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September 11 Five Years Later

Part 3: War, War, War

One important result of the September 11 attacks was that the United States and other nations responded by going to war. Osama bin Laden, who claimed responsibility for leading the organization of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, is a leader of Al-Qaeda, a worldwide terrorist organization that is responsible for many horrific acts in the past few decades.

At the time of the September 11 attacks, bin Laden was thought to be hiding in Afghanistan, protected by the Taliban, who then controlled the Afghan government. In order to target bin Laden, the U.S. Military and armed forces from other countries launched a war against the Taliban. Troops by the thousands invaded Afghanistan and eventually secured control of most of the country, including installing a new representative government.

That war is still going on, however, mainly because soldiers loyal to the ousted Taliban have rearmed and struck back at the occupiers and because much of the focus since 2003 has been on the other major war that U.S. forces have been involved in, that against Iraq.

Many people at the time believed, based on intelligence reports and on what their governmental leaders told them, that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was involved in the Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks. Hussein had led an Iraqi invasion of neighboring Kuwait more than a decade earlier, and the U.S. had led a coalition of nations that liberated Kuwait; since that time, Hussein had continued to be an antagonist of the U.S. and the West. Many people believed, whether it was true or not, that Hussein had harbored Al-Qaeda terrorists and huddled with Osama bin Laden to make plans to attack the United States.

People in other countries weren't so sure. The U.S. tried time and again to convince the United Nations to pass resolutions authorizing military attacks on Iraq. That country was the target of a large number of sanctions already through the years, for various human rights violations, including a huge number of ethnic atrocities. But the U.N. never passed the resolution that the U.S. and the United Kingdom wanted, one that said it would be OK to attack Iraq in order to root out terrorists there or because of the alleged connection to bin Laden and other members of Al-Qaeda.

In an extraordinary set of events, a coalition of forces that was, for the most part, made up of American and British forces invaded Iraq and, eventually, removed Saddam Hussein from power and set up a representative government. Along the way, thousands of Iraqis—soldiers and civilians—were killed. Also along the way, the U.S. and the U.K. gained enemies.

What began as a campaign to install a representative government achieved that goal but failed to achieve stability in the country. Today, more than when the invasion began, Iraq is a dangerous place. Certain cities in the country are hotbeds of resistance activity. The Iraqi army, backed still in large part by U.S. armed forces, is in command of a large part of the country, including Baghdad, the capital. But American soldiers continue to die in Iraq and soldiers from other countries, like Japan, have now gone home. The death toll for American soldiers killed in Iraq is approaching 3,000 since the war began. And even though the war has been declared finished for a few years now, the battles continue.

As a result of this war and the way it was began, many people and governmental leaders in other countries have lost respect for the United States. The leaders of France and Germany, especially, led the campaign against the war when it began. Other countries spoke out against the war as well, citing suspicions of the alleged connections between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. These suspicions have since been confirmed. Officials in the U.S., including high-ranking ones, have since admitted that the alleged connections did not exist. That hasn't stopped the invasion or the war, of course. American troops are still mired in conflict in Iraq, in what many experts fear is turning into a civil war.

Next page > Sympathy and Perspective > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

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