The War On Terror

On September 11, 2001, the nation witnessed horrifying acts of terrorism. Terrorism is the use of violence against civilians to achieve a political goal.

Early that morning, terrorists seized four U.S. passenger planes. Two planes were deliberately crashed into New York City's World Trade Center. A third plane was flown into the Pentagon, the U.S. military headquarters in Washington, D.C. A fourth plane was seized, but the passengers heroically fought back. This plane crashed in Pennsylvania. More Americans died in the attacks of September 11, 2001, than died at Pearl Harbor or on D-Day in World War II.

The Spirit of America

The 9/11 attacks shocked Americans, but they responded rapidly to the crisis. Fire­fighters and medical workers from through­out the nation headed to New York City to help. Across the nation, Americans lined up to donate blood and to collect food, blankets, and other supplies. From coast to coast, people put up flags to show their unity. They held candlelight vigils and prayer services as they searched for ways to help.

The U.S. government also responded quickly to the attacks. The Air National Guard patrolled the skies over major cities. Army National Guard troops were sent to airports to strengthen security. On September 14, President Bush declared a national emergency. Congress approved the use of force to fight whoever had attacked the United States. The U.S. government quickly identified the attacks as the work of a Saudi Arabian man named Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organization, al-Qaeda (al KYduh)

The Roots of Terrorism

Terrorist groups act on their own and are usually not part of a government. Today, most terrorist acts against Americans have been carried out by groups from the Middle East. Strong feelings against the United States are based partly on US. support for the Jewish nation of Israel. In the 1970s, several Middle Eastern nations realized they could fight Israel and the United States by arming and training terrorists. Some Muslims - or followers of Islam, the dominant religion in the Middle East - also feel that Western (American and European) culture undermines traditional Muslim values.

Although the vast majority of the 1 billion Muslims worldwide reject terrorism, some fundamentalists like bin Laden do not. Muslim fundamentalists call for a return to traditional Muslim ways. Those who favor bin Laden's methods believe that any action is justified to create a pure Muslim society.


The Rise of al-Qaeda

AI-Qaeda grew out of the Muslim struggle against the Soviet Union in the Southwest Asian country of Afghanistan. Bin Laden formed al-Qaeda, or "the Base," to recruit new fighters.

When the Soviets left Afghanistan, bin Laden decided that all Westerners should be pushed out of the Muslim world. Bin Laden then turned al-Qaeda into a terrorist group. He won the support of the Taliban, a Muslim fundamentalist group that took power in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden's followers set off bombs at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. They also attacked a US. navy ship in Yemen in 2000. Then, on September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda struck again, seizing four American passenger planes and carrying out the most deadly terrorist attack in history.


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Fighting Terrorism

After the attacks on September 11, the United States declared war on terrorism. In an address to Congress on September 20, the President demanded that the Taliban in Afghanistan turn over bin Laden and his followers and shut down all terrorist camps. The war against terrorism, President Bush :old Americans, would be global in its reach. It would not end quickly, but it was a war the people of the United States were now called to fight:

~~Great harm has been done to us. We have suffered great loss. And in our grief and anger, we have found our mission and our moment. ... We will not tire; we will not falter; and we will not fail. ~~

-from President Bush, Address to Joint Session of Congress, September 20, 2001

Protecting America

President Bush took steps to protect Americans from terrorist attacks. On September 24, he issued an executive order blocking the use of funds by individuals and groups suspected of supporting terrorism. The president also created a new federal agency - the Office of Homeland Security - to coordinate counter­terrorism efforts. Counterterrorism involves military or political activities intended to combat terrorism. In June 2002, President Bush asked Congress to combine all of the agencies responsible for the public's safety into a new department called the Department of Homeland Security.

In late October 2001, Congress passed and the president signed into law new measures to combat terrorism. The USA Patriot Act of 2001 gave federal prosecutors and FBI agents new powers to investigate those who plot or carry out acts of terrorism. The law expanded the power of federal agents to tap telephones and track Internet usage in the hunt for ter­rorists. It also permitted agents to conduct secret searches of a suspect's home or office without giving prior, or earlier, notice to the owner of the property.

The War in Afghanistan

The war on terrorism first focused on Afghanistan, where Taliban leaders refused to hand over bin Laden. On October 7, the U.S. military began bombing Taliban and al­Qaeda forces. In December, the Taliban government collapsed, and surviving Taliban members fled to Afghanistan's mountains. Fighting continues between NATO and Taliban forces. Meanwhile, bin Laden remains at large, possibly hiding in the neighboring country of Pakistan.

The Iraq War

The attacks of 9/11 raised fears that terror­ist groups might acquire nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. These weapons of mass destruction could kill tens of thousands of people at a time. President Bush believed that Iraq's government was hiding these deadly weapons and was an immediate threat.

In the summer of 2002, Bush increased pressure on Iraq's dictator, Saddam Hussein. When questions arose over whether Iraq was cooperating with UN weapons inspectors, the president asked the UN to call for the use of force in Iraq. Although some UN members opposed the use of force, the United States prepared for war.

On March 20, 2003,the American military, aided by soldiers from Britain and some other countries, attacked Iraq. The Iraqi army was quickly defeated, and Saddam Hussein was overthrown. He was later captured, tried, and executed for crimes against his people.

The United States set out to create a democracy in Iraq. In 2005, Iraqi voters elected a parliament and approved a new constitution. The United States and its allies trained more Iraqis to serve in the police and the military. They also attempted to provide electricity, clean water, schools, and improved health care for Iraq's people.

These efforts were more difficult than winning the war. Insurgents, or rebel groups, battled U.S. forces. Iraq also was torn apart by disputes among Iraq's Muslim communities.

Between 2003 and today, more than 4,000 American and British soldiers and 70,000 Iraqis died. As the fighting dragged on, support for the war began to decline. The failure to find weapons of mass destruction also caused many people to wonder if the war in Iraq was a mistake. President Bush, however, is determined to stay the course in Iraq.


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The Task: Part 5