Israel shouldn’t repeat America’s 9/11 mistakes

The US failed miserably in its reaction to that tragedy.

Yesterday, October 7, was the one month anniversary of the terrorist attack on innocent Israeli citizens by Hamas.

Many have called October 7 ‘Israel’s 9/11.’ Americans were rightly outraged by the terrorist attack by al-Qaeda on our homeland over two decades ago that cost over 3,000 innocent lives. 

The first thing the US did was invade Afghanistan to route the Taliban who had harbored al-Qaeda terrorists. But then we invaded Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. We also stayed in Afghanistan for 20 years.

Most Americans today view the Iraq war and staying so long in Afghanistan as major mistakes. Things we should have never done. Mistakes that cost so many innocent American and foreign lives. 

William Galston observed at the Brookings Institute in 2021, “We had to react forcefully to al-Qaeda’s murderous assault, and we did. But counterfactual history helps us understand how badly our reaction went astray. If we had simply deposed the Taliban and accepted their surrender, which they offered and we spurned, captured Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora, and stopped there, we would have been much better off than we are today.” 

But we did it all in the name of 9/11. Some have estimated the costs to the American economy were between $2 and $3 trillion. The fear induced by the attacks also gave rise to the Patriot Act, increased mass surveillance and other constitutionally questionable threats to Americans’ civil liberties.

In fact, so much of what we did in response to 9/11 in many ways overshadowed what happened to the victims on that awful day.

Which is a shame.

Just one month after Hamas terrorists took the lives of over 1,300 innocent Israelis, today, the health ministry in Gaza claims that more than 10,000 people there are dead, including over 4,000 children, all at the hands of Israel’s government. (These exact numbers may or not be precise, but no one really disputes that there has been a tremendous loss of civilian life in Gaza as a result of Israel’s retaliatory strikes.)

Is this something history will look kindly upon? Is this something the world will look kindly upon?

Much of the world embraced the US after the 9/11 tragedy. In Iran, there were even candlelight vigils in the streets. After we invaded Iraq, all that changed. For the worse.

Will Israel continue to kill thousands of innocents, unintentionally, in the name of retaliating against Hamas? Israel has every right to defend itself, just as America had the right to retaliate after 9/11. But that defense should be targeted and protect innocent lives at all costs—that isn’t what’s currently happening.

What did America’s post-9/11 actions look like in retrospect? So much regret. It’s worth asking: How will Israel’s reaction to October 7 be viewed in the future?

Time will tell. Time is telling, as many around the world now turn against Israel’s actions in Palestine. The actual victims of October 7 might be remembered less and less as a result of what’s being done now.

These are things to think about, given the lessons of 9/11 over two decades ago. And for Israel right now, it’s only been a month.

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Jack Hunter
Jack Hunter
Jack Hunter is a freelance writer, the co-author of Sen. Rand Paul’s 2011 book ‘The Tea Party Goes to Washington’ and the former politics editor for