“The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, succeeded far beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have possibly envisioned,” writes Ted Koppel in Sunday’s Washington Post. Not because they killed nearly 3,000 Americans, but because they provoked an excessive, crippling reaction from the US. Had George Bush stopped after his eminently appropriate initial attack on Afghanistan, we could have avoided this. But instead he convinced himself of a non-existent threat from Iraq, and launched a painful war.
Bin Laden understands this all perfectly. “All we have to do is send two mujaheddin to raise a small piece of cloth on which is written ‘al-Qaeda,’” he said in a taunting 2004 video, “in order to make the generals race there, to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses.” By sacrificing just 19 foot soldiers, bin Laden has turned his rag-tag group of zealots “into the most recognizable international franchise since McDonald’s.” We helped him do that. It’s time we stopped.