Jonathan Powell makes some good points (The lesson we failed to learn from 9/11: peace is impossible if we don’t talk to our enemies, 10 September). However, when he says: “There was no real alternative to going after the leadership of al-Qaida” and “there was no real alternative to taking on the Taliban themselves”, I beg to differ. 9/11 was a crime, not an act of war. It was not committed by, or in the name of, the Afghan people, who would go on to be slaughtered in so many thousands.
Despite the recalcitrance of the Taliban, it could, and should, have been responded to using the mechanisms of international law. Weak and slow moving though they are, they do exist and can succeed eventually, as witnessed by, for example, successful prosecutions of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia.
Terrorism can never be defeated by military means – by killing guilty and innocent alike. Ultimate victory over terrorism can only be ideological; a recognition that whatever our differences – ethnic, religious, national or political – they are insignificant compared with our common humanity. What Afghanistan needs now is a massive programme of aid, with the minimum of conditions. A good start would be help with rolling out Covid vaccinations. Further, beyond immediate humanitarian aid, there could be a good claim for reparations to help rebuild the economy.
Former co-chair, World Disarmament Campaign
Twenty years after 9/11, we are still struggling to comprehend the enormity of such a heartless and malicious attack. That was a ruthless onslaught on everything our human family stands for: peace, openness, tolerance, equality, social justice and cohesion. Sadly, since then, our world has been marred by inter-ethnic conflicts, unbounded deprivation, irrational hatred, unspeakable suffering, unabated exploitation of natural and cultural resources, climate change, transboundary pandemics, human rights transgressions and the endless “war on terror”. Millions of lives and livelihoods were lost, and people were orphaned, widowed and psychologically impaired.
My questions are: 1) how many lives should be lost in order to impel us to end wars, the arms trade and suffering? 2) when will we act holistically to tackle the underlying roots of terror?
Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob
Boris Johnson says that 9/11 failed to undermine democracy and freedom (Queen commemorates ‘terrible attacks’ of 9/11 in message to Joe Biden, 11 September). Indeed. What the terrorists failed to do but has been relentlessly pursued since then by nationalist leaders worldwide, including our own, is corrosion and dismantling of human rights and values. A net loss to our democracy and freedom.
Dr Guru Singh
Your editorial on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 (10 September) correctly underlines that the “war on terror” has solved nothing and created new problems as well. At the same time, there needs to be a recognition of the powerful movement that arose to oppose the war. The forces that became the Stop the War coalition held their first London meetings and protests shortly after 9/11 and organised on 15 February 2003 what remains the largest demonstration in British history. The war was not stopped but, like the “war on terror” itself, the impact of those who oppose it continues.