Sept. 11, 2001 (02:25)
For many, the 9/11 events were the first time they felt America could be attacked. It was understood that it created a new era of American life. Strong domestic unity began when Congress sang "God Bless America" and the idea of war was still forming.
Jan. 6, 2021 (03:23)
The growing anger, mistrust, and division caused by America's response to 9/11 led, in part, to the Jan. 6 insurrection. The failure of the wars made many Americans feel that they could no longer trust their government.
George W. Bush and 9/11 (06:01)
During 9/11, President Bush was kept on the move for security reasons. He made his first comments that night, defining the U.S. as good and the enemy as evil. There was a global showing of support and solidarity with the U.S.
Hunt for Osama bin Laden (05:18)
The CIA had been monitoring the Al-Qaeda founder and labeled him as the mastermind of 9/11. Bush authorized a CIA strike force to kill him. Though the team liberated some Afghanistan areas from the ruling Taliban, bin Laden vanished in Pakistan.
War in Afghanistan (01:39)
With bin Laden gone, the U.S. was entangled with the situation in Afghanistan. Bush and the following presidents struggled to define what role America should play in the country.
Anthrax Attacks (04:32)
In videos from Pakistan, bin Laden called 9/11 the start of a "death by 1,000 cuts." A fear over anthrax attacks gripped America and Vice President Dick Cheney obsessed over the threats. He and Bush had different ideas about how to react.
Dark Side Response (04:53)
Cheney's method was used in Afghanistan and the U.S. took thousands of prisoners. To avoid prisoner of war laws, Afghanis were taken to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Prisoners were treated inhumanly, and Gitmo became a symbol of how far revenge for 9/11 would go.
American Torture (02:34)
Cheney felt America's response needed to go further and he set up secret CIA sites to torture prisoners. Many knew the torture was not getting information and felt they had become the evil they were supposedly fighting.
Axis of Evil (05:43)
In his first State of the Union address, Bush labeled North Korea, Iraq, and Iran as an "axis of evil" that needed to be stopped. It expanded the War on Terror and raised concerns about a nuclear attack. Iraq and its dictator Saddam Hussein would be the first target.
Iraq War (04:56)
Protests against a war in Iraq broke out. With little support from abroad, Bush turned to Secretary of State and former general Colin Powell for advice. Powell gave a speech to the United Nations, making a case for war by connecting Hussein to Al-Qaeda and 9/11.
Hunt for WMDs (02:42)
The first mission of the Iraq War was to find weapons of mass destruction; the Bush Administration's main justification for the invasion. None were found and the reasons for the war were called into question. It caused a feeling of distrust toward the government.
Chaos in Iraq (06:15)
The U.S. underestimated the complexity of the situation and had no plan to keep peace after Hussein was deposed. Sectary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld denied the chaos and Bush appointed diplomat Paul Bremer to build democracy in Iraq.
Insurgency in Iraq (01:56)
Bremer defended his decision to disband the Iraqi Army; insurgent attacks began shortly after. The Bush Administration lied about the seriousness of the attacks.
Abu Ghraib (04:06)
Photos of prisoner mistreatment at Abu Ghraib shocked the world. It clearly opposed the idea of American freedom and values that Bush was using to justify the war and ended all hope the Iraqis had that the Americans were there to protect them.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq (03:55)
Using anger over the Abu Ghraib photos, bin Laden increased recruitment and activities in Iraq. Al-Qaeda focused bombings on targets that would spark a civil war between religious sects. More American soldiers and Iraqi civilians were killed.
Discrimination, hatred, and hate crimes against Muslims in America increased after 9/11. Many Americans equated Islam with terrorism.
Barack Obama (08:37)
The world had huge expectations of how President Obama would fix Bush's mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan. He ran for president as the anti-war candidate, making him popular. Obama focused on winning in Afghanistan with a troop surge; it failed.
Obama's Failed Promises (07:43)
The death toll in Afghanistan rose under Obama, who failed to end the conflict. Obama had promised to close Guantanamo Bay, but Congress voted to keep it open. Islamophobia and the threat of terror continued in the American conciseness.
Drone Strikes (04:43)
Obama was reluctant to eliminate all the Bush era anti-terror policies because of the threat of attacks. He kept and increased the use of the drone strike program. Drone strikes had huge collateral damage and more than 1,000 civilians were killed.
Bin Laden's Death (02:22)
Bin Laden's death gave Americans a sense of closure about 9/11, but it did not mean the War on Terror or the War in Afghanistan were over. Al-Qaeda had grown far beyond bin Laden's influence.
Pulling out of Iraq (06:10)
Obama began pulling American troops out of Iraq and transferring power to the Iraqis. Many experts felt the Iraqi government was not ready. Fighting between religious sects started and ISIS rose to power through violence; Obama was forced to send some troops back.
Donald Trump and 9/11 (04:01)
While it was a sense of unity for Bush and Obama, Trump used 9/11 to create further division. He exploited anti-Muslim fear and hate about terrorism and mass shootings.
Continued Dark Side Response (03:05)
Trump was not interested in fixing the failures of his predecessors, despite often criticizing them. He kept Gitmo open, expanded the drone strike program, and ordered a raid to kill the leader of ISIS. He tried to end the Iraq War but could not.
Domestic War (04:49)
George Floyd's murder sparked massive Black Lives Matter protests throughout America. Trump labeled the protests as terrorism and urged forceful police and National Guard responses. He used the same good versus evil rhetoric that Bush did after 9/11 to justify his actions.
January 6th Attack (06:32)
Trumps comments about a stolen election and playing into distrust of the government rallied people to advance to the capitol. His supporters used tools learned from the War on Terror.
Credits: America After 9/11 (01:05)
Credits: America After 9/11
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