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.
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
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)
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
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.
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
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.
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
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 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 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
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.
The Task: Part 5