Talk:9-11 Attack

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 Definition The largest terrorist attack on the continental United States, occurring on September 11, 2001, using hijacked airliners as suicide weapons against major buildings. [d] [e]

Returning to previous edits

A year on, much of this article remains problematic, particularly the 'immediate response' and 'world response' sections. There is this collection of edits by myself that were editor-reverted in 2007. They sought to remove much exaggeration and present a more balanced picture (e.g. contrary to what it currently says, there were reports of looting after 9/11, and burglaries were higher than during the same time period in 2000 - see WNBC). There were also edits by Stephen Ewen on the overthrow of the Taliban that tried to bring this article back to neutrality. Edits like these should be reincorporated, or new ones made in a similar vein. John Stephenson 20:04, 22 September 2008 (CDT)

I've just incorporated some of these previous edits by Stephen and myself back into the text. However, I then removed the links because they're dead and replaced them with various others covering the argument about looting. See here for all the edits. John Stephenson 11:59, 30 December 2008 (UTC)

Time for major rework

I removed what I consider, as a Military Editor, a strained attempt to explain al-Qaeda motivations. At best, this belongs in the al-Qaeda article.

Sedgwick (2004) argues the goal was to provoke a response from the United States that would have a radicalizing impact on al-Qaeda's constituency. Reference to public opinion in the Middle East, especially in Egypt, shows that this is indeed what has happened. Such an impact is a purely political objective, familiar to historians of terrorism from at least the time of Errico Malatesta and the "propaganda of the deed" in the 1870s. While no direct link between Malatesta and al-Qaeda exists, al-Qaeda was certainly in contact with contemporary theories that Malatesta would have recognized and seems to have applied them. Even though its immediate objectives are political rather than religious, al-Qaeda is a distinctively Islamic group. Not only is its chosen constituency a confessional one, but Al-Qaeda also uses - and when necessary adapts - well-known Islamic religious concepts to motivate its operatives, ranging from conceptions of duty to conceptions of ascetic devotion. Terrorism that can be understood in political terms, Sedgwick argues, is susceptible to political remedies.

There is an abundant amount of primary and secondary information about why al-Qaeda carried out this operation, and I can say, quite confidently, that Malatesta did not enter into their thinking. See al-Qaeda. It is, I believe, intellectually dangerous to try to force al-Qaeda into molds of Western thinking; while I do not always agree with Michael Scheuer; his book, Through our Enemies Eyes, has a pertinent title. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:50, 26 July 2009 (UTC)

In addition, I removed material that deals with 2005 and later, which is much better covered elsewhere. Further, neoconservatism does not have anything particular to do with counterterrorism and counterproliferation; if anything, it deals more with preventive war.

Referencing needs considerable work. Note that there is no mention of National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, which issued the 9/11 Commission Report. EBSCO deep web material simply isn't needed with the enormous amount of data that is freely available. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:56, 26 July 2009 (UTC)

Focus on the immediate term

Next, this article should be concentrating on the attack and its immediate aftermath, not things that happened weeks and months later. There is, for example, relatively little detail about the immediate emergency services and military response — I was several miles from the Pentagon on 9/11, and the sounds of the crash, the just-too-late fighters, and the sirens are things I shall never forget. I am intimately familiar with the work to reconstitute telecommunications and financial systems in New York, and, again, there's no mention -- or of Continuity of Government. There is, I'm afraid, too much academic digression about reasons and international motivations. ===Domestic American politics===

Neoconservatism came under increasing attack by 2005. In the past national defense had focused on threats from a major nation state. Now the threat was invisible, insidious and of uncertain dimensions. Bush expanded the response to include Iraq, winning Congressional approval (but not UN approval) for an allied invasion of Iraq in 2003, which overthrew Saddam Hussein, established a democratic regime under UN auspisces, and attempted—without success—to stabilize the country against a Sunni-led insurgency. Bush's image soared in the polls, enabling his reelection in 2004.

===Reaction against Bush===

Starting in 2005, after years of stalemate and frustration in Iraq, American public opinion turned sharply against the war. Democrats won control of both houses of Congress in Nov. 2006 in large part by attacking the Bush policies, and saying the war in Iraq had diverted attention away from al-Qaeda, which had relocated to remote mountains in western Pakistan. The Democrats were unable to change Bush's policies in 2007, and Congress voted to continue funding the war in Iraq. The instability of Pakistan added complexity to the challenge.[1]

In 2008 Bush continued to defend his Iraq war policies as necessary to prevent future attacks by Islamic radicals like those of 9-11. The main GOP candidates for president generally supported Bush's policies, especially Senator John McCain, who took personal credit for the "surge" policy that reduced the level of violence in Iraq in 2007. The Democratic candidates continued to oppose the war[2] Eventually, however, Barack Obama, a Democrat, was to win over McCain.

The Authorization for the Use of Military Force is certainly worth discussing. I can even see an objective discussion of indications and warnings that may have been missed.Howard C. Berkowitz 23:08, 26 July 2009 (UTC)

==Overthrow of Taliban in Afghanistan==

President George W. Bush, after a few hours of embarrassing confusion on September 11, found his voice. On September 20, 2001, President Bush told Congress that the attacks were an act of war. He laid responsibility upon al-Qaeda and said its goal was to impose its beliefs upon the entire world. Bush stated that al-Qaeda practiced a form of extremism that perverted the peaceful teachings of Islam and commanded them to murder Christians and Jews, and to kill all Americans. He went on to explain how the political-Islamic group had established a base in remote Afghanistan, protected by the Taliban regime. Bush issued an ultimatum: the Taliban must immediately turn over the al-Qaeda leadership to American justice, or share their fate.

Bush stated numerous times that Americans respected the Muslim religion but he promised to systematically destroy terrorists--to hunt them down cave-by-cave and destroy them everywhere in the world, as he stated. No government would be allowed to harbor them. "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists," he proclaimed. "From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime." Bush called on Congress to authorize military action in Afghanistan, which it did with near unanimous support. Meanwhile, U.S. pollsters confirmed that a strong majority of Americans supported the action.

Direct relevance to attack and response?

Again, I removed text that seemed to have only a vague relationship. Yes, the UN response needs to be in the article, but Dhanapana and Gregory don't add much; there's plenty of primary information about what the UN had done — for example, there were a series of resolutions isolating the Taliban before 9/11: Howard C. Berkowitz 23:17, 26 July 2009 (UTC)

Dhanapala (2005) argues the UN has been at the forefront of the global campaign against terrorism since the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, giving the campaign legitimacy and universality. The UN Security Council acted with remarkable speed with its Resolution 1373 and set up a counter-terrorism committee with extensive powers. Its British chairman provided able leadership, but reservations over human rights issues, lack of funding for assistance, and the danger of duplicating the work of other UN bodies with specific mandates have been revealed as deficiencies. The general assembly condemned the events of 11 September 2001 and held debates on the subject later. The secretariat's views were expressed by several eloquent statements by the secretary-general and in a policy working group report that advocated a tripartite strategy of "discussion-denial-cooperation" and made 31 recommendations. Counter-terrorism is only one tool in tackling terrorism. Human rights concerns must be addressed. A separate, functional commission under the Economic and Social Council is recommended to provide the international community with a universal forum for a focused discussion on terrorism.

Gregory (2005) argues 9-11 required a wide-ranging response across all three of the broad divisions of European Union (EU) policymaking competence: the economic and monetary union, common foreign and security policy, and internal security. These policy divisions make up the "three pillars" of the EU's political architecture. Gregory reviews general issues of accountability and human rights protection in the EU's policymaking and implementation process, the evolution of the EU's response to terrorism, and the general response to the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Gregory examines the implications of the various response measures adopted under each "pillar." The article demonstrates the emphasis that the member states have placed on security measures and the wider concerns that their content and speed of adoption left little scope for other views to be heard. The effectiveness of the response measures is crucially dependent on the variable implementation capacity of the member states.


Looking at the looting text, I have trouble putting that into the broader context of the emergency response in New York. It seems almost trivia. Putting aside any conspiracy theories, there were enormous lessons learned in communications, command and control; evacuation techniques, etc. The Fire Department of New York put its command post in the lobby of one of the towers; most top commanders were lost at once. There was no backup citywide emergency operations center to the one in WTC 7.

The death toll was probably increased by the high-rise fire doctrine of the time: no general evacuation was ordered. A friend of mine, who was a technology vice-president of a financial services firm on the thirty-something floor, snapped back to his Navy days and got everyone out immediately.

It would seem that this is more appropriately covered in an article specific to the Twin Towers, just as the after-action report from the Pentagon is 400 pages or so. While, of course, the situation there was not as catastrophic, there were a number of things done well; the Incident Command System worked at multiple levels. The Chief of the Arlington Fire Department let an assistant run fireground operations, so there was always a chain of command elsewhere.

The military command and control response isn't really covered.

Should the main article stay relatively small and these become subarticles? Howard C. Berkowitz 00:27, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

Confused on substance and significance of several points

...that I moved here.

The discussion about looting deals with unproven accusations, and is simply not as significant as missing detail on the timeline of the attacks and both local and national response. If anywhere, the material below belongs in a New York subarticle. It certainly was inappropriate as a footnote, not main text, and with far more references than, for example, the air defense response.

<ref>Claims about looting mainly came from Langewiesche, W. (2003) ''American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center''. [ Strong criticism of the claims] was published online by an organization called the [ WTC Living History Project Group], and has been covered by the ''New York Times'': '[ Rebutting a claim of tarnished valor; research challenges account of 9/11 looting by firefighters].' March 23, 2003. Firefighters also protested the claims: see ''Firehouse'', '[$406 Firefighters protest book that claims rescuers looted WTC].' November 17, 2002. ''Atlantic Monthly'' stood by Langewiesche, however: '[ Letters to the editor]' (scroll down).</ref>

==Turning point==

9-11 was a turning point for the nation.[3] The experience of 9-11 changed the Bush administration's "defensive realism" approach to foreign policy into "offensive realism" based on the neo-conservative ideological system.

I don't understand this. Neoconservatism had been alive and well in the White House, although there were different levels of support. 9/11 was indeed a turning point for many things, but not this.


I removed this term from the following: The German destroyer Lutjens, ironically named for the admiral who commanded the Bismarck on its final voyage, had been doing exercises, in the UK, with the US Burke-class destroyer USS Churchill (DDG-81). I fail to see the irony in the situation and I expect most Germans might similarly fail to do so. David Finn 12:43, 23 August 2010 (UTC)

Given that Lutjens' last messages to Hitler was that he and DKM Bismarck would fight to the last shell for the Fuehrer, I think it is very fair, given the tendency at the time in the US to make analogies between bin Laden and Hitler, to say it is ironic. Howard C. Berkowitz 15:09, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
I think if there is any similarity or irony to be found in this situation that it should be fully explained in the text or in note form, especially how it relates to 21st century non-state terrorism. The text could have been taken by a reasonable person to mean any number of things, many of which would have been untrue, and without explanation could be seen as anti-German sentiment, despite that this was not the intention. The war may have been 60 years ago but that doesn't mean that Europeans have forgotten and this type of analogy needs to be handled carefully. David Finn 18:07, 23 August 2010 (UTC)

Conspiracies, especially with respect to interceptors

You point out that one of the arguments is that the fighters did not intervene in time. On 9/11, I lived and worked about 3.5 miles from the Pentagon. Working on a computer at home, my first warning of something unusual was a BANG, and then my windows rattling; that was the impact. At first, it sounded like an especially loud ending of a fireworks show at the National Mall, about 6 miles away, and I wondered why anyone would be shooting fireworks in the daytime. Very short minutes later, I heard F-16's overhead, in full military power (i.e., not afterburner), and recognized something very unusual was happening.

Unfortunately, the conspiracy theorists in this area very quickly run into problems with:

  • Physical disposition of fighters, which were at U.S. coastal and other international border bases only; it was a early Cold War issue to have fighters inland capable of being directed in an intercept.
  • Standing orders for the F-15 Eagle fighters at Otis Air Force Base (in Massachusetts, covering NYC) and Langley Air Force Base (coastal Virginia) was to take off within 5 minutes (done) and fly east.
  • What I had heard was F-16 Fighting Falcon's that happened to be training at Andrews Air Force Base, about 20 miles from downtown Washington.
  • While the F-15's are capable of Mach 2.5 speed, that's in afterburner, which massively increases their fuel consumption. Their military cruise is between 500 and 600 mph. There is no way that a fighter could have made it from Langley to DC, in afterburner, without running out of fuel.
  • The interior of the US is not routinely covered by true radar. Air Traffic Control uses transponders, which the hijackers had turned off. So, the only way to get true identification on the airliners would have been the fighters physically intercepting them and reading the number on the tail. In Washington, at least, that means a LOT of aircraft to intercept with two fighters -- at prime time in the morning, Washington National Airport, close to the Pentagon, is probably landing and taking off 1 aircraft per minute.
  • Even if the fighters had successfully identified, and even had "weapons free" authorization, what next? At visual range, their weapons were probably 2-4 AIM-9 Sidewinders and 20mm cannon. Direct hits with all of them won't cause a wide-body to vaporize; it's going to come down somewhere. There was more open land in Washington than New York.

Brief analysis only -- I hate to play the debunking game as simple logic and engineering detail won't do it. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:02, 23 August 2010 (UTC)

Keep that debunkin' spirit! I'll start up a page soon about 9/11 conspiracies and Truthers. I'm watching Screw Loose Change and taking notes of all the (barmy) things they say. –Tom Morris 18:41, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
Don't we need a bunk page (actually disambiguation), and throw in bunker?
The problem in debunking this sort of thing is that if one hauls out the Dash 1 (i.e., basic aircraft manual) for the fighters, with the speed vs. fuel consumption tables, the conspiracy people will always suggest there was another explanation. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:45, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
Yes, they are freed from the responsibility of actually having to come up with a reasonable explanation. I mean, take the Pentagon attack: they like to point out that it wouldn't be possible for a 757 to knock out the street lamps without doing damage to the aircraft in the process - possibly knocking off the tip of a wing or an engine, or causing damage to the fuselage. But what is their alternative explanation? That a missile or a drone did it? As Screw Loose Change points out - they think that it is a more reasonable explanation to say that a blimmin' Predator was buzzing around outside the Pentagon and was guided into bumping into a bunch of street lamps in broad daylight (or, even more absurdly, a Tomahawk missile!) than to say that a terrorist got control of a plane and guided it into the Pentagon?
I thought that with the years of IRA bombings during the 80s and 90s, including the attack on Mrs Thatcher's cabinet in the Grand Hotel, and the subsequent massive concrete reinforcement blocks placed around prominent London landmarks, and all our transparent plastic bins and so on would have immunised the British to this kind of conspiracy theory. But after July 7th, it was so disappointing to see these swivel-eyed looneys building an equivalently barmy theory up on the basis of a few dodgy press reports and coincidences (like that a truck owned by a controlled demolition firm was driving behind the Tavistock Square bus - have these people never been to the City, London's financial district? They are constantly pulling down buildings and rebuilding them. You wander around and it is in a constant state of redevelopment - one glass-fronted office block being pulled down and replaced with another glass-fronted office block, only punctuated by the elderly churches and public buildings), but ignore hundreds of witness testimonies and even videos shot on people's cameraphones.
I have to admit I cannot get my head around the psychology of these people: they seriously think that however politically disagreeable Blair, Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeld get, that they are somehow going to be capable of blowing up airliners, trains and buses filled with their own citizens? That someone like Tony Blair went into politics - relatively progressive politics too - in order that he can bring about the death of his own countrymen in faked terrorist attacks. The idea beggars imagination. The existence of some barmy Islamists on British university campuses making some home-made explosives? Doesn't strain credulity nearly so much. –Tom Morris 19:58, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
You bring up other points. Assume, for the sake of argument, that it was a U.S. government operation not using an airplane, although don't forget Weary Willie and Project Aphrodite from WWII. What would one use to cause those effects?
I can't begin to think of a missile or guided bomb that would have caused the kind of damage at WTC. Just possibly, there might be some at the Pentagon, but, as you point out, they mention the BGM-109 Tomahawk, presumably because they know about it. The problem is that a Tomahawk isn't a penetrating weapon, but generally optimized for airburst or contact-fuzed. AGM-62 Walleye or AGM-65 Maverick, or a hard-case Joint Direct Action Munition might penetrate, but wouldn't have enough explosive--you'd have to send several, and they can't fly side-by-side.
One almost has to go back to a remotely-controlled airplane. If you did remote control a jetliner, however, it wouldn't be all that difficult. There were claims, however, the New York airplanes had "pods" on the underside. How does an antenna underneath help you stay in line of sight of a satellite, which would have been the only practical communications link?
Working backwards from effects and asking "what could cause this" is an interesting reality check -- but again, the theorists don't need to come up with plausible explanations. Gleiwitz didn't need to have technology invented. Howard C. Berkowitz 20:29, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
  1. Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee, "With Election Driven by Iraq, Voters Want New Approach," New York Times November 2, 2006
  2. NPR, "Iraq War Fades as Issue in Election" Dec. 6, 2007; New York Times summary of Iraq issue; CNN summary of Iraq issue in election 2008
  3. Birkland, "The World Changed Today" 2004