The U.S. response to 9/11. Over-react much?

I want to preface this by stating that I live and work in the New York City area, and I knew 4 people who died in the WTC on 9/11/01.

But after almost 3 years, it finally hit me. We completely overreacted to the events of 9/11. Think about it, 19 people boarded airplanes armed with utility knives. They highjacked 4 airplanes and crashed them into important buildings. But to me, their methodology just doesn’t warrant the cost that we’ve been paying. We’ve spent $billions and fought 2 wars because of these 19 people. And the greatest price is that we gave up, and will continue to give up, is a whole lot of freedom.

Sure, we discovered that they were members of Al Qaeda, an organization whose sole principle is to destroy our way of life. But quite frankly, any idiot with an evil and creative mind could have done the same thing. There’s no way that the backing of a well-funded network was required to do this. And there’s no way that any passengers/crew of an airline would ever allow it to happen again. Maybe our response should have been: OK, you got us. You found one weakness and took advantage of it. We should’ve known better. And we’re going to take away your ability to attempt a repeat performance. That’s it.

Instead, we now have racial profiling, government searches and the ability of the president to declare someone an enemy combatant, taking away his/her rights indefinitely. And it would be impossible to calculate the total dollar costs. Should 1 successful plan by terrorists cause so much of a change to our way of life? And how come no one recognized this from the outset? I don’t remember hearing any voices expressing this sentiment after the attacks. None of our leaders were strong enough to say aloud: Stop. We’re overreacting! And maybe THAT’S our real weakness.

Not to sound too much of a complete ass, but profiling people of Middle Eastern descent, whats wrong with this?

Instigate much?

This is slightly off my point, but there’s alot wrong with it. For one thing, we only do it because it’s easy to do. They’re a minority. We didn’t racially profile people of European descent after the Oklahoma City bombings. And the more important reason to me is that we are know longer treating people as equals. And worse, the source of the inequality is religion and skin color. To me, that’s just too many steps backwards because of one successful act of terror.

Dubya would have invaded Iraq one way or another, so a thousand dead soldiers and hundreds of billions in war debt would not have been avoided.

At the risk of being hammered from the left, I must disagree strongly with the OP. We simply woke up to how much at risk we were. We have now realized how porous our borders are and how inept our security agencies are and that we must take steps to remedy this. The reason young male middle easterners are picked out for special scrutiny is that those are the types of people who committed that particular crime. We don’t profile all European men because a majority of the men in this country are of European ancestry. If 19 middle-aged Danish grandmothers had committed that criminal act, we’d be profiling middle-aged Danish grandmothers. But it wasn’t. It was young males from the Middle East. The organization planned it because they thought they could get away with it without consequences more severe than losing another aspirin factory. They were wrong.

FYI, we have always had government searches. Maybe now they will be more focused and effective.

Oversimplify much?

This was a coordinated attack by a foriegn terrorst group attacking multiple targets at once. It was simply devastating, especially when you really start to look into what COULD have happened. BTW, the attack itself cost us $billions and 3000 civilian dead. I’d say it was fairly serious.

We’ve given up a ‘whole lot of freedom’?? I must have missed the memo. Could you list all the freedoms we have currently given up?

See, you are forgetting the steady escallation leading up to 9/11 (also AQ). Stuff like the Cole and the various embassy bombings. Also, you are way underestimating what an operation like this entails, especially for a foriegner to pull off. If just any idiot could pull something like this off, we’d have this kind of thing happening all the time. There are certainly enough wack jobs out there that WANT to do stuff on this scale. It wasn’t ‘one weakness’, though I’ll admit a fair amount of luck was required to pull it off. What it showed was that there were systemic problems with our intellegency organs (i.e. they weren’t working and playing nice)…didn’t you read the 9/11 commission report?? The reason we HAVE spent $billions is to ‘take their ability to attempt a repeat performance’, or more specifically to try and close the various holes in our defenses.

If we did things the way you seem to be suggesting we’d be like the French always fighting the last war (i.e. we’d be doing some minimal things to make sure that hijackers didn’t hijack planes with box cutters and then going back to business as usual…while they simply found some other way). You see, to REALLY make sure it doesn’t happen again it costs a lot of money. Iraq aside, to REALLY make sure it doesn’t happen again taking out the Taliban (who were sympathetic and more to AQ) needed to be taken out. Security needed to be rethought. Intellegence methodology that has been fossilizing for decades needed to be rethought. In other words, it was going to cost those $billions to do the job right.

We always had racial profiling. Its ONE tool used. I’d like a cite from you that the president can arbitrarily (or any other way) declare someone an enemy combatant. If he can, why hasn’t Kerry been simply declared an enemy combatant and shipped off to jail??

Should 1 successful plan by terrorists cause so much to change? Yes, it should. Do you suppose that attacks on our nation should be met with a ho hum attitude? Do you figure that it was any different in Europe when THEY were getting attacked regularly by terrorists in the past? Get real. People DEMANDED that things change…overwhelmingly, especially right after 9/11.

BTW, I recall a few politicians saying we were over-reacting (I don’t have a cite off the top of my head though…I’m sure you can find one if you really want too)…but they were pretty much in the minority (and were and mostly ARE considered wacked), and drown out by the people.

Our ‘weakness’ is simply we are an open society, and therefore we are vulnerable to these kinds of attacks. If we don’t want to be constantly victimized we need to spend the time, effort and money to ensure we minimize such things as much as is humanly possible.


Ryan_Liam - you’re welcome in the Pit.

But how is the systemic weakness of an “open society” to be overcome in an open society? The measures put in place were hasty, not very effective and cumbersome and expensive to commercial activity.

We replaced slipshod, low-bidder, private security arrangement will ill-trained federal employees in a matter of days. We created a large government agency out of a bunch of disparate loose ends and the thing the department does best is going from yellow to orange. We attacked Iraq which was in no way part of the problem of the WTC attacks and in doing so have diverted funds to the extent of a couple of hundred billion from counterterrorism activites to a needless war.

I read someplace recently that every 9/11 hijacker was in violation of immigration laws one way or another. Some got student visas but never took the requisite courses to qualify. Some overstayed, in violation of the terms of their visas. Some had fake IDs.

Since every one of the hijackers was breaking the law, it seems to me that, first and foremost, we ought to properly enforce the laws we already have in place. It is not, in any way, an exaggeration to say that if these guys had simply been dealt with appropriately when they violated the terms of their visas, 9/11 would not have happened.

It’s the little things that get you.

So, what do we do? Do we say “Hey, we’ve already got rules and regs for this stuff. Let’s pump more money into INS, so they can be sure foreign nationals are doing what they say they’re doing while in our borders”?

No, we invade Iraq. To the tune of maybe $100 billion, by the time it’s all over with.

Say, how many new INS agents, and sky martials, and FBI agents, and up-to-date computing infrastructure, and interpreters, and biometric scanners, and spy sattelites, and Coast Guard boats, and background checks, and sundry other forms of Homeland Security, could we have paid for with a hundred bil?

I think we misunderestimated someplace. Or malallocated. Somethin’.

In some instances we’ve reacted stupidly, and in some ways I agree people have overreacted. But not in the ways the OP proposes. There’s nothing wrong with doing whatever possible to avoid more mass murder by terrorists. But on a day-to-day level I think people are preoccupied with terrorism more than necessary. You’re more likely to die in a traffic accident or get malaria and any number of other things than be a victim of a terrorist attack. I think it’s a major problem that people have let fear of something so unlikely play such a major role in their lives, and it’s not good that politicians are using that fear in such a manipulative way.

Then you weren’t listening to the right people. While I don’t agree with most of the policies we’ve adopted since then, people were afraid. Closer to the time of the attacks, that was more overwhelming and more excusable.

If 30,000 Muscovites were killed in a terrorist atcrocity we would not care a tenth as much. If 300,000 Bangladeshies were killed we would not care as much as a hundreth.
Every year, some 40,000 Amercans meet violent death on the roads. Hundreds of thousands are badly injured. How care you? In the Vietnam war, some 59,000 Americans perished (most of them in four years). About 15,000 of these died in non-battlefield accidents. At that time, the death-toll on american roads was about 50,000 each year. Yet there are thousands and thousands of books and films and telly programs (and god knows what else) bemoaning about the deaths of Americans in Vietnam.
Is my point too obtuse? Perhaps I am too simple and naive? He he, I know the answers to these questions, which will reinforce the beliefs of those of you who doubt my sanity. Here I go again - own goal!

hehe… I think it took the OP quite a long time to realize the US overreacted… even if we exclude Iraq.

Like many have already mentioned. The laws were there but were not enforced… the intelligence services were there but were not acting… the information was there but was not pieced together. It was a combination of Cold War mentality… career oriented laxity… and in the end a lot of incompetence and bureaucracy.

Even without a dollar more spent on 9/12 the US became almost impossible for AQ terrorists to enter. Basically security woke up.

 Now if the issue is pride... world standing and defending the honor you might say that there was no over reacting. Not that spending billions invading Iraq is useful...   

The US should of course defend itself and should try to constructively control and defeat terrorism… but in a smarter “kerry” way.

I think for for the initial $60 billion Iraq allocation, we could have built a frigging wall around the entire United States. Ain’t it interesting that, not long after 9/11, there were arguments about “hey, where are we gonna get the money for sky marshalls on every other plane, and all these new security checks?” Or “hey, is Tom Ridge gonna be nothing but a toothless czar, since the DHS has such a paltry budget?”

Does anybody else wake up some mornings and say “What in the FUCK happened?” I mean, how did the conversation unfold in Washington? “Hey, we need better homeland security. We’re not even enforcing the safeguard laws we already have, nor putting our intelligence together to keep out individuals with known terrorist ties. The State Dept. even sent some of these guys paperwork after they were dead! Our computers are 386s, we’ve got like five people who can speak Arabic on the payroll, we’ve got boatloads of thousands of crates coming into every port, every day, which we barely inspect a tiny fraction of, our Northern and Southern borders act like a sieve, we’ve got enormous coastal regions virtually unpatrolled…WHAT can we DO? I know! We’ll invade another country with no Al Qaeda terrorists nor WMDs in it, only we’ll pretend there are! YES! It’ll cost tens of billions of dollars which we could spend much more sensibly elsewhere. PERFECT! We’ll kill thousands of American soldiers and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, thus inflaming the Arab world into more of the kind of hatred toward us that spawned 9/11 in the first place. OUT-FUCKIN’-STANDING!”

I think the US played right into their hands on 911 making it the single most successful terrorist attack ever - and I think it’s success grows everyday. Bush can’t stop talking about it, everywhere in the US you see bumperstickers about “never forget”, everywhere you go you’re reminded of what happened.

I don’t think Bush and the US over-reacted, I think they’ve done just what the terrorists expected they would do.


We didn’t so much overreact as we misreacted. Instead of sitting down, and looking at the problem, finding the roots, and getting to it, to SERIOUSLY look at the world and the way it’s changing, all of a sudden we’ve gone right back to the Cold War mentality. Back then, everything was about fighting communism, and communists. Now, (and I HATE to use this phrase, but it’s especially appropriate), terrorism is the new communism. Think about it-"if you’re not with us, you’re aiding terrorists!’ “Don’t vote for so and so-he’s soft on terrorism!” When was the last time we heard that? Hint hint…

We’re freaking out and wanting a quick fix. We’re trying to define everything in black and white (us vs them), when the world is nothing but billions of greys.

And quite frankly, that scares the bejesus out of me.

It’s a lot of wasted money and wasted effort.

Have any planes been hijacked anywhere around the world since 9/11? I haven’t heard of a one. And it’s NOT because of increased security. It’s because every airplane passenger around the world knows that a hijacker is going to crash the plane into a building and kill thousands of people, and so every passenger is now willing to fight tooth and claw to take out a hijacker. Fuck, this even happened on September 11th! It won’t happen again for 50 years.

Now we’ve got security agents singling out people for interrogation every time they travel, and if you ask me, there’s no better way to make people hate you than by persecuting them when they haven’t done anything.

That doesn’t make sense. There haven’t been any terrorist hijacking attempts that we know of, so the passengers’ will to fight doesn’t matter. Unless you mean that terrorist won’t try to hijack planes in the future because they know the passengers will fight back- which may be true, but I doubt it.

Well, I’ve always been in the opinion that we way completely overreacted. In the grand scheme of things (heck, even in the small scheme of things), 9/11 was a drop in the bucket. Yeah, it sounds crass, but really that’s what it was. The amount of money that we’ve spent versus the number of lives saved is enormous. Those billions of dollars could have gone towards AIDS or cancer research, or developing safer cars, or thousands or thousands of more viable options. This could have realistically produced much viable results. But instead we’re chunneling all this money towards some mysterious threat that always seems imminent, but never arrives. 3000 people died and many thousands injured, and suddenly people all over the world get this sense of urgency to donate blood and money. Where’s all that money & blood for the cancer patients, the car accident victims, the AIDS patients, the homeless, the poor, and the sick. There are always large blood shortages nationwide, but no one cares anymore to donate blood. Why can’t we use all this energy to solve real tangible problems?

Look, Hurricane Charley just devestated Florida. It caused almost a billion dollars and damage and claimed 25 lives. You don’t seem people clamoring to donate blood or money to the victims. And you certainly don’t see people up in arms demanding the change the weather. Why not? Because it’s ludicrous - we can’t change the weather. But in the same fashion, we can’t stop the terriosts. We can channel all the money we want, but they will exist for as long as they have problems with us. We can pretend that all this security and so forth might be helping, and maybe it is. But there’s a good chance it isn’t.

So really, maybe there’s a terriost threat, maybe there isn’t. But in reality, it’s the least of our problems.

In my OP, I brought up the fact that immediately after 9/11, I don’t remember any of our leaders standing up and saying, “Wait. Take it easy. I know what happened was disastrous but let’s think deeply before we do anything. Let’s examine the potential consequences of our potential actions.”

In reality, our leaders represent us. The government is really who we are. So when Bush and company took these extreme over-the-top measures, it was because most of the people demanded them. It was an appeal to the collective emotion at the time. Someone had to pay. Could you imagine if we hadn’t attacked anyone after 9/11? What would Bush’s ratings be now? Would he even still be president? Imagine if Bush had said: “We’ve performed a cost-benefit analysis and determined that it would be best to do nothing right now. If we attacked the Taliban and Saddam, it’s just going to turn more people in the world against us. It just doesn’t pay to attack anyone right now.” He probably would’ve been impeached or assassinated. But it would have been the right decision.

The point is that our leaders do what we want them to. In reality, we are voluntarily giving up our rights. We want (other) people to be randomly searched. We want the government to go to the library and check the websites that (other) people frequent. We want (other) people to be profiled based on their skin color and religion. And we want revenge. We want to kill those who attack us. If we can’t find them, we want to kill their relatives or other people who look like they do. So my OP talks about our overreaction. In reality, this is just what we wanted. We can blame the leaders all we want. We’ll eventually see that the leaders are just reflections of ourselves.