'War' on Terror: Authoritarian Answers

As we move towards the second anniversary of September 11, it may seem eccentric to emphasis how weak the Al Qaeda organisation headed by Osama Bin Laden is — indeed, how weak it has always been.

The World Today Published 1 August 2003 Updated 21 October 2020 4 minute READ

Conor Gearty

Professor of Human Rights Law and Rausing Director, Centre for the Study of Human Rights, London School of Economics

Clearly, the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were unprecedently savage, both in terms of impact and the number of fatalities. It is also perfectly true that there has never been a terrorist act to match it, before or since. But consider the various things that have not happened since that terrible event. And consider too the nature of the response: is it threatening our fundamental freedoms?

First, and most importantly, since September 11 2001 there has been no systematic terrorist campaign against the United States and its allies. Of course the US has been thrown into a series of ‘terrorist’ panics, concerning potential threats, poisonous substances in the post, determined killers at large and the like, but none of this has been connected to Al Qaeda.

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