Causes and Consequenes of 9/11

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23/09/19 History Reference this

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What were the causes and consequences of ‘9/11’?


‘9/11’ refers to the events that occurred on September 11th, 2001 during which members of al-Qaeda hijacked four airliners, resulting in suicide attacks against major targets in the United States of America.[1] Of the four aeroplanes, one struck the Pentagon, one crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, and the remaining two were flown into the Twin Towers in New York City.[2] Three thousand people lost their lives in the attacks, which President George W. Bush referred to as “a national tragedy.”[3] However, the consequences were to be long term. In the immediate aftermath, President Bush gave a simple explanation, stating, “America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.”[4] Although a short explanation was given, President Bush knew that the causes for such an attack were far more complicated and the consequences even more so.

 The causes of 9/11 can be split into two sub-headings. Firstly, the causes which were claimed by al-Qaeda and secondly, motivations which have been suggested which were not explicitly declared by al-Qaeda. 

Within Osama bin Laden’s contact with the Western press he points to four main causes of the 9/11 attacks. Firstly, within his “Letter to America” he refers to the United States support of Israel over the Arab states as a cause for attack, stating:

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The British handed over Palestine, with your help and your support, to the Jews, who have occupied it for more than 50 years; years overflowing with oppression, tyranny, crimes, killing, expulsion, destruction and devastation. The creation and continuation of Israel is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals… And of course, there is no need to explain and prove the degree of American support for Israel.[5]

Bin Laden’s anti-Americanism was triggered by American foreign policy, particularly their support given to Israel in the invasion of southern Lebanon in 1982, which he responded to with a boycott of American goods.[6] He was also outraged by the “defiling” export of 500,000 US troops to Saudi Arabia after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.[7]

 Secondly, bin Laden discussed his personal grief at the “immoral behaviour”, which is the norm in US society, as a motivating factor to launch to attacks.[8] Bin Laden clearly stated:

The second thing we call you to, is to stop your oppression, lies, immorality and debauchery that has spread among you. We call you to be a people of manners, principles, honour, and purity; to reject the immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gamblings and trading with interest.[9]

Samuel Huntington predicted a clash of civilisations after the Cold War and Bin Laden’s 9/11 seemed to highlight this.[10] Michael E. Nielsen supports this, adding that the terrorists rejected modernism as according to bin Laden, “corrupt Western values and mores are not to be tolerated, making attacks justified.”[11]

 Thirdly, in the 1998 fatwa, al-Qaeda identified the Iraq sanctions as a reason to kill Americans.[12] After the Gulf War ended in 1991, the United Nations wanted to stop the Muslim leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, from re-building his army, so it put sanctions on trade with Iraq.[13] Bin Laden believed that, as a result of the sanctions, Iraqi children were dying due to cuts to medical supplies.[14] Bin Laden highlights the inconsistent and contradictory policy of the US as there were no sanctions placed on Israel when they disobeyed the United Nation’s orders on Palestine.[15] It was American ships and planes that enforced the sanctions, which increased bin Laden’s hatred towards America.[16]

 Finally, in the 1996 fatwa, the presence of the US military in Saudi Arabia is stated as a motivating factor.[17] During the Gulf War, American soldiers were invited by Saudi Arabian leaders to establish a base in the fight against Iraq.[18] After the war came to an end, American troops stationed remained there, as a preventative measure.[19] This particularly annoyed bin Laden as two of Islam’s most holy sites are found in Mecca and Medina, in Saudi Arabia.[20] This presence of the US Army was deemed “unclean” and an act to provoke the entire Muslim world.[21] In response, bin Laden vowed to drive the Americans out.[22]

 Another motivation behind the 9/11 attack is religion. At this point, it is important to point out that Islam as a religion does not endorse terrorist attacks and that this was a case of misguided interpretation, or indoctrination of Islam by the terrorists.[23] Al-Qaeda represents militant Islamic fundamentalism that has encouraged violence against the West, particularly the US, in the form of a “jihad” or a Holy War.[24] In February 1998, bin Laden published a statement claiming that the US had “declared a war on God” and called on Muslims to “murder any American anywhere on earth.”[25] A few months later, he was interviewed in secret stating, “if the present injustice continues…it will inevitably move the battle to American soil.”[26]

 Another factor to consider in the causes of 9/11 is globalisation. The 9/11 terror attacks call attention to “the complex and unpredictable nature of a globally-connected networked society and the paradoxes, surprises, and unintended consequences that flow from the multidimensional processes of globalisation.”[27] Globalisation allows for the division of the world, promoting conflicts and competitions and fuelling hatred and grievances.[28] Therefore, through globalisation conflict was encouraged by highlighting the differences between East and West.

 Another idea presented is the plan to provoke a war with the United States. Bin Laden was engaging in a long-term strategy by deliberately provoking a war with the US through the attacks on 9/11 to drive them into bankruptcy.[29] The ‘War on Terror’ led to a spiralling debt within the US and with no end in sight, bin Laden’s plan very much sought to push America over the economic edge.[30] This “fruitless war” has only led to the creation and spread of terror groups, the disintegration of order across significant parts of the planet, and the displacement of whole populations in staggering numbers.[31]

 In addition, research on suicide terrorism concludes that it may be a motivating factor behind the attacks. Evidence of success through suicide terrorism was clear to bin Laden, as was seen in the 1983 Lebanon attack in which 241 US soldiers were killed, resulting in a withdrawal of troops.[32] Likewise, in 1993, 19 American troops were killed in Somalia, proving America would not fight after suffering severe losses.[33] Throughout the 1990s, al-Qaeda’s support for suicide missions grew.[34] The power of the US army would always win a normal war, but bin Laden believed suicide attacks would make the Americans leave the Middle East and end their support for Israel.[35]

 When studying the causes of 9/11, it is important to also study the consequences of the attacks which occurred on September 11th, 2001. Immediately after the attack, the US and particularly those in New York, faced devastating consequences. Officially, the number of dead or wounded a year after the attack was 2,819, with 3,051 children losing a parent to the attack on 9/11.[36] Consequently, through the ‘War on Terror’, a subsequent, 2,999 soldiers were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.[37] As well as this, there has been an increase in mental health problems within New York as a result of the attack, primarily post-traumatic-stress disorder.[38]

 Economically, there was an immediate consequence from the September 11 attacks, especially in New York, but nationally as well. Some 400 businesses were destroyed in the World Trade Centre and 1,000 surrounding businesses were forced to close.[39] Likewise, air travel was suspended, the New York stock exchange closed for four days, and consumer confidence plummeted.[40] In the long-term, the economic effects were devastating with the war in Afghanistan costing roughly $440 billion and Iraq costing nearly $790 billion.[41]

 The most major consequence of 9/11 was the ‘War on Terror’. This phrase was first used by President Bush to explain the “military, political, legal and ideological struggle against organisations which had been labelled as terrorist”.[42] ‘War on Terror’ also refers to “the actions of the USA and its allies against governments that provided these organisations with support or those which posed a threat to the US and its allies.”[43] The aims of the ‘War on Terror’ include triumph over terrorists, for example, bin Laden, including locating and destroying terrorists with their organisations, as well as putting an end to the sponsorship and support of these peoples in order to defend US citizens and their allies.[44] Following the 9/11 attacks, the US invaded Afghanistan under the title of Operation Enduring Freedom to stop al-Qaeda using the country as its base.[45] Later, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force was deployed in the country to promote security and development, as well as train Afghan soldiers and police.[46]  Similarly, President Bush identified Iraq as a member of what he termed an “axis of evil.”[47] In March 2003, Iraq was invaded in a plan to disarm the country and replace its government.[48]              Politically, there were also consequences as the US government felt the need to protect America from future attacks. On 26 October 2001, US congress passed the Patriot Act. This gave US authorities more freedom to investigate telephone, email, medical, financial and other records.[49] It also set up the National Security Agency with the right to collect information on US citizens and foreigners without a warrant.[50] And it also allowed them to detain people suspected of terrorist activities more easily, specifically in Guantanamo Bay.[51] The US Aviation and Transportation Act was also introduced to prevent another attack which includes tighter security in airports.[52]

 In conclusion, 9/11 was a devastating moment in history which was carefully co-ordinated by radicals in the name of al-Qaeda in an effort to terrorise the United States of America. The act of terror cannot be defined by one cause but instead a multitude of factors which motivated Osama bin Laden to wage a war on America. Bin Laden highlights US support for Israel, the immoral behaviour of US society, Iraq sanctions and the presence of the US military in Saudi Arabia as the leading factors which caused the attacks which occurred on 9/11. However, in hindsight, others point to a religious motivation as well as globalisation as contributors. Within this essay it has also been established that bin Laden had a long-term plan for the terror attacks which was to provoke a war with the US. The consequences of 9/11 were just as devastating as the actual event, with social, economic and political effects. Socially, there are psychological problems still facing the citizens of New York today. Economically, America is in a never-ending cycle of debt. And politically, the world will never function again with laws now restricting the freedom of those around the whole world. These consequences will be felt for years to come, and New York may never recover fully from such an act of terror.


[2] BBC, “What happened on 11 September 2001?”

[3] BBC, “What happened on 11 September 2001?”

[7] Bergen, “What were the causes of 9/11?”

[8] “Letter to America.”

[9] “Letter to America.”

[10] Bergen, “What were the causes of 9/11?”

[14] Since911, “What caused 911?”

[15] Since911, “What caused 911?”

[16] Since911, “What caused 911?”

[19] Yusufzai, “Face to Face.”

[20] Yusufzai, “Face to Face.”

[21] Yusufzai, “Face to Face.”

[22] Yusufzai, “Face to Face.”

[24] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States and Emerson, Third public hearing.  

[25] Since911, “What caused 911?”

[26] Since911, “What caused 911?”

[28] Kellner, “Globalisation,” 260.

[30] Feffer, “Osama bin Laden.”

[32] Since911, “What caused 911?”

[33] Since911, “What caused 911?”

[34] Since911, “What caused 911?”

[35] Since911, “What caused 911?”

[37] “Impact of 9/11 on America.”

[38] “Impact of 9/11 on America.”

[40] Jasen, “Economic Cost of 9/11.”

[43] CCEA, “9/11 and the ‘War on Terror’.”

[44] CCEA, “9/11 and the ‘War on Terror’.”

[45] CCEA, “9/11 and the ‘War on Terror’.”

[47] “After 9/11: Global effects of the ‘war on terror’.”

[48] “After 9/11: Global effects of the ‘war on terror’.”

[50] “Timeline.”

[51] “Timeline.”

[52] “Timeline.”

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