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Roberto Sciarrone – September 11, 20 years on (ENG)

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Beginning of a new dark night in world history?

by Roberto Sciarrone

The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 marked a profound ‘rupture of civilisation’  wrote Jean Daniel, founder of Le Nouvel Observateur in 2003 – It wasn’t like 9/11. Before the attacks on the Twin Towers we knew everything, but we did not know that the United States could be attacked in its “ville debout!” – the “standing city” as defined by Céline in his 1932 Journey to the End of the Night – a Western symbol of progress.

And we were unaware of what could arise from the intensity of that trauma in the soul of deep America: two even more unprecedented wars that clash with theories and schemes from the past, from Clausewitz onwards.

On 7 October 2001, the White House and its allies launched an attack on the Taliban kingdom where Osama Bin Landen was hiding; the battle was won, but the results were not as had been hoped. Then it was the turn of Baghdad in March 2003, but the script was repeated: Saddam Hussein fell but the violence continued.

Wars that began under George W. Bush, continued under Barack Obama – his America hit the jackpot, however, by killing Osama Bin Laden in May 2011 – and ended with Joe Biden’s confused and ill-considered withdrawal from Kabul in this hot August of 2021. Twenty years have passed since 11 September and the world, as we knew and understood it, has indeed changed. We felt secure and launched into a future of great purpose.

We have plunged back into a pit of new and old anxieties, amidst harrowing attacks, bombastic wars, and increasingly shredded civil rights. For those who have forgotten and those who were not yet born, let us take a step back and rewind the tape of history which, fatally, likes to rewind and return to the starting point, even when it is not a good start.

Two even more unprecedented wars that clash with theories and concepts from the past, from Clausewitz onwards. On 7 October, 2001, the White House and its allies launched an attack on the Taliban kingdom where Osama Bin Laden was hiding; the battle was won, but the results were not as had been hoped.

Twenty years have passed since 11 September and the world, as we knew and understood it, has indeed changed. We felt secure and launched into a future of great purpose. We have plunged back into a pit of new and old anxieties, amidst harrowing attacks, bombastic wars and increasingly shredded civil rights.

For those who have forgotten and those who were not yet born, let’s take a step back and rewind the ribbon of history which, fatally, likes to rewind and return to the starting point, even if it was not a good beginning.

The first plane. At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 roared southward in the sky over Manhattan, crossing the length of the island and surprising those walking along the street, before crashing into the North Tower, known as World Trade Center 1, at about 465 miles per hour.” David Kravette, a stockbroker at Cantor Fitzgerald, North Tower: “The fact that I am alive is a pure accident of fate. All my colleagues up in the office lost their lives that day. They were trapped, there was no way out.”

The second plane. At 9:03 a.m., United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower, WTC 2, at about 590 miles per hour.” Captain Jay Jonas, Rescue Unit: “I was standing there. As you can imagine, it was very loud, the acoustics in the lobby of the World Trade Center were not of the best, it was very echoey. Then, all of a sudden, silence fell. One of the firefighters from Special Rescue 1 looked up and said, “We may not make it to tomorrow.

Emma Booker Elementary School, Sarasota, Florida: Andrew Card, White House Chief of Staff. “I was delivering a message that no president would ever want to receive, I knew: “A second plane has hit another tower. America is under attack.” I took a few steps back so that President George W. Bush could ask me questions.”

The third plane. At 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 crashes into Wing 1, the western part of the Pentagon, at 530 miles per hour.” Into the Towers and into the void. Bill Spade, firefighter with Special Rescue 5, FDNY: “There were automatic doors in the North Tower that kept opening and closing for bodies falling down.”

William Jimeno, PAPD agent: “One person stood out to me the most, it was like I could only focus my eyes on him: he was a blond gentleman with khaki trousers and a soft pink shirt. He jumped from up there, and when he did he was almost reminiscent of Jesus on the cross, from the position, because as he plummeted he was facing upwards”.

The first collapse. At 9:59 a.m., not even an hour after the attack, the South Tower, the second target hit, collapsed, engulfed by flames fuelled by the thousands of litres of fuel contained in the aircraft. Bruno Dellinger, president of Quint Amasis North America, North Tower: “Darkness fell on us with incredible violence, there was no sound. Sound could no longer propagate because the air was too thick.

The fourth crash. The only one of the four to miss its target, crashing into an empty field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, probably destined for the Capitol or the White House. The second crash. Sharon Miller, PAPD officer: ‘There was a great silence, as if everything was covered in cotton wool’. The numbers of the tragedy: 3000 victims, 246 in the air on the 4 hijacked flights excluding the 19 terrorists, 2700 inside the towers of which 1400 in the North Tower alone, 411 rescuers of whom 343 were firemen.

The BRI will push south through Pakistan towards the port of Gwadar, built by the Chinese on the Indian Ocean, this route could include a pacified Afghanistan. In short, China’s chances of taking control of the Heartland, the “island-world” theorised by English geographer Sir Halford Mackinder, an expression coined to indicate Eurafrasia, which in his theory presented in 1904 to the Royal Geographical Society stated: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland: who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island: who rules the World-Island commands the World”.

As well as acquiring for Beijing the Rimland, the maritime and coastal strip surrounding Eurasia, a definition by the American scholar Nicholas John Spykman, who in the 1930s revisited geopolitics as it had been conceived by Halford Mackinder. By withdrawing from Afghanistan, Biden has chosen the coastline over the ‘heart of the continent’, but the two areas are destined to merge and much will depend on Afghanistan.+

Russia will not stand idly by, considering that Russian is still a lingua franca in much of Central Asia and the advantage of the Russian secret services in the area over the Chinese is considerable. And what about the United States?

According to some observers, in order not to completely lose control of the Asian chessboard, Biden should set up a solid and well-defined diplomatic and economic strategy, so that neither of the two superpowers gains control of Central Asia. Otherwise China could end up dominating the ‘island world’.

Until it is clear whether the Taliban are able to rule the country we will see a waiting game, only then will the future begin.

The second collapse. Sharon Miller, PAPD officer: “There was a great silence, as if everything was covered with cotton wool”.


The numbers of the tragedy: 3000 victims, 246 in the air on the 4 hijacked flights excluding the 19 terrorists, 2700 inside the towers of which 1400 in the North Tower alone, 411 rescuers of which 343 were New York firemen, 10 thousand fragments of bone and tissue found and not identified.


Today, twenty years after 11 September, history is curling in on itself and repeating itself in its most tragic form, just as we have seen the bodies of men and women falling into the void of Western indifference from the Twin Towers. The images “nail” the West to its responsibilities and “speak” more than the rivers of words of diplomacy. The Taliban have regained power in a fiery August holiday, Kabul has in fact surrendered to the ‘terrorists on motorbikes’.


Human rights were hastily swept away as part of what will be remembered as Joe Biden’s first and stinging foreign policy ‘failure’. The waning of equality and the triumph of barbarism, according to the New York Times the evacuation of Americans from Kabul reflects the story of twenty years of war marked by the disconnect between American diplomacy and the reality on the ground.


+Afghanistan today as the most palatable of the ‘failed states’ where Isis can resurrect itself through far more vicious targets than the old Al Qaeda, the jihadist war has begun and the West’s withdrawal has been thunderous.

“The West” in its historical meaning, i.e. the sphere defined by belonging to European civilisation and culture, as opposed to that of the peoples of the Middle and Far East; in the Cold War period, the countries with parliamentary democracy and liberal economies as opposed to the communist countries of Eastern Europe and Asia and their cultural, economic and social characteristics.


Moreover, as in the theory of the political scientist Samuel P. Huntington in his 1996 The Clash of Civilisations, in the post-Cold War world the main distinctions between the various peoples are not ideological, political or economic, but cultural.

The fault lines between civilisations will be the battles of the future, as peoples and nations attempt to answer the most basic of questions: who are we? The main groupings of states are no longer among the three blocs created by the Cold War but the seven to eight major civilisations of the globe (for Huntington: Western, Latin American, African, Islamic, Sinic, Hindu, Orthodox, Buddhist, Japanese). Or, as Henry Kissinger put it in 1994 in his book Diplomacy: ‘The international system of the 21st century will contain at least six major powers – the United States, Europe, China, Japan, Russia and probably India – and a host of small and medium-sized countries’.


Careful reflection is needed to understand why America found itself giving the order to withdraw, with a decision taken without prior notice or agreement with allies and people involved in these 20 years of sacrifice. And why the main issue in Afghanistan was conceived and presented to the public as the choice between full control of Afghanistan or total withdrawal’. This is what Henry Kissinger wrote a few days ago in an article in the Economist, published by Corriere della Sera, after “the reconquest of Afghanistan by the Taliban”. We must start from this analysis to understand what is happening and what will happen in the geopolitical chessboard of the area. Probably, new plots of global supremacy will be defined.

As the British journalist Gideon Rachman wrote: “the end of Kabul could represent the beginning of the post-American world”, in the Afghan capital are the “keys to global supremacy” wrote Robert D. Kaplan in The Spectator.

The withdrawal from Afghanistan marks the decline of the American empire, whether temporary or lasting we will soon find out, just as the rise of China and Russia is now clear. In fact, the exit of US troops has geopolitical consequences for Central Asia, which has long since started a process that will lead it to become an organic whole, within which Afghanistan, the former Soviet republics and the Chinese province of Xinjiang will increasingly influence each other.


An area placed at the centre of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, BRI: a bold project to connect Europe and East Africa, aimed at improving cooperation between the countries of Eurasia through the opening of two infrastructure corridors between the Far East and the European continent, in the wake of the ancient “Silk Roads”, one on land (Silk Road Economic Belt) and one by sea (Maritime Silk Road). The BRI will go south through Pakistan to the port of Gwadar, built by the Chinese on the Indian Ocean, and this route could include a peaceful Afghanistan.

The BRI will push south through Pakistan towards the port of Gwadar, built by the Chinese on the Indian Ocean, this route could include a pacified Afghanistan. In short, China’s chances of taking control of the Heartland, the “island-world” theorised by English geographer Sir Halford Mackinder, an expression coined to indicate Eurafrasia, which in his theory, presented in 1904 to the Royal Geographical Society, stated: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland: who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island: who rules the World-Island commands the World”.

As well as acquiring for Beijing the Rimland, the maritime and coastal strip surrounding Eurasia, the definition of the American scholar Nicholas John Spykman, who in the 1930s revisited geopolitics as it had been conceived by Halford Mackinder. By withdrawing from Afghanistan, Biden has chosen the coastline over the ‘heart of the continent’, but the two areas are destined to merge and much will depend on Afghanistan.


Russia will not stand idly by, considering that Russian is still a lingua franca in much of Central Asia and the advantage of the Russian secret services in the area over the Chinese is considerable. And what about the United States? According to some observers, in order not to completely lose control of the Asian chessboard, Biden should set up a solid and well-defined diplomatic and economic strategy, so that neither of the two superpowers gains control of Central Asia. Otherwise China could end up dominating the ‘island world’.


Until it is clear whether the Taliban are able to rule the country we will see a waiting game, only then will the future begin.

“Figurez-vous qu’elle était debout leur ville, absolument droite. New York c’est une ville debout. On en avait déjà vu nous des villes bien sûr, et des belles encore, et des ports et des fameux même. Mais chez nous, n’est-ce pas, elles sont couchées les villes, au bord de la mer ou sur les fleuves, elles s’allongent sur le paysage, elles attendent le voyageur, tandis que celle-là l’Américaine, elle ne se pâmait pas, non, elle se tenait bien raide, là, pas baisante du tout, raide à faire peur“. Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Journey to the End of the Night, 1932

(“Imagine, it was a standing city, absolutely standing. New York is a standing city. We’ve seen cities before, of course, and beautiful ones too, and ports and even famous ones. But where I come from, cities lie down, by the sea or on the river, they lie on the landscape, they wait for the traveller, whereas this American city was not swooning, no, it was standing very stiff, not fucking at all, stiff enough to scare you.”

 

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