The 9/11 Attacks and the War on Terrorism

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The September 11 attacks have on many occasions been likened to the attack by the Japanese on the Pearl Harbor (Bamford, 2007). As a matter of fact, the New York Times quotes President George W. Bush as having written in his diary, “The Pearl Harbor of 21 century occurred today” (Balz & Woodward, 2002). The parallels between Pearl Harbor attacks and 9/11 attacks are completely justifiable considering that practically everyone concedes that the happenings of September 11, 2001, were by far the most significant in the recent past for both the United States and the rest of the world. That said, the events of 9/11 have provided the justification for considerable limitation of civil freedoms in America; restrictions which, incidentally, are reminiscent of the Pearl Harbor restrictions on Japanese Americans (Chang, 2011). September 11 has also provided the basis for the global war on terrorism led by the United States and her allies; the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the most recent examples of these. For these reasons, 9/11 is widely perceived as a mere excuse for a more hostile expansionism or imperialism. According to Phyllis Bennis, the United States has exploited the events of September 11 to impose an imperialistic foreign policy (Bennis, 2003). In addition to that, a number of historians have claimed that the United States has for many years harbored ambitions of dominating the world and 9/11 provided the best excuse. As a matter of fact, Falk calls America’s global war on terrorism a project to dominate the globe (Falk, 2003). Although many people have taken the unavailability of information; the failure by the government to intercept the planes that downed the Twin Towers, the unusual collapse of the World Trade Centre, and so forth to mean governments complicity in the 9/11 attacks, emerging evidence indicates that the Bush administration was not involved in the attack.

Despite the almost global consensus that the events of September 11 were of immense global importance, very little is understood about the events of 9/11; some people have claimed that this was an attempt by the Bush government to cover up their involvement in the 9/11 attacks. In fact, in the first commemoration of 9/11 attacks, the New York Times wrote, “a year later Americans know much less about the 2,801 deaths at the foot of Manhattan in broad daylight than people knew in a few weeks in 1912 after the Titanic tragedy” (Dwyer, 2002). To counter this claim; Firstly, the lack of information was, for the most part, not occasioned by Bush’s administration desire to focus completely on the war; the government’s failure to, for example, form a special commission to investigate the incident was largely informed by governments desire to avoid distractions from the war effort in Afghanistan. Secondly, the lack of information was exacerbated by the press’ own failure to approve investigative reports which would have provided the much-needed information to the American public. It is important to point out that the American media made no effort to ascertain if the official accounts of the events agreed with the facts. In addition to that, the press never made any effort to confront the government about inaccuracies and contradictions in the official accounts of the attack. Thirdly, many credible people have both challenged and supported the official accounts of the 9/11 events; nevertheless, the mass media has done very little to expose the American people to their opinions. The argument by the media was often that criticism of the official accounts would have been equivalent to implying that the government including the president lied to the American people. The American press, however, is completely free to investigate anything they want; the argument that it could not investigate the president is, therefore, not legitimate. The lack of information was not, therefore, an attempt by the government to conceal its complicity in the 9/11 attacks but the American press’ failure to adequately do its job (Griffin, 2004).

Proponents of the narrative that Bush’s administration was involved in the 9/11 attacks assert that crashing an aeroplane into the World Trade Centre (WTC) could not have been possible under normal circumstances. They state that there are strict standard procedures for emergencies like this, and had the government adhered to them, fighter jets would have intercepted the planes that crashed into WTC within 10 minutes of the plane’s hijacking. They argue that had the plane, for instance, failed to follow the intercepting fighter jet to a nearby airport, the plane would have been downed (FAA, 2017). What these sceptics of the official accounts miss is the fact that, on September 11, only 14 fighter jets were on stand in all nearby States. In addition to that, computer networks failed to alert the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) of the hijacked planes. In fact, air traffic controllers had to manually call NORAD to inform them of the hijacking. Furthermore, when the planes were hijacked all the transponders – transponders help air traffic controllers identify planes – were disabled. Consequently, Air traffic control (ATC) had to search more than four thousand indistinguishable radar blips in some of America’s most active air corridors. NORAD’s state of the art radar system was also not calibrated to monitor internal threats, that is, flights originating from within United State were not considered threats prior to 9/11; as such, it missed these threats (Jones, 2011). Finally, it is very unlikely that intercepting jets would have shot down planes bearing civilian passengers; that can only be done with the President’s approval which only happened after the Pentagon was attacked (Morris, 2004). Clearly, the failure to intercept the planes had nothing to do with government’s involvement in the attack. It was instead because of a series of unfortunate events like poor communication, bureaucracy, and so forth.

Sceptics of the official accounts of 9/11 have also argued that the explanation given by the government to explain the collapse of WTC is scientifically implausible; this in their opinion was government’s attempt to hide its involvement in the attacks. The official account states that the North and South Towers collapsed because the heat fed by the jet fuel caused the steel supports to melt. There is, however, a consensus that the heat could not have been hot enough to melt steel (Eagar & Musso, 2001).  That said, contrary to Skeptic’s belief that the WTC’s collapse was government’s attempts at hiding its involvement in the 9/11attacks; the towers actually collapsed because the collapse of WTC 1 triggered fires in several floors of WTC 7. In addition to that, fires in certain floors of WTC got out of control because of lack of water to the system of sprinklers which were meant to start in case of fire. The sprinkler system also failed because it depended entirely on the city water supply which also failed. The city water supply had been destroyed by the collapse of WTC 1. The out of control fires in WTC 7 eventually spread to the other parts of the buildings. After several hours huge fires all steel supports failed triggering a cascade of other steel failures and floor collapses. According to NIST, the collapse of WTC was caused by the burning of the buildings’ furnishings (NIST, 2018). The collapse was, therefore, not orchestrated by the government to hide its involvement in the September 11 attacks. 

Proponents of government involvement in 9/11 also argue that the attack provided opportunities for the government to pursue certain policies like restriction of civil rights, invasion of Afghanistan, and so forth. That said, it is true that 9/11 gave the Bush administration some opportunities it did not have before; as a matter of fact, several senior officials in the Bush administration stated the attacks provided great opportunity. Donald Rumsfeld said that like World War II 9/11 provided America an opportunity to reshape the world (Balz & Woodward, 2002).  Condoleeza Rice, on the other hand, asked the National Security Council to see how to exploit the opportunities that 9/11 presented (Johnson, 2007). The fact that a number of senior officials in the Bush administration talked of opportunities does not necessarily mean that the attacks were pre-planned or premeditated by the government. In fact, most of these utterances were made after the September 11 attacks had already occurred.

It is evident that the Bush administration somewhere in its many levels had the collective capacity to prevent the events of 9/11. Nevertheless, the capacity was spread across many levels which prior to 9/11 were not communicating, or collaborating effectively.  There were also a lot legal impediments, for example, the shooting down of an airplane could only be approved by the president, and so on.  The attacks, therefore, happened not because the government was complicit but because institutions failed coordinate effectively.


Balz, D., & Woodward, B. (2002). America's chaotic road to war. Retrieved November 7, 2018, from

Bamford, J. (2007). Body of secrets: anatomy of the ultra-secret National Security Agency. Anchor.

Bennis, P. (2003). Before & after: US foreign policy and the September 11th crisis. . New York: Olive Branch Press.

Chang, N. (2011). Silencing political dissent: How post-September 11 anti-terrorism measures threaten our civil liberties. . Seven Stories Press.

Dwyer, J. (2002). Threats and Responses: News Analysis; Investigating 9/11: An Unimaginable Calamity, Still Largely Unexamined. Retrieved November 7, 2018, from The New York Times:

Eagar, T. W., & Musso, C. (2001). Why did the World Trade Center collapse? Science, engineering, and speculation . JOM, (53)12 , 8-11.

FAA. (2017). Aeronautical Information Manual: Official Guide to Basic Flight. Retrieved November 7, 2018, from

Falk, R. (2003). Resisting the global domination project. Frontline, 20(8) , 12-25.

Griffin, R. D. (2004). The new Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11. Retrieved November 7, 2018, from CIA:

Johnson, C. (2007). The sorrows of empire: Militarism, secrecy, and the end of the republic. Metropolitan Books.

Jones, D. P. (2011). The First 109 Minutes: 9/11 and the U.S. Air Force.

Washington D.C: Air Force History and Museums.

Morris, D. (2004). American Voice 2004: Why didn’t military jets intercept the hijacked airliner before it crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. Retrieved November 7, 2018, from ILSR:

NIST. (2018). WTC Disaster Study. Retrieved November 7, 2018, from National Institute of Standards and Technology:

November 13, 2023

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