Let’s get one thing straight- war sucks. No less an authority than General William T. Sherman, the great Civil War hero, once said “Young men think that war is all glamour and glory, but let me tell you, boys, it is all Hell!” This from the man who burned the entire city of Atlanta to the ground in 1864 and then undertook the famous “March to the sea,” laying waste to the cities, towns and countryside of Georgia, and the Carolinas. So he probably knew what he was talking about.
What’s worse than conventional war is a war of terror or what we in modern times like to call “Asymmetrical War.” That occurs when you are fighting a war against an enemy who has no army, no air force, no troops and generals and tanks and jet fighters. It occurs when you are fighting revolutionaries and “Freedom Fighters” as they like to call themselves and terrorists, Jihadists and fanatics, as we call them. It occurs when the enemy is almost impossible to find and lashes out at any sort of target they can find- individuals, civilian and military. And it occurs when the goal of the enemy is guerilla-style war that saps our morale and hurts the unsuspecting.
Such is the nature of the “War on Terror,” that President George W. Bush proclaimed back in 2001 after the horrific events of 9/11. It is a shadowy war, often fought in secret and silence, but a war nonetheless. What you might not realize, however, is just how long the war has really been going on- long before President Bush made his famous statement and long after too. In fact, it just might be an endless war and here are 15 shocking images from it.
Then there was the awful granddaddy of all of the plots orchestrated by Al-Qaeda. There’s really no need to go into details here, as everybody knows far more of the terrible story than they ever wanted to know. Suffice it to say that 9/11 was the single greatest disaster in the history of the United States, surpassing all of the other War on Terror incidents that occurred both before it and after. It even surpassed Pearl Harbor, D-Day and the Oklahoma City bombings for its murderous success and number of casualties. It’s safe to say that the psyche of America has probably still not recovered from this day (Immigrant Ban, anyone?) and probably never will. It’s the event that changed our future and the direction the world would go in and the one that coined the term War on Terror. The Al-Qaeda operatives and masterminds who came up with all of the earlier attacks ruined innocence that day.
15 2002-06- U.S. Embassy Attacks, Karachi
Pakistan has often been seen as a difficult player in the War on Terror. As a nominal ally of the U.S. the Pakistani government has done some good things. As a nominal cover and “safe zone” for members of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, Pakistan has done some bad things. Some of them have been with the complicit understanding of the government and some have not. It’s a complicated place, made more complicated by its huge Muslim population that also detests its Hindu neighbor India, also a U.S. ally. Part of the problem with an asymmetrical war is that you never know who’s going to attack when. This has been a huge problem for the U.S. embassy in Karachi, as the compound has been attacked at least three times in four years. In 2002 a suicide bomber killed 12 people outside the embassy with a truck bomb. In 2003, gunmen on motorcycles killed two security guards at the embassy. In 2004 a bomb plot was stopped and a huge bomb deactivated outside the embassy. And in 2006 an American diplomat was the target of a successful car bomb explosion at the Marriot Hotel right across the street from the embassy. All of the attacks are believed to have been coordinated by Al-Qaeda.
14 2003- Riyadh Compound Bombings
We move to Saudi Arabia for the Riyadh compound bombings. These took place in 2003 and targeted American expats, contractors, and officials living in company compounds in that country. In news that will shock no one, it is assumed Al-Qaeda is the one responsible for the attacks. The first one was in May of that year when three separate corporate compounds were attacked by gunmen who also set off truck bombs outside of apartment buildings in the compounds. 39 people were killed, including 9 American civilians. Then in November of the same year the terrorists did it again, killing 17 people (Americans were only injured this time) when they set off yet another truck bomb outside another housing compound. Many experts believe that Al-Qaeda had inside info from Saudi Arabian companies or the government. The Saudi’s are another country that are nominal allies of the U.S. but always seem to be harboring or creating terrorists. Like, say, Osama Bin Laden himself.
13 2004- Blackwater Contractors Murdered
While the Iraq War was still raging, back in 2004, four private security contractors from the Blackwater Company were captured in Fallujah, Iraq. They were captured by the insurgency, Islamic extremists (is that repetitive?) who were also Iraqi nationalists trying to fill the power void created by the U.S. destruction of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship in that country. The whole war, of course, was basically an offshoot of the War on Terror. The contractors were guarding a catered food delivery, of all things, when the insurgents attacked their convoy in a brutally efficient ambush. All four of them were murdered, dragged from their vehicles, set on fire and paraded throughout the streets. Then their bodies were hung on a bridge over the Euphrates River. The ensuing Battle of Fallujah, which would claim the lives of almost 30 U.S. service people, was a direct response to these killings, as the U.S. tried to hunt down the criminals (excuse me, “insurgents”) and bring them to justice.
12 2009- Fort Hood Massacre
Speaking of Anwar al-Awlaki, that horrible man was also pretty much responsible for the Fort Hood killings in 2009, when Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan went crazy and started shooting his fellow soldiers on the military base in Texas. Hasan was a psychiatrist who had some issues (you think?) who was in email contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, (see below) who urged him to strike a blow for Islam. That propagandist and all-around great guy managed to convince the mentally ill Hasan that he was a weapon of Islam and on that fateful day in November 2009 he opened fire on base, killing 13 people and wounding over 30 others. He was shot by local police, recovered, stood trial, and is now awaiting execution. By the way, if you look him up, the only reason the Army didn’t charge him with a terrorist act was to make it easier to get a civilian conviction. Good.
11 2011- Anwar Al-Awlaki Drone Assassination
So this next one begs the question of “What do you do when the enemy is from within?” Anwar al-Awlaki was an American citizen who became a Yemeni imam (religious cleric) and was highly, highly involved in Al-Qaeda’s inner circle. He is suspected of having been at planning operations for the U.S.S. Cole bombing and 9/11. He was also the driving force behind a lot of internet recruitment by Al-Qaeda, some of which he was very “successful” at, if that’s the right term. His recruitment and training of the “Underwear Bomber” was cited by President Obama as the reason U.S. intelligence decided to do something about him. He was also considered quite the propagandist. On September 30, 2011, Awlaki was killed by a drone strike in Yemen. He wasn’t the first U.S. citizen to be killed by a drone but he was the most “important” and was definitely targeted for death by the U.S. government. Make of that what you will- Al-Qaeda has been targeting Americans of all types for years.
10 2011- Seal Team Six
Here’s the most famous U.S. military Special Forces team ever. Seal Team Six was the group of Navy SEALS who undertook the operation ordered by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to capture or kill Osama bin-Laden. On May 11, 2011, the team landed near Islamabad, Pakistan (see- I told you about Pakistan’s conflicting ties) and entered the compound where bin-Laden was hiding. The terrorist mastermind and leader of Al-Qaeda has been on our “Most Wanted” list for years. The number of acts of terror he had helped perpetrate on Americans both at home and abroad is almost too many to fathom and most Americans believe that he was basically the incarnation of evil on earth. I can’t say I fault them one bit for thinking that. In fact, after the mission was accomplished and the U.S. population found out about it, over 90% of people polled fully supported it, even though U.S. troops had gone on the ground in a foreign country without telling anybody what they were doing.
9 2012- U.S. Embassy Attack, Libya
Then there was the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya (remember Libya?). This attack, much more commonly referred to by the press, politicians, and members of the general public as “Benghazi,” was performed by the militant group Al-Sharia, under the cover of the Libyan Civil War, which was raging at the time as anti-Gaddafi forces (remember him?) fought to seize control of that country. Al-Sharia first attacked the embassy compound with large numbers of armed men throwing grenades and setting fires. The ambassador was killed after leaving a safe room because of the smoke threat. The next morning Al-Sharia killed two CIA contractors in a mortar attack down the road at a CIA compound. Because the security at the embassy was so weak, most experts agree the building was ripe for attack by a terrorist organization. Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took responsibility for not having enough security “on the ground.”
8 1979- U.S. Embassy Burning, Islamabad
So here’s the deal. The rise of Islamic terrorist organizations is older than most people recognize. When I say older, I mean way older. Islamic extremists or nationalists of many types (Palestinians, Egyptians, Lebanese- the list is endless) have been around since at least before World War II, when the British, who used to have many Middle Eastern colonies, pulled out and we unfortunate Americans stepped into a political and military maelstrom. Even in more modern times, just because President Bush declared a War on Terror in 2001 doesn’t mean the other side wasn’t already waging one long before that. One awful example was the 1979 burning of the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. Radical Islamist students, furious that the U.S. had bombed Mecca (we hadn’t), attacked the embassy, dragging down walls, firing into the complex and finally setting it on fire. One Marine corporal and one Army warrant officer were killed, a harbinger of more deadly attacks to come. The Ayatollah Khomeini (remember him?) was behind the false reports that we bombed Mecca.
7 1983- 1st U.S. Embassy Bombing, Beirut
The Lebanese Civil War was pretty bad. Bad enough that U.S. troops and other international soldiers were sent as part of a peacekeeping mission to try to protect civilians and restore order. At the same time, Iran was messing with everything they could that was U.S. related- Khomeini’s government was the first actual Islamic state that was revolutionary and actively supported terrorism (as Iran’s enemy, Saddam Hussein and Iraq would in later decades). A suicide bomber in a van (bought in America and shipped to the Gulf- yay us…) smashed into the front of the embassy. When the bomb went off 17 Americans, mostly servicemen and CIA employees, were killed along with over 40 others, were killed instantly. Responsibility was claimed by the “Islamic Jihad,” a name that would haunt American dreams for years after this incident. In fact, it was a name that would cause another nightmare just six short months after this one.
6 1983- Marine Barracks Bombing, Beirut
This one utterly shocked the nation at a time when it seemed that President Reagan, who had negotiated the return of our hostages from Iran (Khomeini again) just a few years before, had stopped terrorists in their tracks with his hard-line policies. It wasn’t so however. Two truck bombs, the first of many to be used against Americans in the upcoming years, were driven into the Marine barracks in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon that was then being torn apart by civil war. The trucks were driven by suicide bombers, another term we have become all too familiar as the years of terror have built up. Our Marines were there as part of an international peacekeeping force. The Islamic Jihad, a terrorist front for Iranian meddling (yup- them again) claimed responsibility for the death of 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French soldiers. The Iranians to this day refuse to acknowledge their part- even though they put up a statue in Tehran commemorating their “heroes,” the two bombers…
5 1984- 2nd U.S. Embassy Bombing, Beirut
Well, here come those damn Iranians again. This time the Iranian-fronted terror organization Hezbollah bombed the U.S. Embassy in East Beirut, just about a year after the Marine barracks bombing in the same city. Hezbollah is unfortunately a very recognizable name now but in 1984 most Americans had never heard of them. In fact, the ‘80s were fairly horrific as the general public began to learn far more about the Middle-East and Islamic revolutionary organizations than we had ever wanted to know. This time the suicide bomber drove a car into the “new” embassy annex (because, of course, the old embassy had been bombed the year before) and blew off the front of the building with over 3,000 of explosive. The bomber was actually shot by British and Lebanese security but the car still hit the building. Two American servicemen were killed. The “revolutionary” also managed to kill over 20 Lebanese who were there applying for visas or working in the embassy- great job.
4 1985- The Achille Lauro Hijacking
Just in case you thought the War on Terror only strikes home with U.S. government and military personnel or installations here’s a terrorist attack from 1985 that caught the world’s attention. The attack was planned and carried out by the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization). This group, who desire freedom for Palestine as its own state, was very, very active in the 1980s under its charismatic leader, Yasser Arafat. Nowadays they seem to be almost tame by comparison to modern terror groups like Al Qaeda, ISIL, and the Taliban. In fact they almost seem to be legitimate. But back in the day they were considered brutal revolutionaries. They hijacked the cruise ship the Achille Lauro in October of 1985, off the port of Alexandria, Egypt and demanded the release of PLO members from Israeli prisons. When their demands were turned down they shot and killed a Jewish-American hostage who had been a passenger on the cruise ship. The passenger was 69-years-old and in a wheelchair. So yeah, way to go PLO.
3 1988- Pan Am Flight 103
In another pre-9/11 instance of terrorists messing with civilian passenger services, in 1988, a Pan Am flight leaving London for New York City was blown up by a bomb, instantly killing all 259 passengers and crew on board. Huge pieces of the plane also fell on the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 11 more innocent people on the ground. The attack was carried out by Libyan agents under the direction of that country’s revolutionary dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, who was, in his own way, just as evil and into state-sponsored terrorism as the Ayatollah was. The ‘80s were quite a decade for Middle-Eastern dictators… While Gaddafi took “responsibility” for the incident (many years after it occurred) he always claimed he did not actually order it. However, former Libyan officials have said he did, indeed, personally order the bombing. It’s hard to fight a War on Terror when even legitimately recognized states are being led by terrorists.
2 1993- World Trade Center Bombing
Things were reasonably quiet until 1993, when the precursor to Al-Qaeda decided to get into the whole terror game. A group of terrorists led by a Kuwaiti sheik, Khaled Mohammed, and his nephew Ramzi Yousef, decided that the best possible use of their time would be to take out the World Trade Center. To achieve their end they parked a truck bomb in a parking garage under the North Tower. The bomb went off, killing six people and wounding over 1,000 but it did not topple the towers. Mohammed kept trying though, and was one of the masterminds behind the 9/11 Al-Qaeda plot that eventually did take down the World Trade Center eight years later. Isn’t it nice that seemingly intelligent people have nothing better to do with their time than be brainwashed by radical Islam and then start figuring out ways to kill and murder innocent civilians?
1 2000- U.S.S. Cole
The 21st century didn’t really start off very well in the War on Terror. Having spent a few years attacking civilian targets, terrorist organizations decided to start going after U.S. military and government targets again as well. The first on the list in our brave new millennium was the U.S.S. Cole, an American Navy destroyer that was attacked while it was on a refueling run in Yemen. Al-Qaeda, who by now had replaced the state-run terror of the Iranians and Libyans as our biggest enemy, took responsibility for the attack, which killed 17 American sailors and wounded 39 more. They caused so much damage and loss of life by having two suicide bombers drive a small motorboat at top speed into the hull of the huge naval ship. Osama bin-Laden himself boasted about the attack in a video and many other “big” Al-Qaeda names are said to have been involved in the planning.
Sources: washingtonpost, nytimes