9/11 is the expression that has been dedicated to the 2001 terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda that the United States suffered from on September 11. It is true that 9/11 became a turning point for the George W. Bush administration. In addition, it also affected the United States' foreign policy.The events unswervingly led to the United States support for the downfall of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan where it was believed to have its foundation (Thompson, 2004). These attacks were also important as they were later used by the United States of America as a justification of invading Iraq regardless of the fact that no apparent proof could be presented regarding any connection between Iraq with Al Qaeda. Nevertheless, the 9/11 impact was strong enough and the invasion was, therefore, strongly supported by the American public (Bolton, 2008).
Description of the Event
Al-Qaeda is a radical Islamic group that has been involved in several terrorist activities and was led by Osama bin Laden. Nineteen agents of Al-Qaeda were responsible for carrying out the 9/11 attacks. They were able to get through and defeat a security checkpoint system and then made use of 3 commercial jet airplanes. The purpose was the destruction of the renowned World Trade Center in New York and damage of the Pentagon (Roberts, 2002). Unfortunately, they were successful in executing their plans resulting in the death/missing of more or less three thousand innocent people. Thus, there is no doubt that the 9/11 was unquestionably the most upsetting and overwhelming terrorist episode in the history of the United States of America.
Historical and Contemporary Causes of the Event
Even though the attacks on September 11, 2001 were a shock; they weren’t a surprise because the American government had been warned by the Islamist extremists about their plan of killing American people in large numbers and without any discrimination. Al-Qaeda had already established itself as an intoxicating opponent of United States of America by targeting the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998. Regardless of the fact that the U.S. Intelligence spotted various al-Qaeda plans, they were not capable of taking any measure about the 9/11 attacks. Osama bin Laden clearly took the responsibility of the 9/11 events in a video in which he gave a full description of his dealings with Muhammad Atta, the major hijacker. The 9/11 Commission conducted the biggest criminal investigation till date and also wrapped up by claiming Al-Qaeda to be the sole culprit for the 9/11 attacks. However, the question is what caused the terrorist organization to launch such a devastating and hateful attack on the Americans? There have been various explanations that are being given to describe the causes of the attacks ranging from apparently reasonable but faulty and the more realistic and believable.
Imagination: The major malfunction in the whole 9/11 scenario was that of imagination as the leaders were unable to open up their mind’s eye and understand the intensity of the Al-Qaeda threatening. The Congress, media and even the public policy debate in the United States did not pay any heed to the impending danger of terrorism. Though United States was being consistently challenged by the Al-Qaeda, the administration did not plan or designed anything to meet the dangers. The administration was not certain whether Al-Qaeda threats had any weight or not. They were not sure whether Al-Qaeda had to be taken seriously or not. Thus, this lack of imagination resulted in the loss of thousands of precious lives and millions of dollars (Thompson, 2004).
Policy and Strategy: Both Clinton and Bush administrations did not regard terrorism as a prime national security concern. This imagination failure thus affected the policy-making and the subsequent decisions. The mentioned administrations had not imagined to invade Afghanistan fully considering it as almost unthinkable before the events of 9/11.
Competence: Prior to 9/11, the state in the United States made efforts for resolving the problem of Al-Qaeda with the same resources and competence that had been used by it the Cold War final stages and after its end. However, those capabilities were not enough to handle the problem. The administration did not do much for the expansion or reformation of the available resources for handling Al-Qaeda. The CIA did not have sufficient resources for the performance of any paramilitary operations with the available workforce. All the important institutions including Department of Defense, NORAD, FBI, FAA, and others lacked the important capabilities and competence that are mostly needed for countering any terrorist attack. It can be easily concluded, therefore, that it was a collective failure that made it possible for just nineteen human beings to deceive the security systems and take thousands of lives.
Management: The 9/11 plot could not be thwarted due to the lack of ability of the government to manage the problems that the twenty-first century had brought with it. The action officers were not trained enough to collect and mull over the facts and figures regarding Al- Qaeda. It was the mere incapability of the management that it did not ensure the sharing of information and clear assignment of duties to agencies (Gin, Stein, Heslin & Dobalian, 2014). The government was failed in pooling intelligence and using it for the guidance, planning and assigning of duties.
Unproductive and Ineffective Diplomacy: The United States government made efforts from February 1997 to September 2001 for using diplomatic pressure so that it could convince the Taliban administration in Afghanistan to discontinue its support for Al-Qaeda. The US administration also pressurized Taliban to exorcise Bin Laden to any other state where he could be countered for all his internationally-rebellious actions. The US sometimes warned and sometimes it put sanctions, but all such efforts were faced with failures. Two consecutive Pakistani governments were also forced by the United States to have a reconsideration of their relationship with Taliban. However, this failed attempt to find a mixture of incentives and force made the Taliban stronger and consequently resulted in 9/11 (“The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States," 2012).
Support to Israel and Foreign Policy about Middle East: The way United States had always treated and supported Israel and its foreign policies regarding the Middle East were one of the major reasons why Al-Qaeda attacked America. Osama bin Laden considered it to be a major reason behind 9/11. Al-Qaeda strongly criticized America; particularly the support it has always given to the invasion of southern Lebanon by Israel in 1982. This was the main reason why Bin Laden turned out as an anti-American activist (Pyszczynski, Greenberg & Solomon, 2003).
Afghan Jihad and Subsequent Radicalization: Even though no proof has ever surfaced regarding the training and funding of CIA to Bin Laden and his agents, a number of critics strongly believe that a generation of Arab revolutionaries was radicalized after the Afghan-Soviet War. This situation consequently gave rise to bitterness against America and the foundation of Al-Qaeda took place in 1988 that continued their so-called jihad to all over the world especially West (Bolton, 2008).
Leaky Aviation Security: The information about the aviation security system was easily available and the hijackers went through it keenly. Thus, it then became easy for them to use items that did not contain much metal and was allowed to carry. Despite the fact that two of the 19 hijackers were on the watch list of U.S.TIPOFF; the TIPOFF data was not used by the FAA.
Different Interpretations of the Event
The attacks of 9/11 can be interpreted in a number of ways. Firstly, there is an official interpretation that is being accepted by a number of people that the 9/11 was, in fact, a surprise attack on the US government and people by Islamic radicals. However, another group of people interprets 9/11 in more complex way. For them, the official interpretation is acceptable but they consider 9/11 mostly as an event that was exploited to use as an opportunity for the Bush administration in order to lengthen their American realm. Thirdly, 9/11 is interpreted in a sinister way. According to this connotation, the attacks were already known by the Bush administration and their happening was made intentional. Lastly, 9/11 is seen as an unforeseen event by the Bush administration because this connotation blames the Bush administration for being the orchestrators of the event. Thus, there are different arrays of interpretations regarding 9/11 but almost half of the world considers it to be the planned attacking by Al-Qaeda as its leaders have themselves accepted (Rubin & Verheul, 2009).
Positive and Negative Outcomes of the Event
The attacks of 9/11 are prominent as particularly significant. There were major results of the attacks on the natural environment, economy and humans. Major changes were brought in the federal government of the USA as a consequence of the 9/11 attacks and after the publication of several reports after the investigations conducted by the Congress and the 9/11 Commission jointly. Those significant changes involved the Dept. of Homeland Security establishment which fuses twenty-two nonmilitary government security agencies. It also took the responsibility of taking care of the air travel security of United States with the facilitation of Transportation Security Administration. In 2001, the USA PATRIOT Act was asserted and the National Institute of Standards and Technology proposed various building-code changes in 2005.
The attacks also caused overwhelming loss of human lives and extensive financial impacts but also caused an extraordinary environmental battering for the residents of Lower Manhattan. More or less ten thousand citizens of New York have suffered quick-fix health sickness/disorder from the air contaminants generated from the burning of the World Trade Center. However, the long-term effects include isolated outdoor hotspots and indoor pollution threats in the places that got high quantities of wreckage and dust. The uncleaned areas still pose threats to peoples’ health. The other problems that were faced as a result of the 9/11 attacks included gaps in organization and management. The Ground Zero also had shortcomings in its occupational safety. American public was not properly informed about the environmental facts. Similarly, the residents of the Lower Manhattan were not given awareness about environmental protection and cleaning. It is worth-mentioning that the water supply and its quality were not affected by the events of the day.
The economy of the New York City was greatly affected after the attacks and it has been estimated that nearly 108,500 jobs were lost within a month after the event as a direct result resulting in the loss of about seven billion dollars. There were three industries in particular that were affected for the most part including securities (in the neighborhood), retail trade and restaurants. A number of restaurants were forcibly closed or destroyed as a result of the overrun impacts on tourism and commercial travelling. Consumer spending was also influenced to a great extent resulting in the suffering of retail trade. Moreover, the air travel was shut down nationally for several days. The desires of people, in particular, to travel through airplanes dropped. This was a shock for the economy as New York has two major airports and a number of aviation-related businesses. Most importantly, more than fifty thousand people are engaged in air transport jobs only in the New York City. It is a fact that the American Aviation Industry had 9/11 as the darkest day in its history (Drakos, 2004).
It cannot be denied that the overwhelming and distressing events on 9/11 transformed the whole American nation overnight, just as it was transformed after the Pearl Harbor destruction. However, as 9/11 attacks have happened in the contemporary age of technology and electronics, there were immediate actions that were taken by the government. In the same fashion, United States acquired extraordinary support and commiseration from the world. However, times have changed and this support and compassion have transformed into unparalleled antagonism and opposition. In order to vanish off terrorist cells, it is agreed by almost everybody that necessary but limited/targeted force could be employed. On the other hand, the Bush administration took advantage of the 9/11 tragedy and pursued aggressive military overkill in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not only such military operations have raised concerns over moral values and legality but have also catalyzed a perilous anti-American counterattack that has consequently increased the number and hatred of extremists (Thompson, 2004). It can be said that the more U.S. has used military powers in the Middle East, the less protected the Americans have happened to be. It is the high time American government shall realize that all the complicated military hardware, valiant armed forces and a brilliant military headship the US may own will not do much good if the thousands of Middle Eastern people and outside abhor, hate and detest it. Although bin Laden has been killed by the US forces, there are still a majority of people who support his agenda and will keep up hazardous terrorist networks given that his criticism reverberates continuously. Because of this reason, many people consider 9/11 as a backlash on the part of Islamists who are against the biased treatment of Muslims at the hands of America.
Since the 9/11, governments all over the have taken necessary steps for the protection of their citizens from any terrorist activities. It is important to mention here that the public safety must be protected along with the protection of individuals’ rights. It is particularly important for the American leaders to understand that they must not continue the bombardment and invasion of Muslim countries. Instead, they must formulate a foreign policy that supports human rights and complies with international law. It is high time for the American leadership to stop giving support to dictatorships and prevent occupying armies of other countries. If this is not done, America will keep on making enemies faster than it is killing them. 9/11 Memorial is founded in order to pay tribute of remembrance and respect to the people killed on September 11, 2001 due to terrorist attacks. It is located at the site of the previous World Trade Center compound (“About the Memorial”). September 11 will never be forgotten as it is one of the most horrifying and unbelievable times that the citizens of USA have ever experienced. The event changed the world in almost every way and its consequences are still felt in many parts of the world (Ross, 2001).
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National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (2012). 9-11 CommissionReport. Retrieved April 9, 2014 from http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/about/index.htm
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Rubin, D. & Verheul, J. (2009). American Multiculturalism after 9/11: Transatlantic Perspectives. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
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