September 11, 2001 attacks

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National Park Service 9-11 Statue of Liberty and WTC fire.jpg

The Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 were the deadliest to ever occur on US soil and had far reaching effects on both foreign and domestic policy. The coordinated attacks by al Qaeda affiliated Islamic extremists saw three transcontinental airliners strike the World Trade Center towers (buildings 1 and 2) in New York City, NY and the Pentagon outside of Washington, D.C. within one hour of each other. The attacks succeeded in destroying both World Trade Center towers as well as a third building in the complex and significantly damaged the Pentagon (though the Pentagon was still able to function). A fourth airliner crashed in a field in Shanksville, PA, failing to reach its objective.

Sep 11 2001.jpg

The events of the day are often referred to simply as "September 11th" or "nine-eleven" (often written as "9/11").

The Attacks

  • 8:46 a.m. EDT - American Airlines Flight 11 (Boeing 767-200) crashed into the 94-98th floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC 1).
    • Casualties - 11 crew, 81 passengers.
  • 9:02 a.m. EDT - United Airlines Flight 175 (Boeing 767-200) crashed into the 78-85th floors of the South Tower (WTC 2)
    • Casualties - 9 crew, 56 passengers.
  • 9:37 a.m. EDT - American Airlines Flight 77 (Boeing 757-200) crashed into the Pentagon.
    • Casualties - 6 crew, 58 passengers.
  • 10:03 a.m. EDT - United Airlines Flight 93 (Boeing 757-200) crashed in a field outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
    • Casualties - 7 crew, 38 passengers.
  • 10:05 AM - The WTC 2 (South Tower) collapses.
  • 10:10 AM - An external portion of the Pentagon collapses.
  • 10:28 AM - The WTC 1 (North Tower) collapses.
  • 4:10 PM - World Trade Center Building 7 is reported to be on fire.
  • 5:20 PM - World Trade Center Building 7 collapses.

Ground Casualties

File:393px-WTC-remnant highres.jpg
Remains of the South Tower, September 13, 2001.

The total loss of life is constantly being reevaluated to account for wrongly reported missing persons and, in some cases, occurrences of fraud. Estimates of more than 6,000 deaths were announced following the attacks. The current estimate is 2,996 fatalities as a direct result of the attacks. About 500 foreign nationals from over 90 countries are believed to have died in the attack.[1]

The Department of Defense reported the deaths of 125 people at The Pentagon. The aftermath of the World Trade Center towers collapsing created a good deal of confusion and has been the main source of discrepancies in casualty estimates. As of October 29, 2003, New York City reported 2605 deaths in the attacks, not counting the passengers and crew of the planes. [2]

As a matter of course, the deaths of the 19 hijackers are not included in these casualty totals.

Economic Impact

The material costs of the attacks are well in excess of one hundred billion US dollars. Factoring in stock market losses, loss of revenue in New York City, loss of jobs, impact on air travel, and heightened security, some estimate the cost approaches two trillion dollars.[3]

Some estimates of the cost of executing the plan place it in the $400,000-$500,000 range, making it an extremely "profitable" operation for al-Qaeda. [4]

Finding Out What Happened

The perpetrators of the attacks were soon identified as members of the al Qaeda terrorist organization headed by Osama bin Laden, who proudly took credit for killing thousands of innocent people. Motives for the attack vary widely. Bin Laden viewed it as a Jihad against the West, blaming America's foreign policy towards Israel, sanctions against Iraq for its role in invading Kuwait and forcing it to pay back the damaged parties, and American troops in Saudi Arabia at the request of the Saudi government. From the viewpoint of the American leaders, Bin Laden was embittered against a society with freedom of speech, freedom of government, and freedom of religion and that those philosophies had led the United States to become the richest nation on the planet.

Social Impacts

Following the attacks there was a strong surge of patriotism in virtually all facets of American society. The government, being aware that the most deadly attack ever on American soil could stir up animosity against the ethnic or religious group of the perpetrators, went out of its way along with the media to separate Islam from the actions taken by its more radical adherents, referring to it at multiple times as a "religion of love". While people of Middle Eastern decent and adherents of Islam were concerned at first, the overall effect of hostility towards these groups was barely noticeable. Although there were literally millions of Muslims in America out of a total population of 300 million who could have sought out reprisals, in an entire year less than 500 cases of aggression of verbal hostility were reported.

Consequences of the Attacks on US Policy

Domestic Policy

The attacks were a direct or indirect cause of massive changes in United States domestic policy. Most notably, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 "established a Department of Homeland Security, as an executive department of the United States" [5], a cabinet level position. One of the tools implemented by the Department is the Homeland Security Advisory System, a color coded advisory system meant to "establish a comprehensive and effective means to disseminate information regarding the risk of terrorist acts to Federal, State, and local authorities and to the American people." [6]

Another notable result of the attacks was the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism). The act was written to expand the authority of law enforcement and the justice system in the pursuit of terrorism suspects.[7]

Foreign Policy

In response to the attacks, the United States declared a War on Terror, which comprises United States military action in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as a significant increase in intelligence gathering and a new outlook on foreign relations.

Conspiracy Theories

Many conspiracy theories [8] have sprouted up from the events of September 11, 2001, including the "Loose Change" movies seen on YouTube. While compelling, these movies have been comprehensively disproven by independent experts [9]. Prominent endorsers of such theories include talk show host Rosie O'Donnell as well as actor Charlie Sheen. A third of the American public has bought into the idea of some sort of role by federal officials. This view is much more common among those who get their news solely from the internet and is rare for those who read newspapers or watch the news on regular television. "Members of racial and ethnic minorities, people with only a high school education and Democrats were especially likely to suspect federal involvement in 9/11"[10]

Sources

Additional Information

References

  1. "New York Reduces 9/11 Death Toll by 40" at CNN.com, Phil Hirschkorn, 10/29/03
  2. "New York Reduces 9/11 Death Toll by 40" at CNN.com, Phil Hirschkorn, 10/29/03
  3. The Cost of September 11 Institute for the Analysis of Global Security
  4. The 9/11 Commission Report
  5. H.R. 5005 The Homeland Security Act
  6. DHS Laws and Regulations Department of Homeland Security
  7. The USA PATRIOT Act Library of Congress
  8. Lying About 9/11? Easy as ABC, Eric Alterman, The Nation, September 14, 2006 (October 2, 2006 issue).
  9. "Debunking The 9/11 Myths" Popular Mechanics, Mar. 2005 Cover Story
  10. http://www.shns.com/shns/g_index2.cfm?action=detail&pk=CONSPIRACY-08-02-06