Rupert Cornwell: America must end its 9/11 mindsetRoundup: Media's Take
Rupert Cornwell is Washington correspondent for The Independent.
Did he change everything? In the end, probably not. The present upheavals across the Arab world that he sought to re-invent have everything to do with economics, and next to nothing to do with him. Undeniably however, Osama bin Laden changed America.
Consider, for a moment, his achievements. The 9/11 attacks led directly to two US wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq. The first is the longest war in American history, the second is the country's most expensive since World War II. The George W Bush administration had of course long been seeking a pretext to invade Iraq. But by making possible the spurious claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction that he would happily provide to al Qa'ida and its ilk, Bin Laden provided one.
Nor did Bush raise taxes to pay for these wars (keep on shopping, was the president's advice to his people). In that sense, therefore, among Bin Laden's disservices to the American people may also be listed partial responsibility for today's US debt crisis. But his greatest and most enduring achievements were psychological.
As no single individual in recent history, he changed the mindset of the richest, most powerful country on Earth. And in the process he led America to betray its cherished image of itself in a third war, the "war on terror" that in fact, if not in name, continues to this day.
A decade on, the America of 10 September 2001 appears a vanished Arcadia. That day was the last of an interlude that had stretched from the collapse of Communism, its frivolous spirit best captured by Bill Clinton's cavortings with a White House intern, and a book by an academic called Francis Fukuyama called The End of History. The next morning, amid the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center, history returned, courtesy of Osama Bin Laden...
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