September 11Th, 2001

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Day of al-Qaʿida terrorist attacks on the United States.

On 11 September 2001, two hijacked planes were flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center; a third hijacked plane was crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.; and a fourth crashed in Pennsylvania on its way to another target in Washington, D.C. (most likely the Capitol). The attacks, the work of Osama bin Ladin's al-Qaʿida, resulted in the deaths of about three thousand people, including the passengers and hijackers of the four planes and civilians from more than eighty countries. The Twin Towers, the tallest structures in New York City, collapsed to the ground after the explosion of the jet fuel, and the Pentagon sustained major damage to one wing. For the first time in U.S. history, the Federal Aviation Administration suspended all flight operations at the nation's airports.

It is still not clear whether bin Ladin intended to trigger a war between the United States and all Muslims, or whether these acts of violence were intended to terrorize the "enemy." While it has been established that bin Ladin's group was responsible for the attacks, conspiracy theories regarding the "real culprits" continue to fascinate and galvanize world public opinion. Many people in the Middle East are still skeptical about the U.S. version of the events, and a book by a French journalist that alleged that the U.S. government was behind the attacks was a best-seller in France.

In the United States, the attacks changed the political culture; a climate of fear spread throughout the country, and the Bush administration pushed for the passage of USA PATRIOT Act I, a series of legal changes that would augment the powers of the central government, in the name of security. Critics were concerned that the administration took advantage of the climate of fear to curtail the civil liberties of American citizens and of alien residents in the United States. Following the attacks, hundreds of citizens and residents were arrested by the Federal government, though many would not be charged with crimes; not one of the more than 1,200 arrested after 11 September has been linked
to the 11 September attacks. More than half of them were convicted on traffic or visa violations and were deported out of the United States. Around the world, 11 September signaled a new era of international relations with the inauguration of the Bush Doctrine, according to which the United States would claim the right to attack other countries, and to overthrow their governments, if those governments were perceived to pose a threat to the United States. The aggressive response of the United States, through the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the presence of U.S. troops in more than 120 countries, alarmed world public opinion, although Americans remained by and large supportive of U.S. efforts. In the Middle East, antipathy to the U.S. government seems to have increased after 11 September following the statements and actions of the White House, which remains convinced that its problem with the Muslim world is one of public relations, not politics. Toward that effort, the U.S. government has been spending millions to influence the opinions and politics of the Muslim world. It is certain that the events of 11 September (the subject of hundreds of books in many languages) will influence world affairs for years, if not decades, to come.

see also bush, george w.; qaʿida, al-.

as'ad abukhalil