World Trade Centre Attack Politics
An event that occurred on a normal late summer day in September 2001 changed the western world forever. Islamist extremists, members of Al Qaeda hijacked four passenger planes with the intention to carry out coordinated suicide attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, and the Pentagon and White House in Washington, D.C. Two planes were flown into the World Trade Centre (one plane into each tower), one plane targeted the pentagon and one was assumed to be targeting the White House although that plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field, after passengers and crew attempted to wrestle back control from the hijackers.
Both World Trade Centre Towers collapsed approximately 90 minutes after impact because of the damage sustained and the resulting fires. The fires were intensified by the burning aviation fuel and weakened the steel support trusses, which attached each of the floors to the buildings' exterior walls. The building collapses devastated the downtown Manhattan infrastructure for weeks. The attacks resulted in everyone on board the planes being killed and nearly 3,000 people on the ground also being killed. The U.S. government immediately grounded all flights, redirecting already airborne aircraft to other countries. This was a terrorist event of a magnitude that had never been seen before.Political Effect
The attacks on America were a strike on western idealisms by Al-Qaeda. Rhine et al (2002) determined that:
"Al-Qaeda hoped that, by attacking symbols of American power, they would promote widespread fear throughout the country and severely weaken the United States' standing in the world community, ultimately supporting their political and religious goals in the Middle East and Muslim World".
Following the attacks, the media and political leaders declared this was the 'rhetoric of evil' manifesting itself in the Arab world. President Bush declared a 'war on terror' stating "we will rid the world of evil-doers" (Bell, 2003) and obtained backing from a Coalition of nations committed to defeating the peddlers of terror. The first goal involved the attack on the radical Islamic Taliban regime in Afghanistan suspected of harbouring Al-Qaeda. President Bush had also made definitive war plans for Iraq by July 2002 and once the Iraq War began, the Bush Administration demonstrated a willingness to pay immense domestic political costs to continue the war (Heaney, 2012).
These attacks transformed both the economic and political landscapes globally. National security became the highest priority with democratic governments around the world swiftly introducing legislation to bolster national security and their ability to fight terrorism. America and other western countries moved towards creating a 'surveillance society', monitoring everything that happens. People in America started to regard it as a 'Police State' (Liptak, 2002). Many would say that Bush and later Obama have been successful as there has not been a successful terror attack in the US since 9/11.
U.S. politics had renewed energy in the battle between Liberal and Conservatives and Democrats and Republicans with the Liberal argument being in a national crisis you need a government that can defend the nation (Wroe, 2002). The lesson all Americans learned that day was in a crisis, you need a government that can cope (Broder, 2001).Trust
The rescue efforts resulted in a large response of emergency personnel to deal with the event. The recovery and clean up involved all kinds of tradesmen which was required to remove approximately 1.5 million tonnes of debris. The site clearance was finally completed in May 2002. Mayor Giuliani showed determined leadership, co-ordinating both the city and federal agencies, which gave the populous of New York confidence they were 'on top of things'.
At a higher level, the show of determination by Bush and the other world leaders against this act of terror was deemed by some to be showing strength of leadership and re-assured many of the masses. However, 9/11 highlighted cracks in the critical infrastructure that were just not considered previously. Information on two suspect hijackers was available to the CIA but not acted upon (Perrow, 2002). Prior to 9/11, the Transportation Department publicised failures in airport security with their inspectors taking fake bombs and weapons into airports and onto planes and not being detected (Perrow, 2002).
Despite these failings, trust in the government increased post 9/11, attributed to a phenomenon called 'rally around the flag' (Newport, 2002). The focus of concern shifted from domestic issues to concerns from international threats which caused the public to get behind and show public support for the President (Chanley, 2002). This willingness by Bush to act decisively actually rescued the President's political career and won him a second term in office. The support did not last however and Bush, after two terms in office was subsequently ousted in 2008 by an ever increasing "anti-war" mood in the populous following the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This lack of trust ripple reached across into Europe with many coalition leaders also suffering the backlash of "anti-war" protests and subsequently losing their position.Economic Effect
Along with the political ripples sweeping the globe, the attacks on 9/11 had a dramatic economic effect. The Dow dropped, the 2001 recession extended and it brokered one of the largest government spending plans in history. In the weeks following the attacks, closing airports and decreased travel, caused a general economic chaos. The stock market was in the World Trade Centre and had to close resulting in no trading for 4 days. When it re-opened on the 17th September 2001, the Dow Jones fell 7.13%, the biggest single fall in one day. There were close to 18,000 small businesses in and around New York City's World Trade Centre complex destroyed or affected by the attacks (Giffin, 2009). The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq so far have cost $3 Trillion (Stiglitz, Blimes, 2008), creating America's macroeconomic weaknesses. The US Federal Reserve attempted to hide these weaknesses by engineering a housing bubble that led to a consumption boom that fuelled the subprime crisis (Stiglitz, Blimes, 2008).
Again the ripples spread worldwide with the insurance industry being severely affected due to the loss of life and property estimated at around $40 billion in the U.S. alone. Most insurers now offer only a limited cover against acts of terror. The world airline industry suffered dramatically following 9/11. According to the Air Transport Association, the airlines lost approximately $1.4 billion in revenue during the four-day shutdown of the national aviation system just after the 9/11attacks (Makinen, 2002). Leisure and tourism is also continuing to be affected with fewer people travelling and according to the U.S. Travel Association, 68 million visitors have been lost with $606 billion in lost spending costing 467,000 jobs.Social Reaction
The events on September 11 2001 affected people emotionally and changed them forever:
"All of a sudden there were people screaming. I saw people jumping out of the building. Their arms were flailing. I stopped taking pictures and started crying," -Michael Walters (Dunfield, 2001)
Every year on September 11th at 08:46, a memorial service is held at ground zero, the site where the twin towers fell, and all the victims' names are read aloud. Public reaction to the September 11 attacks extended from grief to rage and resulted in a huge shift in the perception of Muslims throughout the western world. Despite the attacks being carried out by 19 young Islam extremists, all Muslims were subsequently viewed as terrorists (Zaffos, 2011).
While America came to terms with the tragedy, its citizens were also caught up in a wave of backlash against Muslims which included verbal harassment; violent threats and intimidation; physical assault; prejudice; discrimination and exclusion (Peek, 2011). Muslims across the world now found integrating into western society extremely difficult. The danger of this isolation of Muslim youths can create conditions where radicalisation can take place and hence breed new leaders for extremists and terror.
While people felt scared and vulnerable immediately after the attacks, the increased security brought challenges to civil liberties with people being held in custody without charge, in secret locations and hearings being closed to the public (Freie, 2002). The desire for retribution was eating away at the fabric of the U.S. justice system. According to a recent Gallup poll, because of the 9/11 attacks, substantial numbers of people are now less willing to fly, travel overseas, attend events where there are thousands of people or go into skyscrapers (Jones, 2011).Summary
Although this event happened eleven years ago, the impact of the World Trade Centre attacks have been globally felt, which started with the graphic images being beamed live around the world as the attacks happened depicting the terrible human toll followed by two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The ripples from this event affected communities worldwide. Increases in security has introduced delays in air travel but has helped prevent further attacks. Businesses have had increased costs implementing security measures, Insurance costs have rocketed and tourism will take years to recover and rebuild the trust in people to travel. The financial cost of the 'war on terror' is still being borne by all the people in the western world exacerbated by a world recession. With all the advances in security and tracking, it is unlikely that a similar attack could succeed.
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