On September 11, 2001, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks were carried out on United States soil that would forever change the landscape of the international community. Osama bin Laden, a member of a wealthy Saudi family network, facilitated attacks in which 19 assailants, affiliated with the al-Qaeda terrorist network, hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners.1 Two crashed into the World Trade Center in Manhattan and one into the Pentagon. The fourth plane was believed to be headed to the US Capital or White House, but was diverted into a rural field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where it ultimately crashed.2 These tragic events took the lives of nearly 3,000 individuals that day; however, the effect that these devastating actions have had on the global scale continues to be felt to this day.3
The repercussions reverberated on a global scale, destabilizing economies’ worldwide and leading to immediate changes in U.S. and U.K. foreign policy. Other problems arose in the aftermath of the attacks. This news analysis covers the immediate response of the global community, the fiscal implications of the attacks, foreign policy and security policy changes in information sharing, as well as human rights and civil rights violations. This coverage will display not only how debilitating such an attack can be to the short term capabilities of a country, but also how a decade later the ripple effects are still being felt around the globe.
The Immediate Response around the Globe
Shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush declared a “War on Terrorism” with the goal of bringing bin Laden to justice and preventing future terrorist activities. Countries around the globe were shocked and offended by the attacks, from long standing American allies to its greatest detractors. German chancellor Gerhard Schröder described the attacks as “a declaration of war against the civilized world”, and the Cuban government offered its deepest condolences, as well as offering air and medical assistance to its longtime critic.4
The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1368 just 24 hours after the devastating terrorist attacks. The UN stated they “unequivocally condemned those [terrorist] acts, and expressed its deepest sympathy and condolences to the victims and their families.”5 The Security Council was ready to take “all necessary steps…to combat all forms of terrorism,” which eventually led to friction in the years to come as the Global War on Terror took full affect.6
In October 2001, The United States, with the assistance of the United Kingdom and other NATO allies, invaded Afghanistan in what would begin the official global ‘War on Terror’. While these actions were generally seen to be warranted in the eyes of the international community, the next United States endeavor would prove to be highly provocative. It reflected how 9/11 would shape U.S. foreign policy.
The subsequent phase of this global campaign was to seek out proof that showed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD). When the ensuing 2002 UN searches produced no evidence, the United States continued to vehemently insist that they must disarm the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. After it was made clear that the United Nations Security Council would veto any use of force in Iraq, a “coalition of the willing” was formed by the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland. The intent was “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s alleged support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.“7
This seemingly unilateral decision spearheaded by the United States was the beginning of increased tensions between the U.S. and other countries around the world.Belgium, France, and Germany sought to develop their own European Union military apparatus to counter such heavy-handed U.S. diplomatic actions.
Other major global superpowers, such as Russia and China, used entities like the ‘Shanghai Cooperation Organization” to thwart growing US presence in the Central Asian economies.8 Economic stability has always been a major factor in maintaining a nation’s power and prominence, and the events, policies, and legislation that followed the 9/11 attacks would go on to test the fiscal solvency of the world’s greatest superpowers.
The September 11th attacks produced both short-term and long-term economic consequences that proved to be quite costly for many nations. The initial shock of these aggressions panicked investors worldwide and led global stock markets to plummet drastically. The U.S. Congressional Research Services declared that attacks alone cost nearly $40 billion in insurance losses, warranting it to be labeled one of the largest insured events in history.9
The long term costs of these attacks have been even more devastating to the United States economy, as well as to other countries that participated in the War on Terror. As of 2011, it is estimated that the cost of involvement in the war in Afghanistan is roughly $440 billion, while the Iraq war comes to an even larger sum of nearly $790 billion.10 Additionally, the United Kingdom spent nearly £18 billion ($30 billion USD) in Afghanistan alone, as of March 2011.11
In 2002, the United States created an entire new cabinet department, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to prevent and thwart further terrorist attacks on American soil. The creation of yet another entity within an already crowded bureaucracy has caused much criticism. DHS has already wasted roughly $15 billion in failed contracts. Their employee morale and satisfaction is often ranked last in surveys of various United States agencies.12 13
In addition to the aforementioned costs, in 2005 the United Nations formed the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) to, “enhance coordination and coherence of counter-terrorism efforts of the United Nations system.”14 While initially operating on a budget of voluntary contributions, in 2009, member states suggested operational costs should be secured through the regular UN budget.15 This led to further strain on an already tight UN budget. While the fiscal effects of the War on Terror can be quantified with dollars and cents, there are other changes that have altered the lives of everyday citizens world-wide.
Technology & Civil Rights
As the global war on terror commenced, countries around the world enacted legislation that progressively granted more and more secretive rights to the government to help ‘protect its citizens.’ Many individuals felt that their civil liberties and rights were being infringed upon.
On October 26, 2001, the United States passed the “PATRIOT Act” [Provide Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (PATRIOT)]. This act dramatically enhanced the ability for law enforcement to search email, telephone, medical, and financial records on American citizens.16 It also allowed a procedure known as roving wire taps to take place, essentially allowing the target individual under surveillance to be tracked wherever they travel, no longer confining surveillance to particular phones or computers.17
These actions have caused a great deal of controversy. Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) claimed that the Patriot Act was unconstitutional, especially since there was a chance that law abiding, non threatening citizens might have their communications accidentally intercepted.18 Many critics feel that their concerns have gone unheeded. In May 2011, President Barack Obama signed extensions on various parts of the PATRIOT Act, continuing these highly controversial policies for another four years.19
The United States was not the only country to take precautionary actions against future terrorist threats. Countries around the globe enacted similar measures that also received with lukewarm responses. The United Kingdom and France both extended the length of time a web users’ data can be held by an ISP. Germany passed a bill forcing communication companies to install surveillance software to ease the interception by authorities, if the need arose. Additionally, Canadian authorities no longer deemed it necessary to inform individuals that they were being investigated or under surveillance. Opponents of these Acts, such as ‘Reporters Sans Frontieres (without borders)’ have deemed these measures as “serious attacks on freedom of expression”, and rebuked such actions as being overbearing on civilians.20
On September 14, 2001, Congress granted President Bush the power “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determined planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11.”21The latitude allotted to the United States to carry out their ‘war on terror’ has caused great anxiety for human rights groups, which are concerned with the possibilities of torture and mistreatment of individuals.
Guantanamo Bay detention camp, located within the United States Naval base in Cuba, became an international symbol for the war on terror, as countless alleged-terrorists were housed there over the course of the past decade.In 2003, ‘Human Rights Watch declared, “Washington has ignored human rights standards in its own treatment of terrorism suspects [and] it has refused to apply the Geneva Conventions to prisoners of war from Afghanistan.”22 This information coincided with the release of data in August 2003 stating that 350 ‘self-harm’ gestures, along with 120 ‘hanging-gestures’ were recorded among inmates, including ten simultaneous attempts in one day.23 Amnesty International reported that sleep deprivation, coupled with physical and psychological abuse are routine actions at Guantanamo. Additionally, individuals as young as 13 years old have been housed there indefinitely for alleged terrorist activity.24
Polling conducted by BBC and ‘GlobeScan’ found that 69 percent of respondents around the world disapproved of the Guantanamo prison and the treatment of its prisoners.25 As of March 2011, President Barack Obama has continued the legacy put forth by his predecessor, calling for military tribunals for accused terrorist suspects and indefinite detainment for individuals at Guantanamo Bay.26
The impacts that the terrorist attacks of September 11th had on the international community have been profound, and are reflected in a myriad of ways. U.S. foreign policy has undoubtedly become more preemptive and aggressive. This affects individuals living in the U.S., as well as people living in allied countries and countries deemed hostile. Furthermore, global entities such as the UN have created new divisions for counter-terrorism operations. Human rights organizations continue to have a growing number of aggressions to investigate and report on, in the ongoing international ‘war on terror’.
1 Evans, Gareth. “The Global Response to Terrorism.” Sept. 2005.
2 The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The 9/11 Commission Report, 2002. Washington DC: United States Congress, 2004.
3 Glazier, Liz. “Lost lives remembered during 9/11 ceremony.” The Rocket, September, 12, 2008.
4 “Reactions From Around the World.” The New York Times. September 12, 2001.
5 United Nations Security Council. (UN Security Council Resolution 1368).
7 Office of the Press Secretary. President Discusses Beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Washington DC: The White House, 2003.
8 McCarthy, Mike. “US foreign policy post 9/11: “We have an outstanding hammer“.” GlobalSecurity.Org. 2006.
9 Library of Congress. The Economic Effects of 9/11: A Retrospective Assessment. Congressional Research Servces. 2002.
10 United States Congress. The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11. Congressional Research Services. 2011.
11 Harding, Thomas. “Britain spent £18 billion on war in Afghanistan, figures show.” The Telegraph, July 28, 2011.
12 Hedgpeth, Dana. “Congress Says DHS Oversaw $15 Billion in Failed Contracts.” The Washington Post. Sept. 17, 2008.
13 “Homeland Security employees rank last in job satisfaction survey.” ABC News. February 8, 2007.
14 “Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force.” United Nations.
15 “UN counter-terrorism task force shifts into new operational phase.” UN News Centre. March 4 2009.
16 United States Congress. UNITING AND STRENGTHENING AMERICA BY PROVIDING APPROPRIATE TOOLSREQUIRED TO INTERCEPT AND OBSTRUCT TERRORISM (USA PATRIOT ACT) ACT OF 2001, 2001. US Government Printing Office, 2001.
17 Hamilton, Stuart. “September 11th, the Internet, and the affects on information provision in Libraries.” 68th IFLA Council and General Conference: August 18-24, 2002. 079, (2002): International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA)
18 “USA Patriot Act.” Epic.Org. Electronic Privacy Information Center.
19 “Obama Signs Last-Minute Patriot Act Extension.” Fox News. May 27, 2011.
20 Hamilton, Stuart. “September 11th, the Internet, and the affects on information provision in Libraries.” 68th IFLA Council and General Conference: August 18-24, 2002. 079, (2002): International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA)
21 9-11 Research. Human Rights Abuses Abound Post 9/11/01.
22 “Amnesty International: Human Rights Report.” 2005.
23 9-11 Research. Human Rights Abuses Abound Post 9/11/01.
24 “Guantanamo Bay: An Abuse of Power and a Violation of Human Rights.” Peaces of the World, 2009
25 United States House of Representatives. GLOBAL POLLING DATA ON OPINION OFAMERICAN POLICIES, VALUES AND PEOPLE, 2007. Committe on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, 2007.
26 Pilkington, Ed. “Obama lifts suspension on military terror trials at Guantánamo Bay.” The Guardian. March 7, 2011.