How significant was 9/11?
How did the US and the West respond to 9/11 in the short term?
The US Government response to 9/11
The immediate response of the government to the unfolding events of 9/11 tragically illustrated several shortcomings in the security systems in place. Systems that were intended to rapidly alert security forces to the whereabouts of hijacked aircraft and the subsequent deployment of F-15 fighters simply didn't work quickly enough: the fighters were being deployed as the World Trade Centre was hit. Once the magnitude of the day was apparent the government locked down airspace, diverted flights and instigated search and rescue operations; launched counter intelligence work to identify the culprits and detain any further potential threats to security and heightened the security levels of all military and government bases.
In the days that followed 9/11 a large number of people were detained under suspcion of being involved in the planning or execution of the 9/11 raids, though none of these people were later charged. The CIA and Secret Service investigated the causes of the days events and quickly came to the conclusion that the culprits were Al-Qaeda, led by Ossama Bin Laden, with the support of the Taliban in Afghanistan and, it was speculated at the time, of Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
These findings led to Nato agreeing that an act of war had been conducted against the United States and for the first time in its history invoking article 5 of the NATO constitution, which allows for a collective armed response against agressors. This co-ordinateed response became known as the "War on Terror".
George Bush defined the objectives of the war on Terror as being:
1. Defeat terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
and destroy their organizations
4. Diminish the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit
5. Defend US citizens and interests at home and abroad
In October 2001 the War on Terror began in earnest. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan was given an ultimatum to hand over the leaders of Al-Qaeda, or face the consequences. When the deadline passed coalition troops, led by US forces, invaded Afghanistan. The fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan has continued to this day (January 2010).
In January 2002 US forces were sent to the Phillipines to combat Islamist terror cells operating in the region. In October a similar unit was established in Sudan, which saw increased military involvement from 2006 onwards as Sudan's government collapsed.
In October 2002 the US Senate granted the President the authority to
wage a war against Iraq in order to "prosecute the war on terrorism".
This permission was utilised in March, 2003, following the failure of
diplomatic efforts to avoid a war. Saddam Hussein's regime was quickly
overthrown but years of insurgency followed. The bulk of US and coalition
forces left Iraq in 2010, though some 50,000 US military advisors remain
to assist Iraqi defence forces.
Source: Jim Lehrer interviewing Secretary of State, Colin Powell, on 13th September 2001
MR. LEHRER: And now a Newsmaker interview with Secretary of State Colin Powell. He joins us from the State Department. Mr. Secretary, welcome.
SECRETARY POWELL: Good evening, Jim. How are you?
MR. LEHRER: Just fine. Exactly what is it that you and the President are asking these international leaders to do?
SECRETARY POWELL: We are creating a coalition to go after terrorism. We are asking the United Nations and every other organization you can think of -- United Nations, NATO, the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Countries, the OAS, everybody -- to join us once and for all in a great coalition to conduct a campaign against terrorists who are conducting war against civilized people.
The attack that took place in Washington and the attack that took place in New York were directed against America, but they really are directed against civilization, and we have to respond with a full-scale assault against this kind of activity, beginning with the perpetrators of the attacks against us this past Tuesday.
We are asking all the nations to join together to use political action, diplomatic action, economic action, legal action, law enforcement action, and if necessary, join with us as appropriate and if necessary in military action when we have identified the perpetrators and decided what military action might be appropriate. And so there is a lot that we can do. And the point I also want to make is that no country is safe from this kind of attack. It crosses every geographic boundary, social boundary, religious boundary, cultural boundary. And we must see it in those terms and respond in a unified way.
MR. LEHRER: Has thus far everybody signed up?
SECRETARY POWELL: I am very pleased with what has been accomplished over the last 48 hours: an Article V declaration for the first time in its history from NATO; solid support from the European Union; the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution that is a strong one; the General Assembly of the United Nations did the same thing. I have been on the phone this afternoon with the Chairman of the Organization of Islamic States, and I expect they will be putting out additional statements. And I have been talking to leaders around the world, as has the President, to mobilize this coalition, and we have been getting solid support from almost everyone.
MR. LEHRER: Almost everyone. Who have been the dissenters?
SECRETARY POWELL: As has been noted earlier in the day, Saddam Hussein, not to my surprise, is not somebody you would expect to share our sentiment.
Source: Tony Blair, British Prime Minister speaking on September 11th 2001
There have been the most terrible, shocking events taking place in the United States of America within the last hour or so, including two hijacked planes being flown deliberately into the World Trade Center. I'm afraid we can only imagine the terror and the carnage there, and the many, many innocent people that will have lost their lives. I know that you would want to join with me in sending the deepest condolences to President Bush and to the American people on behalf of the British people at these terrible events.
This mass terrorism is the new evil in our world today. It is perpetrated by fanatics who are utterly indifferent to the sanctity of human life and we, the democracies of this world, are going to have to come together to fight it together and eradicate this evil completely from our world. Delegates, I hope you will understand that I don't believe it would be appropriate to carry on with the speech I was going to give you today. I know I have issued copies of the speech, we will make sure all delegates get copies of the speech but I think inappropriate to give that speech now, here. I will obviously want to carry on the discussion we have had about this issues that concern us.
I will now return to London and once again I thank you for your indulgence here. "I am very, very sorry it has worked out the way it has but I know that you would want to join with me in offering our deepest sympathy to the American people and our absolute shock and outrage at what has happened.
Source: Benjamin Netanyahu, Isreali Prime Minister
I’ve had some experience in pursuing all these courses of action in Israel’s battle against terrorism, and I will be glad to elaborate on any one of them if you wish, including the sensitive questions surrounding intelligence. But I have to be clear: Victory over terrorism is not, at its most fundamental level, a matter of law enforcement or intelligence. However important these functions may be, they can only reduce the dangers, not eliminate them. The immediate objective is to end all state support for, and complicity with, terror. If vigorously and continuously challenged, most of these regimes can be deterred from sponsoring terrorism.
But there is a real possibility that some will not be deterred -- and those may be ones that possess weapons of mass destruction. Again, we cannot dismiss the possibility that a militant terrorist state will use its proxies to threaten or launch a nuclear attack with apparent impunity. Nor can we completely dismiss the possibility that a militant regime, like its terrorist proxies, will commit collective suicide for the sake of its fanatical ideology. In this case, we might face not thousands of dead, but hundreds of thousands and possibly millions. This is why the US must do everything in its power to prevent regimes like Iran and Iraq from developing nuclear weapons, and disarm them of their weapons of mass destruction.
This is the great mission that now stands before the free world. That mission must not be watered down to allow certain states to participate in the coalition that is now being organized. Rather, the coalition must be built around this mission. It may be that some will shy away from adopting such an uncompromising stance against terrorism. If some free states choose to remain on the sidelines, America must be prepared to march forward without them -- for there is no substitute for moral and strategic clarity.
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I believe that if the United States stands on principle, all the democracies will eventually join the war on terrorism. The easy route may be tempting, but it will not win the day. On September eleventh, I, like everyone else, was glued to a television set watching the savagery that struck America. Yet amid the smoking ruins of the Twin Towers one could make out the Statue of Liberty holding high the torch of freedom. It is freedom’s flame that the terrorists sought to extinguish. But it is that same torch, so proudly held by the United States, that can lead the free world to crush the forces of terror and secure our tomorrow. It is within our power. Let us now make sure that it is within our will.