This Thursday (26) afternoon, US President Joe Biden responded to the explosions that left at least 180 dead at Kabul airport with a threat to the arm of the terrorist organization Islamic State which resumed the attack: “We’re going to hunt them down and make them pay. We will respond forcefully and accurately at our time, when and where we choose.
From the perspective of American journalist Spencer Ackerman, author of the recent “Reign of Terror”, this is certainly bad news.
This means that despite the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the United States will remain committed to the “endless war” it has waged since September 11, which involves much more than a military presence on foreign soil.
The idea that the war on terror has damaged American democracy is not new. But Ackerman goes even further. According to him, the damage is greater than the invasion of privacy by surveillance systems or the acceptance of torture as a legitimate method of obtaining information.
The assault on Capitol Hill earlier this year by right-wing radicals who backed Donald Trump is also said to be one of the products of that war.
Trump, Ackerman says, realized something important about the 9/11 era: that its secret engine was fear, “the image of non-whites as marauders, even conquerors, from strange civilizations. and hostile ”. Holder of this insight, the former president would never have hesitated to use it. It made it, in fact, the basis of its policy.
The “Reign of Terror” thesis can be summed up as follows: “There is a straight line connecting the reorganization of the American security strategy around terrorism, after September 11, with the imprisonment of immigrant children in cages, at the border with Mexico. . “
The phrase is not from Ackerman, although it does appear in the book: it is from Bernie Sanders, one of the icons of the American left. The point of view of the politician and the journalist is the same. A position “on the fringes of the establishment”, which allows them to incriminate in the same terms all those who have had some responsibility in the conduct of American security policy over the past two decades.
Or rather: Trump is still an example. But the differences between George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Joe Biden, the other occupants of the American presidency during this period, are blurring, because the only acceptable goal is “the complete abolition of the war on terrorism” – and none of them has walked or is walking in that direction.
Such differences, however, are not unimportant. For example, knowing that Biden, even as Obama’s deputy, has always been opposed to a prolonged occupation of Afghanistan, explains his stubbornness in respecting the timetable for the American withdrawal, despite the anguish of Afghans who fear the Taliban.
It also helps anticipate the type of military action that can be expected from the United States in the years to come, now that the threat of terrorist attacks has renewed.
“Reign of Terror” is the kind of book that draws a grand thesis to make sense of the chaos of history. This is not the right tool for those who want a more solid and detailed understanding of the here and now.
For those, books like “The American War in Afghanistan”, reviewed here two weeks ago, remain the best choice.