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Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024
The Observer

Keough School holds policy discussion on cause, effect of 9/11

The three-part discussion series titled “The Twentieth Anniversary of September 11: Changing the Climate of Conflict” kicked off Wednesday with a conversation on the cause and effect of 9/11 featuring Andrew Bacevich, president of the Quincy Institute and author of “After the Apocalypse: America’s Role in a World Transformed.”

The discussion, presented by the Keough School of Global Affairs and its Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion, consisted of remarks from Bacevich and responses from guests, students and faculty members. Participants discussed whether the attacks of Sept. 11 were an act of religious fanaticism, blowback to U.S. foreign policy or potentially a mixture of both.

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Ansari Institute executive director Mahan Mirza speaks during the Q&A session of the event hosted by the Keough School of Global Affairs.


Following introductory remarks from Mahan Mirza, executive director of the Ansari Institute, and Scott Appleby, dean of the Keough School of Global Affairs, Bacevich began by stressing the need for a new national security paradigm. 

“Post-Cold War ideological expectations have turned out to be illusory,” said Bacevich. “So, too, have claims to U.S. military supremacy.”

This new approach to national security should prioritize domestic threats, such as the climate crisis, COVID-19, porous borders, cyber intrusiveness, the erosion of confidence in basic government institutions, rampant disinformation and unresolved issues regarding race, Bacevich said.

“Keeping Americans safe where they live must shape basic policy,” he said.

Three panelists provided their own remarks and responses to Bacevich. Perin Gürel, associate professor of American Studies, spoke of discrimination against people of color both abroad and in the U.S. 

Gürel described how the George W. Bush administration framed 9/11 as “the new Pearl Harbor” in order to fuel crackdowns on minority communities. This included the deportation of American Muslims and Arabs following 9/11 and the creation of the PATRIOT Act.

Gürel continued by speaking about the idea of American exceptionalism and its negative impacts on American foreign policy in the Middle East. 

Following Gürel, Jamila Afghani, founder and president of the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom Afghanistan, spoke about her own personal experience in Afghanistan, which she recently fled with her family after the recent Taliban takeover. Afghani, participating virtually from Norway, said while Americans are celebrating the end of war in Afghanistan, Afghans are left to deal with the misery of their nation. Tears came to Afghani’s eyes as she recalled witnessing the collapse of her homeland in a matter of hours.

“The city was finished,” she said. “There was no living being on the street and everyone was hiding in their homes.”

She described the situation in Afghanistan as a “disaster” because of the U.S.

After Afghani, Ebrahim Moosa, professor of Islamic Thought and Muslim Societies at the Keough School of Global Affairs, spoke about the origins and morality of the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Moosa emphasized that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were unjustified and questioned whether or not Americans have sufficiently held politicians accountable. 

The conversation concluded with a question and answer session with the audience. Attendees asked follow-up questions about statements from the panelists and about the course of action the U.S. should have taken in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. 

Bacevich said he believed the most important outcome of the discussion was the chance to hear from Afghani after her escape from Afghanistan. 

“It was very moving and, frankly, profound,” Bacevich said.