The September 11 terrorist attacks went down in the books of history as perhaps one of the most calamitous day in United States history. Often referred to as 9/11, the crime was a series of four related terrorist attacks perpetrated by al-Qaeda, an Islamic terrorist group in the United States on a clear Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001. The 9/11 attacks left 2, 996 people, dead and injured more than 6,000 others. These attacks occurred in Washington, D.C, New York City and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The September, 11 attacks will be remembered as the deadliest incident for law enforcement officers and firefighters in the history of the United States having left dead 72 police officers and 343 firefighters. The 9/11 crime is said to have caused damage to property and infrastructure worth around $ 10 billion and a total cost of $3 trillion. This extensive death and destruction triggered major U.S initiatives to combat terrorism and would later define the presidency of George W. Bush (9/11 Timeline).
The whole inferno started when four passenger airliners typically operated by American Airlines and United Airlines (which are two major U.S. passenger air carriers) were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists. These four airliners departed from northeastern United States airports bound for California oblivion of the fate that would soon be unraveled. Two of these planes would be crashed into the World Trade Center (WTC) complex in New York City. The American Airlines Boeing 767 (Flight 11) loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel would be crashed into the North tower of WTC. The impact of the crash left a wide open burning hole around the 80th floor of the 110-story skyscraper. The carnage began as hundreds of civilians were instantly killed while hundreds of others were trapped in higher floors. Television cameras broadcasted live images of the initial gory incident as the evacuation of the North Tower, and its twin got underway. 18 minutes later, the second Boeing767, United Airlines Flight 175 would appear out of the sky, turn towards the WTC and slice into the South tower near the 60th floor. A massive explosion was caused by the collision that scattered burning debris over the streets below as well as surrounding buildings. Within one hour and 42 minutes, both (110 story) towers caved in in a massive cloud of smoke and dust as resulting fires and debris caused either complete or partial collapse of all other buildings in the WTC complex such as the 47-story 7 World Trade Center tower. There was also significant damage to ten other large structures near the World Trade Center. Only six people were able to survive the ordeal in the WTC at the time they collapsed. Around 10, 000 people were treated for injuries, many of which were severe.
As millions of shocked people focused on watching the events that were unfolding in New York, more was yet to come from a different spot. The third plane, American Airlines Flight 77 was targeted and slammed into the west side of the Pentagon after circling over downtown Washington. D.C. Pentagon was the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense located in Arlington County, Virginia. This crash led to the collapse of the western side of the building. The jet fuel from the plane caused a severe inferno that led to the structural collapse of a significant portion of the giant concrete building. 125 military personnel and civilians died in the Pentagon along with 64 passengers aboard the plane.
The fourth California- bound plane, (United Airlines Flight 93) was hijacked 40 minutes after departing from New Jersey’s Newark International Airport. Passengers on board had learned of the horrifying events that had just happened in Washington and New York through Airfone and cell phone calls to the ground since the plane had been delayed in taking off. A group of flight attendants and passengers planned an insurrection after learning that the airliner was not returning to the airport as the hijackers claimed. The passengers tried to fight and overcome the four hijackers on board and are suspected to have attacked the cockpit using a fire extinguisher. The airliner flipped over and sped towards the ground at 500 miles per hour and crashed into a rural field in Stonycreek Township situated near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. All 45 people on board died. Although the intended target remained unknown, theories suggest it would have been the U.S Capitol, Maryland’s Camp David retreat, the White House or one of the nuclear power plants in the eastern seaboard.
The timeline of the catastrophic events of September 11, 2001, was as follows (CNN);
• At 8:46 a.m. ET: First plane (American Airlines Flight 11) traveling from Boston to Los Angeles strikes through the north tower of New York City’s iconic World Trade Center
• At 9: 03 a.m. ET: Second plane (United Airlines Flight 175) traveling from Boston to Los Angeles) strikes through the south tower of the World Trade Center
• At 9:37 a.m. ET: Third plane (American Airlines Flight 77) traveling from Dulles, Virginia to Los Angeles crashes through the Pentagon Building in Washington
• At 9:59 a.m. ET: The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses in 10 seconds
• At 10:03 a.m. ET: Fourth plane (United Airlines Flight 93) flying from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco crashes in a field in western Pennsylvania.
• At 10:28 a.m. ET: World Trade Center’s North Tower collapses. Time span between the first attack and collapse of both towers is 102 minutes
Victims of the Crime
At the Lower Manhattan WTC site, 2,753 people perished when two hijacked American planes (United Airlines Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11) were intentionally crashed into both towers. 343 New York City firefighters, 37 officers of the port authority and 23 New York City police officers were among those who perished in the initial attacks and the subsequent collapse of the towers. The age of the victims of the attack ranged from 2 to 85 years, and approximately 75% to 80% of the victims were men. At the Pentagon in Washington, 184 were left lifeless when the hijacked American Airline Flight 77 sliced into the building. Other 40 passengers and crew members aboard of the United Airlines Flight 93 lost their lives near Shanksville, Pennsylvania when the plane crashed into a field. According to the medical examiner’s office as of August 2016, the remains of 1,640 victims of the WTC terror attack have been positively identified which translates to 60% of 2,753 ("September 11Th Fast Facts - CNN.Com").
The Economic Impact of the attack
- The estimated amount of money that cost the plan and execution of the 9/11 attacks is said to have been $500,000.
- The estimated cost of the WTC site damage including damage to infrastructure, subway facilities, and surrounding buildings is estimated to be worth $ 60 billion.
- The estimated economic loss in the next two to four weeks after the collapse of the WTC in New York City and a decline in airline travel over the next few years is estimated to be worth $123 billion.
- Insurance claims arising from the 9/11 attacks total to $9.3 billion
- The Aid package passed by the Congress to bail out the airlines totals to $15 billion
- The value of the emergency anti-terrorism package that was approved by the US Congress on the 14th of September, 2001 cost $40 billion.
The attackers of the 9/11 attacks were Islamic terrorists from Saudi Arabia among other Arab nations. The infamous Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization is alleged to have financed the attacks. Some of the terrorists had even lived in the United States for more than a year and even attended flying lessons at American commercial flight schools. Other terrorists had slipped into the United States some months before 9/11 and played a significant role in the operation. The 19 terrorists were able to easily smuggle knives and box-cutters through security at three East Coast airports before boarding four different flights bound for California. The terrorists chose these planes because they were fully loaded with fuel for the long transcontinental journey ahead. Soon after takeoff, the terrorist hijacked the planes and took control, thereby transforming normal commuter jets into missiles.
Al-Qaeda’s origin can be traced back to 1979 when Afghanistan was invaded by the Soviet Union. Osama bin Laden traveled to Afghanistan to help organize Arab mujahideen to resist the Soviets. Bin Laden became more radical under the guidance of Ayman al-Zawahiri. He issued his first ‘fatwa’ (formal legal Islamic opinion) in 1996 that called for American soldiers to depart from Saudi Arabia. His second ‘fatwa’ in 1998 outlined his objections to the continued presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War and the American foreign policy in regards to Israel. Osama used Islamic texts to urge Muslims to attack Americans until when the stated grievances would be revoked. According to Osama bin Laden, "Muslim legal scholars have throughout Islamic history unanimously agreed that the jihad is an individual duty if the enemy destroys the Muslim countries."
• Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden initially denied but later admitted to having been involved in orchestrating the attacks. In a statement released by Al Jazeera on September 16, 200, bin Laden stated, "I stress that I have not carried out this act, which appears to have been carried out by individuals with their own motivation." However, U.S forces recovered a useful videotape from a dilapidated house in Jalalabad, Afghanistan in November 2001. In the video, bin Laden is seen in a conversation with Khaleb al-Harbi, (a fellow jihadist suspected to have joined al-Qaeda) and admits foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. On December of the same year, a second bin Laden video was released in which he states, "It has become clear that the West in general and America, in particular, have an unspeakable hatred for Islam. ... It is the hatred of crusaders. Terrorism against America deserves to be praised because it was a response to injustice, aimed at forcing America to stop its support for Israel, which kills our people. ... We say that the end of the United States is imminent, whether Bin Laden or his followers are alive or dead, for the awakening of the Muslim umma (nation) has occurred".
Bin Laden publicly admitted having been directly linked to the 9/11 attacks as well as the al-Qaeda in a taped statement shortly before the 2004 United States presidential election. He said the attacks took place because “we are free ... and want to regain freedom for our nation. As you undermine our security, we undermine yours." Bin Laden claimed he personally directed his followers to target the Pentagon and the WTC. Later on in 2006, Al Jazeera obtained a video that showed bin Laden with Ramzi bin al-Shibh and two other hijackers Wail al-Shehri and Hamza al-Ghamdi as they make preparations for the terror attacks. Although the United States never formally indicted Osama bin Laden for the September 11 attacks, he was already listed on the Most Wanted List of the FBI for orchestrating bombings of American Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Bin Laden was killed after a 10-year manhunt by U.S Special Forces in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011.
• Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Yosri Fouda, a journalist of the Arabic television channel Al Jazeera, reported that in April 2002, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had admitted involvement in the September 11 attacks. The 9/11 Commission Report would later determine that Mohammed, the principal architect of the terror attacks was driven by animosity towards the United States that stemmed from U.S foreign policy that favored Israel. Moreover, Mohammed was the financier and adviser of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the lead bomber in the attack; Ramzi Yousef was his nephew. Mohammed was apprehended on March 1, 2003, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan by Pakistani security officials that worked closely with the CIA. He was carried away to Guantanamo Bay where he was interrogated using methods like waterboarding. In March 2007 during U.S hearings at Guantanamo Bay, Mohammed confessed his involvement in the attacks and was responsible for the September 11 terror attacks from the start to the end and that his statement was not made up under duress
Why the crime occurred
The horrendous 9/11 attacks took place because of various reasons. The following are some of the “theories” that shed light into why the attacks were orchestrated;
• America’s intervention in the Middle East significantly motivated the terror attacks. The al-Qaeda organization was bitter about America’s involvement in the Persian Gulf War and its continued military presence in the Middle East. Al Qaeda wanted to expel Westerners especially Americans from Muslim lands because they firmly believed their influence was the biggest impediments to establishing non-Islamic governments. Bin Laden was particularly outraged by the presence of U.S troops that were desecrating the two holiest places of Muslims: Medina and Mecca
• Al-Qaeda was acting in retaliation for the U.S foreign policy that favored Israel that was allegedly killing and oppressing Palestinians. The U.S government had also issued sanctions against the Iraqi people.
• Bin Laden had declared a holy war against America in 1998. During that time, bin Laden called for the murder of American civilians in a fatwa he signed. Various Middle East scholars believe that 9/11 was bin Laden’s way of provoking the United States into a war that would incite Muslims worldwide to unite and oppose the West. Al-Qaeda was willing to use force if need be to unite all Muslims and form an Islamic Nation that would adhere to the rule of the first Caliphs
• Some blame the lax airport security by pointing out that the terrorists were successful in smuggling box cutters and knives onto the planes at three different airports on the East Coast
• Critics of the federal government argue that the failure to prevent 9/11 was the result of the United States government not sharing resourceful information among its different intelligence agencies, several of which had prior warnings of portions of the September, 11 terrorist attack plot. In the weeks leading up to the terror attacks, dozens of urgent detailed warnings of attacks involving U.S landmarks and hijacked planes came from French, German, Israeli and Russian intelligence, several prisoners, members of New York Muslim communities and an Arab newspaper. The CIA and FBI also had prior information and some culprits, but little was done about this.
• Bin Laden and al-Qaeda was opposed to the United States occupying Islamic countries, stealing their resources and imposing agents on them. They wanted freedom, not oppression.
How terrorism would have been prevented
The nefarious September 11 attacks would have been prevented if not for the dereliction and hubris of the United States government. The greatest focus should be placed on prevention of future attacks and not only securing the borders. Many have already used the borders before and gone far without the intelligence being aware of their plans which also means the government is also failing in intelligence gathering. Prevention encompasses a lot. First, it requires non-provocation as well as intelligence gathering, national defense and general security. The simplest yet most effective is to stop provoking the wrath of millions of people worldwide. It is better to have never created a threat rather than trying to thwart it. Most people can agree that the horrific 9/11 attacks on American civilians would not have occurred were it not for the federal government intruding upon the Muslim world and exercising manipulative control for the past 50 years. It is the presence of U.S militants and all manner of interventionism by the U.S that initially provoked bin Laden and al-Qaeda. The American government’s meddling in the conflicts and affairs of other nations is directly responsible for fueling animosity, hatred and subsequent violence against the United States
The United States of America would be more safe, peaceful and prosperous if only its federal government can; eliminate all interventionist foreign policy, end all U.S government intrusion in foreign nations and their elections, end foreign aid, end all embargoes and sanctions, end US military weaponry (that is taxpayer-financed), end all involvements in international conflicts that are unrelated to the US and bring home all military troops from all corners of the world after closing military bases of the parts of the world that pose no direct threat to the United States (Smith).
Other major ways to counter terrorism and radicalization worldwide include the following (Farhan);
• Reducing unemployment
Unemployment is among the leading causes of terrorism. Unemployed people do not get an opportunity to support their families, and therefore terrorism masterminds make them their pawns. These plotters offer them huge sums of money and guarantee to support their families if they accomplish the task. There is an acute need for creating job opportunities so that civilians remain busy and do not go astray and start doing illegal operations that can claim lives of innocent people.
• Alleviating poverty
Poverty is also another primary cause of terrorism. Most youths result to terrorism when they lack resources to make ends meet. Effective and strong efforts are required by governments to combat poverty as this will significantly reduce the level of terrorism. Masterminds target desperate teenagers from poor backgrounds and convince them to execute heinous crimes.
· Improving education
The young generation is likely to be consumed by anti-social elements if they lack education. There is dire need for opportunities to be created so that they can take their children to school. The probability of extremism and terrorism can be significantly reduced if education can be provided for free or minimum costs. Governments should open up more schools and make education available to everyone. This move would make the world safe from current and future terrorism.
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