The Idea that the world was rapidly moving to a period of peace and liberal cooperation changed on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 when America experienced the first attack on its continental homeland since the war of 1812. Two airplanes crashed into the twin towers of New York City’s World Trade Center, another into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the American military, and a fourth was brought down by passengers in Pennsylvania. The nation was plunged into an immediate crisis. All airplanes were grounded, and the president was transported to a secure location. In this state of emergency, it slowly became clear that the attack had been orchestrated by a newly founded global organization called al-Qaeda, “the base” or “foundation.” Al-Qaeda’s leader was the very same Osama bin Laden whom America had armed twenty years earlier to fight against the Soviets. After that fight ended, bin Laden formed al-Qaeda based on the networks he established in Afghanistan as the “base” from which to wage an international holy war against Western nations.
The 9/11 attacks were quickly declared acts of terrorism, which is a political tool that has been used for centuries by small groups against more powerful forces. By orchestrating one-time brutal attacks, terrorists attempt to manipulate governments into giving into their demands. Nineteen days after the attack, President Bush declared a Global War on Terror. A few weeks after that, in early Oct. of 2001, the United States and a coalition of NATO forces launched an invasion of Afghanistan where the Taliban had been hosting Osama bin Laden, and serving as the center of his al-Qaeda network.
- There are, of course, no justifications for killing innocent civilians. But why do you think terrorists targeted the United States, and in particular the World Trade Center?
- What are some of the everyday effects of the response to the attacks on the World Trade Center that affect you personally (such as airport security checks, or surveillance of your internet usage?
- The purpose of terrorism is to disrupt life among the people threatened. What do you think is the proper response to dealing with increased terrorism?
This reading is an excerpt from Certell’s Common Sense Government eBook. Certell offers curriculum materials and eBooks free of charge for use by students and teachers. Click Here to download the Common Sense Government materials.
Jeffmock. March 2001, World Trade Center, NY, aerial view [Digital photograph]. Retrieved from <google.com>.