The US Department of Defence has instructed its lawyers to prevent the launch of the book No Easy Day that was planned for 11 September 2012. But nothing can stop the impact on the world, including Africa, of what happened on September 11, 2001.
The date of the launch of a book that promises to be an interesting read is not co-incidental. Instead it was deliberate and cleverly selected. The book was written by an ex-Navy Seal and details his participation in hunting down and killing Osama bin Laden – the man whose name is synonymous with what happened 11 years ago in New York on 11 September.
The decision to stop the launch of the book is, according to defence officials, based on the fact that the author (like all who participated in the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abottabad, Pakistan) signed a legally binding clause never to divulge information about the raid. It is claimed this could compromise sensitive information and future military operations. In doing so the writer is violating secrecy agreements and breaking federal law.
Another reason, although not openly confessed, is concern that the decision by the publisher to launch the book on the exact day the attack on the World Trade Centre took place might provoke the wrong reaction and incense Islamic fundamentalists.
Pre-orders of No Easy Day have already put the book at No.1 on Amazon.com’s bestseller list for two weeks running. The publisher has ordered another 275 000 copies to add to the original 300 000 printed for release.
The world today is a far different place than the one before the fateful morning of 11 September 2001.
Whether the world has become a better and safer place remains an open question and it a question over which opinions differ and differ strongly.
There can be no doubt that what happened on 11 September 2001 was a defining moment in history. The visuals of two planes crashing into the Twin Towers and another into the Pentagon, the symbol of ultimate power, will stay etched into the memory of the people who saw it first hand or followed the drama unfolding on TV.
Much that has happened over the past 11 years in hot spots around the globe can be traced back to that eventful day.
One perceptive analyst made the intriguing observation that horrendous as it was, the cruel murder of over 2000 civilians after the second of the towers collapsed was not the only major crime of that day. It also initiated a war of retaliation and revenge with consequences that will still be felt for years to come.
On the evening of 11 September 2001, President George W. Bush declared a global war on terror when he told the American nation that "we will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbour them."
Originally justified to hunt down those who ordered and were involved in planning the murder of thousands of innocent people– many not American – the war on terror has become a terror war.
Thousands of people have died and more will still die, many of them, ironically, also from the air as UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), commonly known as drones, are ordered to seek out and kill suspected terrorists.
UAV killings in far corners of the world have become routine with innocent civilians dying in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan and on the plains of Somalia. The cost is high.
In terms of monetary value it adds up to US$700 billion annually. In terms of human lives the cost is incalculable.
The cost to Africa
The killing of Osama bin Laden may have quenched the American desire for revenge, but there is the prospect that it may further radicalise Islamic fundamentalists to continue bin Laden’s mission. The evidence is there for all to see that bin Laden’s “crusade” did not die with him. Al-Qaeda might have lost their charismatic leader but his legacy lives on and has found acceptance in parts of Africa.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria and Ansar Dine in Mali are all to a more or lesser degree franchises of al-Qaeda and primed to further bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s ideals in Africa.
This in turn has attracted US interest and Africa is firmly in the crosshairs of those in charge of the global war on terror. General Carter Ham, commanding officer of Africom, the US regional military command for Africa, does not mince his words; “Countering the threats posed by al-Qaeda affiliates in Africa remains my number one priority."
The bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 not only brought Osama bin Landen and his ultimate successor Ayman al-Zawahiri to the public’s attention, but Africa unwittingly became part of a series of events that culminated in the destruction of the World Trade Centre.
Africa can but hope that something similar never happens again.