BIYI ADEGOROYE reports on the 17th commemoration of the September 11, 2001 terrorists’ attacks on the United States, which triggered enormous U.S. effort to combat terrorism, as well as led to the global war on terrorism
The world, today, marks 17 years of the September 11, 2001 terrorists’ attacks on the United States (U.S.), which claimed over 3,000 lives, including 400 policemen and fire fighters.
The attacks, also known as 9/11 attacks occurred when four airlines were hijacked by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda. The terrorists boarded American Airlines flight, which originated from Boston, hijacked and flew it into the north tower of the World Trade Centre, in New York. The second plane, United Airlines flight 175, also from Boston, struck the south tower 17 minutes later.
Some 2,750 people were killed in New York, 184 at the Pentagon, (the US Defence Ministry) and 40 in Pennsylvania, where one of the hijacked planes crashed after the passengers attempted to retake the plane, while all the 19 terrorists died.
The extensive death of over 3,200 and destruction to buildings triggered an enormous U.S. effort to combat terrorism, transformed the first term of President George W. Bush and led to the Global War on Terrorism.
Some diplomats, who reflected on the incident ahead of today’s commemoration of the attacks, said the horrific incident not only redefined global war on terror, but sparked and unprecedented level of immigration problems.
Former Nigeria’s Consul-General in the United States, Ambassador Joe Keshi, said the incident resulted in a dramatic change in America’s attitudes and concerns about immigration, safety, vigilance, privacy and a massive war against perceived irritant leaders in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Also, a Professor of International Relations at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Segun Bolarinwa, said the incident has greatly compelled many developed nations like the United States, Britain, Germany and France to tinker with their foreign and defence policies and formulate collective and collaborative efforts at addressing the global phenomenon.
Keshi said: “The 9/11 attacks changed the world. It changed the trust and character of the presidency of President George W Bush Jnr, who, certainly at that time, came unprepared to be a ‘war-president.’ But unfortunately that was what he became and that defined his administration for eight years he was in the White House.
“It changed the world in terms of the world’s perception such that the world now focused on the war on terror, and countries like Israel capitalized on that to change the shape of Israel’s discussion on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
“The greatest change, of course, was the destabilization of the Middle East in the sense that with no clear evidence but the desire to remove some leaders who the U.S. and the West as whole considered to be irritants, America and some of its NATO allies invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. In the case of Afghanistan, they had a good reason because the attack on the World Trade Centre was initiated by Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.”
Keshi, who is a former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, added that the worst factor was the fact that there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks and “there was no evidence that there were terrorists in Iraq, and there was no evidence that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.
“The misguided attack on Iraq led to a chain of events in the Middle East, including the Arab Spring and the complete distabilization of the Middle East, which gave rise to huge refugee problem that has now affected Europe and to some extent, the U.S. which has now brought the issue of migration on the front burner. And as you can see from the result of Sunday’s election result in Sweden, one of the most successful democracies in the world now have an ultra-right rising as a result of the issue of migration which has overtaken Europe.
“So you could see that the European generosity which we had witnessed in the past 50 of 60 years, where they accepted people into their continents out of generosity or humanitarian activity, now, is the continent with the most anti-immigrant in the world,” Keshi said.
Bolarinwa added that the incident made the war on terror to be more than domesticated thereby generating increased awareness all over the world. “Since then, war on terror has been working at two levels- at the domestic level and beyond the borders. When I said beyond the borders, it has become a global issue and a collective problem and had to be handled collectively.
“Since then, all the great powers, especially all allies of the U.S. have to follow suit the statement made by George W Bush jnr then that terrorists can only run, but cannot hide. Since then the war on terror has become global and leaders have raised international efforts at fighting terrorism at airports, malls and all. The fight has also been stepped up against terrorist orgainsations, the most prominent of which is al-Qaeda, and to dissipate it and capturing and killing the arrow head and financial, Osama bin Laden.”
As one of the direct consequences of the attacks, the Bush administration created the Homeland Security Department in 2002, a cabinet-level office that merged 22 government agencies. The Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Customs Service – both formerly part of the Department of Justice – were consolidated into the newly formed US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The agency has overseen a massive increase in deportations, they have nearly doubled since 9/11.
The Department of Homeland Security began massive checks on immigration and recorded about 200,000 annual deportations between 1999 and 2001. In the first two years of the Obama Administration (2009 – 2010), deportations hit a record high: nearly 400,000 annually. About half of those deported during that period were convicted of a criminal offense, although mostly low-level, non-violent crimes.
The Secure Communities programme, established in 2008 and officially phased out in 2014, allowed local law enforcement to check the immigration status of every person booked in a county or local jail even if not ultimately convicted of a crime by comparing fingerprints against federal immigration records.
As of 2012, ICE reported it had taken nearly 48,000 “convicted criminal aliens” in California into custody. Almost half of them were deported, even though less than a quarter had been convicted of offences considered “serious or violent.”
California is the primary destination for foreign nationals entering the country, and home to a quarter of America’s immigrant population. Of the nearly 10 million immigrants (both naturalized and undocumented) residing in the state, an estimated 4.3 million are Mexican, 28 percent of whom are naturalized, government sources said.
The National Security Agency also scooped up as many as 56,000 emails annually and other communications by Americans with no connection to terrorism, and in doing so, had violated privacy laws thousands of times per year.
However, the President Barak Obama administration killed Osama bin Laden, the founder and first leader of the Islamist group Al-Qaeda, in Pakistan on May 2, 2011 by United States Navy SEALs of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group.
Despite the global awareness, coalition and collaboration against war on terror, however, several splinter terrorist groups, especially those loyal to Gaddafi Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, the Al-Shabaab in East Africa have been supporting Boko Haram elements in Nigeria.
Observers believe the carnage of September 11 was a watershed in world history and terrorism since then continues to spread fear around the world, despite collective efforts of the United Nations and individual countries around the world.
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