The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center of September 11, 2001 changed America. That is indisputable. The terrorist attacks brought home something that had never been experienced on American soil. These attacks remain the most tragic events in the memory of Americans. The impacts were catastrophic and so far reaching that they will forever remain ingrained in the memories of all Americans. 9/11 dramatically increased personal and collective security concerns. The degree of terror meted on Americans; on American soil served as a stimulus to the overwhelming declaration of attacks on Al Qaeda terror networks in Afghanistan.
The aftermath of the attacks enshrined a new era where Washington introduced new laws aimed at combating terrorism not only inside America but also outside America; particularly in those regions perceived to be an external threat to the security of America. Most of these laws have been widely criticized as being no different from autocratic and undemocratic laws and policies that America had shunned in the past. Short term restrictions became common and widespread loss of fundamental freedoms was justified by security concerns.
It is not clear if the wide ranging security measures taken following the September 11 attacks will be implemented in the long run, but one thing that is certain is that should such laws be applicable over the long term, then the impacts of such restrictions on the long term lives of Americans are going to be huge. When those nineteen hijackers succeeded in crashing into American symbols of capitalism and military supremacy, the whole nation shook. Even though the massive destruction and loss of lives caused grief and trauma, the attacks changed everything.
Americans were changed. They helped each other; they stood together in such times of tragedy. A huge proportion of the populace became less materialistic, more spiritualistic, and closer than never before: but such changes only lasted for a while before the anti-terrorism laws and policies usurped precedence. Lasting changes took root in the economy and the security system was transformed from laxity to hair trigger alert. The need of liberating Afghanistan from the chains of Taliban’s became a central foreign policy. Iraq would follow under the same banner of fighting terrorism.
To this moment America’s foreign policy to the Middle East and other regions of the world is primarily driven by the need to develop alliance with other nations eager to fight terrorism and advance democracy. How 9/11 Terrorist Attacks Changed America The Impacts of 9/11 on Islam, Muslims and American Relationship The terrorist attacks succeeded in entrenching age old perceptions of Muslims and Islam in America and the European world. American attitudes increased following the release of information that all the attackers were Muslims. It is prudent to note that Muslims had for centuries been perceived as being arrogant.
Thus, even though Muslims were highly sympathetic following the unfortunate events, the political atmosphere turned against them. The subsequent actions of the government, for instance, President Bush praising Ariel Sharon for invading West Bank and waging the war on Iraq, created tensions not only between Americans and their Muslim neighbors but also heightened mistrust and hatred between America and the Arab world. The initiation of the War on Iraq on dubious grounds satisfied the Muslim belief that the war had a hidden agenda: that it was a war against Islam itself (Khan 2003).
The perception of Islam by Christians also drastically changed following the September 11 attacks. The fact that the attacks had been religiously and spiritually motivated could not escape the attention of the majority of Americans. Despite attempts by the administration to downplay the religious tones, some hard line Christians could not point out that the attacks were a direct affront between Christianity and Islam. The mass killings carried out in Washington and New York led to a flurry of published materials on the relationship of Islam and terrorism.
Some preachers did not desist from referring to Islam as a very wicked and evil religion. Two prominent voices were those of Samaritan Purse’s Franklin Graham who categorically referred to Islam as an evil and wicked religion. Jerry Falwell from Liberty University is on record when he said that, “Muhammad was a terrorist” (Kidd 2008 p. 145). Such comments spurred riots among Muslims in many parts of the world. President Bush was especially cautious when making references between Islam and terrorism. When visiting Washington, D. C Islamic Center, he stated, ‘Islam is peace” (Kidd 2008 p. 145).
When addressing Congress President Bush message to the Muslim community was that, “We respect your faith. It’s practiced freely by many millions of Americans and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our Muslim friends; it is not our Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them (Kidd 2008 p. 45).
This attempt at distinguishing Islam and terrorism was scoffed by some Christians, but all through his term President Bush totally refrained from making any attack on Islam. These initial assertions marked President Bush’s cultivation of a new era of American pluralism. However, these guarded attempts to distance Islam from terrorism failed to trigger mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims. Therefore, the terrorist attacks changed the lives of American Muslims. Diverse communities practicing the Muslim faith were shaken by the dramatic and tragic events.
Identities were destabilized and new cultural tensions emerged. The TV hosting of Muslim spokespersons created a new cultural dimension to the attacks where Americans were exposed to Islam as practiced by prominent people who not only represented the religious teachings of Islam but also signaled both a Muslim and an American identity (Geaves & Gabriel 2004). Decades of mistrust which were heightened in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks radically changed the relationship between American Christians and American Muslims.
This nature of relationship is characterized by mistrust, misunderstanding and even sometimes hate. Americans who lived with their Muslim brothers in the same neighborhood may never feel the same about the Islam as a religion; and with extension to the people who practice the religion. In essence, a powerful and universally recognized Muslim terrorist network: Al Qaeda had declared war against the United States and its citizens. Osama bin Laden as the leader of the terror network, still possesses a huge following from the Muslim community for his crusades against Americans everywhere in the world (http://answering-islam. rg/).
By citing America as the sole cause of poverty and oppression of Muslims, Bin Laden has succeeded in creating millions of followers and admirers in the Muslim community hence even American Muslims cannot be fully trusted by their Christian brothers. The continued use of violence and destruction to spread Islam will continue to shape how Muslims are viewed in the United States of America. 9/11 and Security The 9/11 terrorist attacks, anthrax attacks and sniper shootings radically transformed the perception that Americans were fully shielded from external attacks.
The perception of terrorist threats became a reality with deaths and destruction on American soil. These changes in perception drove the reorganization of the internal security system. The result of the reorganization led to the creation of the Department of homeland security and the Homeland Security Advisory System. Both institutions were primarily created to directly counteract terrorist threats and attacks. The immediate impact of the 9/11 attacks were concentrated in New York and Washington.
Afterwards the localized security measures were expanded across the nation to ward off the potential of another terrorist attacks (Forest 2006). Even though there had been earlier terrorist attacks on American soil, the September 11 terrorist attacks became ingrained in the minds of the American citizenry because of the wide television coverage. Repetitive media references of the attack in terms of violent wickedness, massive devastation and threatening danger not only marshaled public support for the creation of new stringent security measures but also acted as harbingers for change.
One of the principal goals of terrorism is always to carry out acts that demonstrate that governments lack the capacity to ensure that the public is safe. Such primary security functions also include maintaining citizen’s trust and maintaining law and order so as to enable the government to function effectively. Thus, after the terrorist attacks, the federal government recognized its role in protecting Americans from terrorist acts and hence the formation of the Department of Homeland Security.
In essence, the Department of Homeland Security is responsible for the protection of the American citizenry by effectively communicating risk to the public. The risk communication role is carried out by the supply of common citizens with information necessary for the making of informed judgments on safety, health and the environment, in relation to terrorist threats. Through the Homeland Security Advisory System, terrorism risks are communicated to every single American because, even though the September 11 terrorist attacks only targeted New York and Washington, no single American is immune to attacks.
Following the terrorist attacks, the Bush administration categorically declared war against terrorism. To put a stamp on terrorism at home, the administration rose to the challenge is a different manner. Initially, the threat to America’s security was one enemy: the Soviet Union and its allies. This was a symmetrical enemy. Terrorism presented a fresh prospect; maybe hundreds or even thousands of groups or extremist organizations that threatened the security of American citizens. To respond to this change, the Bush administration began looking for solutions in this asymmetrical war.
One of the measures the administration and the Congress brought into fore is the Combating Terrorism Act which authorized the use of military force against persons, organizations or nations involved in the planning, authorization, and perpetration of such acts on US citizens. This initial legislation expanded the use of force to deter any future threat to the security of the United States. In October; just a month following the terrorist attack, the Patriots Act came into operation as a counter terrorism measure aimed at ensuring national security (Ball 2004).
The Act would legitimize the use of unrestrained authority and power by law enforcement agencies to go after terrorists both at home and abroad. However, the Patriots Act has been criticized for infringing on the civil liberties and civil rights of Americans (Davis 2007). There have been numerous committees, congressional meetings and advocacy all aimed at the Patriots Act but none of these have marshaled enough support to change the act because security concerns still reign supreme.
Thus, one major long term effect of the September 11 terrorist attacks is that Americans will have to contend with interference and infringing on their rights and liberties for quite a long time. The impacts of 9/11 on the economy At the time of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, New York as well as other economies had already begun experiencing signs of a global recession. The decline of national employment became worse with the attack of the World Trade Center: itself a symbol of capitalism. The most predominant impact on the economy resulted from the closure of the New York Stock Exchange for three days.
From September 11, to September 17, the NASDAQ stock market remained closed as the nation shook from the effects of the death and destruction. When the stock markets reopened for trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average index dropped by 684 points. This was to get worse to a level where the index fell by 1,369. 7 points just in a single week. In monetary terms, these drops amounted to a loss of $ 1. 4 trillion in just a week (Dolfman et al 2004). Destruction of the World Trade Center amounted to a total of approximately $ 32 billion. New York lost 430,000 job months and the city’s Gross Domestic Product fell by $ 27 billion.
The majority of businesses that operated in Lower Manhattan were either destroyed or displaced. The loss of office space and the closure of airports counted for additional losses. In fact, it is estimated that the prohibition of civilian air travel to the United States soil led to a 20% cutback in capacity (Makinen 2002). This cutback is partially responsible for the financial problems that plagued the airline industry in the aftermath of the attacks. Government programs gave benefits totaling to $15. 8 billion to those affected by the attacks.
Knowledge on the economic impacts of the terrorist attack led to a formation of several commissions to investigate why the WTC collapsed despite the superiority of its architecture. The results presented showed that the collapse was caused by the fire which caused the critical support columns to fail. The far reaching consequence of such an analysis is that the real estate industry will experience a new era of very expensive buildings due to the need of taking into account both security measures, architectural and structural adjustments against the possibility of any future attacks.
Conclusion No single event, tragedy or catastrophe has changed America in the same manner that the 9/11 attacks. The changes cut across the economic, social, cultural, political and even legislative spectrum. The changes are so widespread that their impacts on the average citizen cannot be ignored. While some changes have definitely made Americans much safer, the stride towards defeating Al Qaeda and terrorism is still far from being won.
Courtney from Study Moose