Charles Graham - Day war broke out

United Airlines Flight 175 crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York as smoke billows from the north tower
United Airlines Flight 175 crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York as smoke billows from the north tower
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THERE was a horribly slow dawning in our office as the full magnitude of the 9/11 World Trade Centre attacks unfolded on the television screen before us.

At first it looked like a terrible accident, but then, as we saw the smoke pouring from the first tower, we gasped as another passenger plane crashed straight into the second one.

The certainty that we were witnessing one of the most audacious and hideously effective acts of terrorism was then sealed.

It should never be forgotten that many thousands more have died in atrocities committed by Al Qae’eda before and since that notorious date and many other innocents have perished in the retaliatory cross-fire.

But the scale and terrifying symbolism of this murderous assault on the “land of free” is hard to dismiss as just another of those acts of terrorist war that afflict countries around the world with remorseless regularity.

A decade on and it has sparked further debate on whether the resultant War on Terror has been successful or not.

Few would deny that the reactions against (perceived) sponsor states have at least sometimes led to an escalation rather than reduction in violence and helped to recruit more fanatics.

But Osama bin Laden and several of his deputies are dead, promised further 9/11s have failed to materialise and Al Qae’eda is said to be a shadow of its former self as support drains away, partly because the vast majority of its victims have been fellow Muslims.

And we are now in the middle of an Arab Spring where tyrants are being overthrown in a variety of different ways ranging from the bloodless to the very bloody; and rather than Islamic extremists stepping into the breach, there appears to be a general desire to adopt some forms of moderate democracy.

Little of this latter progress can be credited to the War on Terror though, especially given that some of the despots now out of power were quite handy allies to the west in tackling extremism.

And one need look no further than Iraq and Afghanistan to see that there is still a threat, whether or not atrocities are committed in Al Qae’eda’s name.

There are also other countries in the Middle East and Africa which, sadly, are gaining a growing reputation for harbouring and sponsoring terrorists.

This is a complex and dirty war which will never see a neat and tidy surrender treaty signed at its end.

Even Bush and Blair recognised that it could rage on in one form or the other for decades and so it is now proving.