Anglo-American Culture, Chapter Twelve

Chapter 12

The Attacks of 9-11, 2001 and Aftermath

 

Pre-reading vocabulary and phrases:

Rocky (movie):

Warlord:

Stoning (punishment context):

 

The United States has a large, friendly neighbor to the north, a large, friendly neighbor to the south and huge oceans to both the east and west. Because of this, very few groups have succeeded in attacking the USA directly. This gave Americans a sense of invulnerability or, at least, it used to give them a sense of invulnerability. The al Qaeda attack in 2001 fundamentally changed the way the US saw and dealt with the rest of the world.

 

The genesis of the attacks is actually way back in 1979 when the US began supporting a group called the Mujahadeen. The Mujahadeen were thought of as religious freedom fighters who bravely stood up to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Rocky Movies, for example, thank the Mujahadeen specifically for their bravery. With US backing, these fighters eventually defeated the Soviet Union and, in doing so, brought about its collapse. This had the good effect of ending the Cold War and reducing the risk of nuclear war. On the bad side, it made armed, religious warlords into the most powerful people in Afghanistan.

 

Once the Cold War ended in 1989, these Mujahadeen groups took over Afghanistan and ruled the population according to a very strict version of Islam. They killed or drove off people of other religions, destroyed Buddhist monuments, outlawed education for girls and did things like stone rape victims to death. Most important for America, though, they decided that all non-Muslims in the Middle East should be driven out. This included American soldiers in Saudi Arabia.

 

Starting in 1996, one of the Mujahadeen leaders, Osama bin Laden, became directly involved in the war against America and the West. In 1998 he organized a bombing of US Marine barracks in Beruit and arranged for the first World Trade Center bombing in 1998 (using trucks filled with explosives).

 

Osama bin Laden wanted, ultimately, to unite the Muslim world. He thought the best way would be to draw the US into a war against the world’s Muslims. This plan, which at least partially succeeded, reached fruition in 2001.

 

19 hijackers from bin Laden’s al Qaeda organization took control of four large airplanes. At the time, pilots and stewardesses were trained to do whatever a hijacker wanted and the al Qaeda members took advantage of this. They used razor knives to kill the pilots and some of the stewardesses and took control of the planes themselves.

 

The first plane flew into the World Trade Center building South Tower at 8:46 A.M. The second followed shortly thereafter, crashing into the North Tower at 9:03 A.M. The third plane was supposed to hit the White House, but the hijackers couldn’t find it and so crashed the plane into the Pentagon Building in Washington D.C. In the final plane, passengers attempted to take control of the plane back from the hijackers but failed. This plane crashed into the forest in Pennsylvania. All 265 of the hijackers and passengers died. 125 people in the Pentagon were killed as well.

 

The World Trade Center Buildings burned for several hours after the airplanes struck. This trapped many people above the fires and exposed them to toxic smoke and intense heat. A number of them jumped out of the windows to avoid burning to death. A few of the jumpers hit and killed rescue workers as they crashed into the ground. Finally, weakened by the intense fires, the World Trade Center collapsed. 2606 people died in the World Trade Center collapses and fires.

 

In the immediate aftermath, Americans felt a great deal of anger, sadness and fear. They became much more hostile to Muslims in general and Middle Eastern nations in particular. Anger over the 9-11 attacks allowed the War on Terror, which we will examine in the next chapter, to continue for the next decade.

 

Please watch this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1V1SCWOXJbc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you feel watching the attacks?

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When the US government supported the Mujahadeen, they both won the Cold War and began the chain of events leading to 9-11. In other words, they traded the threat of nuclear war for the threat of terrorism. Do you think they made a good choice? Why or why not?

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9-11, though tragic, is a relatively minor tragedy in world history. The Congolese Civil War, for example, has killed millions of people since 9-11. The Gwangju Massacre (5.18.81) killed almost as many people as 9-11, several hundred thousand people have died in Syria, Iraq and Sudan. Why is 9-11 considered more important than The Congo, Sudan, Gwangju, Iraq or Syria?

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How would you react if someone bombed the 63 Building in Seoul?

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How do you think the anger, sadness and fear of 9-11 changed American decision-making?

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Choose one of the following people: Queen Elizabeth, Teddy Roosevelt, Malcolm X or Cecil Rhodes. How would that person lead the country after 9-11?

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