In recent memory, there is perhaps no event that can rival the impact of the 9/11 attacks. On September 11, 2001, 19 terrorists from the group called al-Qaeda hijacked 4 commercial passenger planes. Three of these hijacked planes were used by the hijackers as suicide missiles. Two of them were crashed into the Twin Towers of New York City’s World Trade Center. Both of the towers collapsed from the attack, destroying or damaging other buildings around them as they did. The third plane was crashed into The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. The fourth plane was speculated to have been intended to be crashed into the White House itself, but the passengers and crew tried to retake the plane and had it crash somewhere in some rural lands in Pennsylvania instead. None of the passengers in any of the planes survived and a total of nearly 3000 people died from the attacks. This essay investigates the purported causes and the resulting effects of this grave American tragedy.
Over the days that followed the attacks, several theories sprung up regarding possible causes that led to the 9/11 attacks. Some of the most popular included that the poverty and Islamism. That is, that the terrorists were driven by their poverty and their Muslim faith to strike into the United States, an affluent and largely non-Muslim nation (Bergen). Yet as explained by Bergen, these theories are flawed, largely since the actual terrorists who conducted the attacks were educated members of upper class families in the Middle East, and that scholars of Islam categorically reject the idea that Islam is an inherently violent religion. Instead, Bergen presented more plausible causes of the attacks. First among these is the radicalization of Islam in the al-Qaeda terrorist organization. The leader of the organization, Osama Bin Laden, is fond of quoting the Islamic holy book of the Koran in justifying his actions (Bergen). However, these quotations are made selectively, and do not encompass the entirety of the message of Islam. Al-Qaeda, through the leadership of Bin Laden, twisted the teaching of Koran to justify terrorism. A second cause of the 9/11 attacks is the failure of secular Arab nationalism and the perception that the Middle East was taken advantaged of by the United States. Secular Arab nationalism is largely an American concept, which they pushed to the Middle East following its rejection of socialism and its assistance in bringing down the Soviet Union (Bergen). The Arab World initially perceived the American government as its savior, and embraced the policies that it hoped would bring prosperity to them just as it did for the United States. Yet following years of failed secular nationalism, much of the Muslim world began to feel betrayed and taken advantaged of.
Having discussed the probable causes of the 9/11 attacks, this essay moves to an examination of the effects of the tragic event. The immediate effect of the event is that the United States launched attacks with its British allies on reported Al-Qaeda territories in Afghanistan. This was followed by a ground troop invasion, starting military operations in Afghanistan which continue to be active to this day. More symbolically, the attack led to the declaration of a “War on Terror,” which sought to drive aggressive “economic, political, and even military policies” (Shah) against countries that are known to harbor terrorists. Politically, the 9/11 attacks led to the legislation of the USA PATRIOT ACT in 2001, followed by the Homeland Security Act in 2002. The PATRIOT Act increased the power of government to conduct surveillance on private citizens who were suspected of having linkages to terrorist organizations (Talanian). It also increased monitoring of financial transactions to ensure that funds are not transferred to or from the country by terrorist organizations or entities that support them (Talanian). Socially, the 9/11 attacks increased hostilities towards people in America who have Middle Eastern heritage. People became suspicious of other people in the community who wore Muslim attire.
In summary, the 9/11 attacks were found to have been possibly caused by a warping of Islamic teachings by a terrorist organization to target the United States for its supposed responsibility in the problems that were being faced by some countries in the Middle East. The effects of the attacks were found to be widespread, including the launching of the War of Terror, the passing of legislation that undermined the privacy of private citizens, and increased social discrimination against Arabs.