well as an estimated $1.9 trillion.


Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp

Guantanamo Bay was a detention camp located in southeastern Cuba. After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S used Guantanamo Bay to hold suspects during the "War on Terror." During this time, President Bush claimed that because the Bay wasn't apart of U.S territory, and as such, inmates may not be granted access to protection. Many of the prisoners had no trial and were allegedly being tortured. International Amnesty considered the camp to be a violation of human rights.

The prison carried a host of health professional that subjected the inmates to horrific, inhumane treatment. Despite this, there are supporters for this kind of treatment, supporters that have stated that individuals involved in terrorist groups don't deserve to have access to these human rights because they've oppressed others. Many prisoners have been faced with religious abuses, such as defacing and degrading the Quran. Guantanamo Bay has been criticized both by regional organizations such as the European Union and the Human Rights Watch. Later on however, President George Bush released around 122 prisoners.

On March of 2011, President Barack Obama, through Executive Order 13567, in order to review detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Under this executive order, around 690 former detainees were transferred from Guantanamo, 30% of which may have continued terrorist acts.


Society Through The War on Terror

The term itself is subjected to suspect; terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy, and by using "The War on Terror" phrase, it masks differences between a variety of groups, many of which many have even been unfairly labeled as terrorists. What's more, many critics have contended that "The War on Terror" was used to promote military pursuits, all the while limiting civil rights and infringing on marginalized groups.

One of the most unfortunate result of this war was the American public's treatment of Muslim groups. According to Pew Research Center, there is a rise in hate crimes regarding Muslims. The fact that these hate crimes were more likely to be committed by white men, as well as the rather difficult relationship between the media and Muslim Americans, has made these unjust assumptions even more complex.

The war has also fostered resentment towards the United States, which has laid the foundations for more violence, more hatred, and more conflict. Many groups have called for the United States to dominate the world by even using 9/11 as an excuse, which, in turn, threatens otherwise peaceful allies. This was shown in a trial in New York, where a man said that the reason why he decided to become a terrorist was because Americans "don't care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die." When further questioned by the judge he said that America doesn't discriminate against its killings, no matter who they are.


Support for The War on Terror

Despite the criticisms against 'The War on Terror', there are reasons why we support this.

The U.S, as well as other democracies, have had to join in against those who have killed innocents for the sake of their extremist goals. As such, it's a way of protecting themselves, and reinforcing their right to live in the world, just as much as anyone else. In fact, according to Professor Asa Kasher of Tel Aviv University, despite the differences in approaches, the main goal of democratic countries is to fight for peace. Even more still is the fact that many view the wars as a good thing, that America and other Western nations have gotten sluggish, and have turned the other way when it came to potential enemies.

It could also be said to garner more support for the American military. It brings out the harsh reality that people have to fight for the freedoms that we enjoy, that we have to defend our way of life, just like everyone else. And while it can be difficult to accept, simply because we don't see this war, it still goes on around us. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, it's not the scholars or the critics or the observers that deserve the credit; it's the man who's actually doing that work.



By no means is the article exhaustive. For example, there are have several conflicts that have also contributed to the chaos, such as the wars in Libya. There have been other long-term consequences of the war, like the growth of new terrorist factions and the increasing instability of the Middle East. And there is a host of human rights violations, whether it be from America or from terrorists, that wasn't shown in this article.

Even so, the 'War on Terror', to this day, is incredibly controversial. Some have expressed the fact that they need it, while others have said that it never should have even begun. Some say that protecting themselves is worth the criticisms, while others counter this, stating that it not only undermines America's broken reputation, but could potentially spawn more wars that may cost even more than the war itself.

Of course, whatever the reasoning is, a war is still a war. There's going to be costs and casualties, as well as peace activists and military supporters, whatever that may be. And while other countries have engaged in their own wars on terror, it's the United States that the world looks to, whether it be through contempt, or moral guidance. Despite it being a world-power, as well as its alleged support of freedom, it's still a nation built up of humans. We fall prey to the same flaws as others throughout the world, and while our healthcare and economy may be better than most, we may just be more susceptible to our own fears and paranoia.

That's just how humanity is.


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    • bradmasterOCcal profile image


      2 years ago

      The War on Terrorism was a political ploy by GW Bush and his administration to finish what his father GH Bush started in Desert Storm. Like FDR, GW Bush used the attack on American Soil to get into a war, a war that GW Bush wanted so badly to get into.

      His handling of the country on 911 was pathetic. His lack of leadership was second only to his staying in the school while the attacks continued. 911 like Pearl Harbor was very suspect into how it happened and getting us into war, a war we didn't need, and a war we didn't win. Look at Eastern Europe before WWII, they were free countries, and during the war they were occupied by the NAZIs, and after the war they were owned by Russia. How is that a win? And that began the Cold War, which lasted until Reagan got them to tear down the wall. But, today, Russia has a new Cold War going, and the US pressed by the democrats are biting into it.

      GW Bush attacked two countries trying to stop terrorism. Neither country was owned by terrorists, it just happens that the terrorists were based in Afghanistan. Russia, and now the US have failed at winning in Afghanistan. Are ally when Russia was in Afghanistan was Osama Bin Laden, and giving him aid and training was the precept of 911. Yet, we didn't need to invade Afghanistan, and we certainly didn't need to invade Iraq. Once we did that, the entire region became chaotic and unstable.

      The only winners in any of these non Congressional approved wars were the military defense contractors.

      What is striking today is the lack of real terrorist activity in the US? It seems that the chaos and discord caused by the democrats, and the home grown gun shooters satiates the real terrorists. Why should the real terrorists continue their terrorism in the US, when the country led by the democrats and some republicans are doing their job.

      If someone can justify invading Iraq and Afghanistan, then why didn't we invade Iran, or N Korea. Both of these countries had something much more dangerous than terrorists, they have a nuclear weapons program.

      Taking over Libya was another colossal mistake like invading Iraq as it destabilized an entire region. Both the democrats and the republicans have gotten us into almost continual wars. Wars that we don't win, and can't win.

      If you think, that my comment is out of scope of your article, just delete it.

    • AshutoshJoshi06 profile image

      Ashutosh Joshi 

      2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      No matter how I try to comprehend it, I am unable to grasp the justification for this so called war on terrorism. The 'cause' is disputed and the 'means' is controversial. Reducing all these nations to ruins, killing millions of innocent civilians and rendering an even greater number homeless and futureless. What amazing is, Al qaeda, ISIS survived this witch hunt and have expanded their empire. WMDs are still far from being discovered. The bombing continues and so does the exodus and the resultant refugee influx.

      The Middle East is far from stable, so what actually is the end result?

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      2 years ago from U.S.A.

      Thank you for a well thought out and non-biased article that really explained the War on Terror in a comprehensive manner. Fear can be used to control or torment. When we begin to see terrorists around every corner, then our enemies have won a victory without firing a shot. I have very good friends who are Muslims who have fought for our nation in the military. They are solidly American. I've also known Christians who make me wonder if they really know Jesus Christ. Occasionally, I've encountered the opposite of these situations as well.

      Terror targets the heart. Love protects the soul. Indeed, we have enemies and we must be prepared. But along the way, we must not alienate our friends around the world or remain in a permanent state of shock.

      Thank you again for your well researched and insightful article.




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