Why the world trade center?

The attacks on the WTC from 93 and 9/11, why such a determination to target the WTC at all?

Was the WTC seen in the middle east as representing all of America or something?

I can’t understand why they didn’t make a more concentrated effort at the white house.

  1. Casualties. Thousands of people in those buildings. Bigger, umm… bang for the buck.
  2. Financial institutions, banks, insurance companies.

Pretty strategic strike really.

It is hard to follow the logic of the terrorist mind in this case but there are two important pieces of information that certainly played into it.

  1. The World Trade Centers were the tallest buildings in New York City, the biggest and arguably the most notable city in the U.S. Attacking the World Trade Centers had both a strategic and symbolic impact. There weren’t any other single targets in NYC that would have been as visible or symbolic. You can’t bring down the Empire State Building for example with that same type of attack because the construction is completely different.

  2. Al Qaeda had its eye on bringing down one or both of the twin towers well before the 2001 attacks. They already tried it in 1993 with a truck bomb in the lower parking garage but all that did was create a large hole near the base but had little real affect. The targets for the 2001 attacks were almost certainly influenced by the motivation to finish what they tried to do the first time.

The White House and/or Capitol building almost certainly were the intended targets of either American Airlines 77 that hit the Pentagon or United 93 that was crashed intentionally by the hijackers in Pennsylvania before heroic passengers could penetrate the cockpit. No one knows whether United 93 was supposed to target the White House or Capitol but its intended target was certainly one of them. There is speculation that the Pentagon was not the primary target for American 77 because that attack was largely a dud and only affected a wing of the building under construction. A likely scenario is that the hijackers found it too difficult to spot the White House and/or Capitol from the air (it isn’t easy at all at airliner speeds) so they diverted to the Pentagon as a backup target because it is very distinctive from the air.

The terrorists considered the USA to be an economic enemy, not a military enemy. The danger, to them, was that US corporate interests would influence or dominate them economically and damage their traditional cultural lifestyles, which are as dear to them as ours are to us… So the American corporations, not military bases, were the “useful targets”. Comparable, perhaps, to the allied bombing of German factories during WWII, which were considered useful targets, irrespective of the civilian casualties resulting from the bombings.

In the broader sense, the WTC was not the target. It was the weapon. The target was the average American’s sense of safety and security. Can you think of a more effective weapon than the WTC?

Yes, and it struck me sometime in the late morning of 9.11.2001: New York is cosmopolitan, huge, somewhat apart from the rest of the country culturally (it really is kind of its own thing), and in some ways an obvious target. To strike an even more pure note of terror, personally I think the even more effective use of four jetliners would’ve been to destroy the tallest buildings in Denver, Kansas City, Dallas, and Phoenix (for example; Cincinnati, Atlanta, Minneapolis, SLC–those would’ve worked too). But of course, for the average terrorist, even the higher-ups, I’d bet their awareness of the US extends only to NYC, WDC, and LA (probably true for a good number of Americans too).

I have to disagree. When the plane hit the 2nd tower, on live TV with 10,000 cameras news trained on it… that couldn’t have happened with single towers in other cities. You’d need literally a nuclear bomb with advance warning to get a more vividly terroristic effect than that.

More people, primarily, and easier to see and hit, methinks.

No, think back to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Shocking, horrifying, tragic, but not the same impact.

Great point, the WTC was also a symbol of “American Economic Imperialism”. The Oklahoma City bombing targeted specific individuals who worked in that building, those involved with the Davidian affair in Waco, TX.

The WTC had Islamic-influenced feature in its design.

:confused: The highjackers received their flight training in San Diego and South Florida.

The original plan called for attacks throughout the country, including Seattle, Chicago, and Los Angeles, among other cities. But this was rejected by OBL due to time constraints:



Actually the construction on that side was finished, the building was reinforced with steel beams and bars and 2-inch thick windows. It wasn’t very occupied though.

I wonder where this information came from. I couldn’t find anything about most of those purported targets in the 9/11 Commission Report (PDF).

**bibliophage: **

Page 154 of the report. Some of the specific details in the Wikipedia entry may come from third-reports about the KSM interrogation or be apocryphal (I mean, Binghamton? Really?). We also have to tale into account the credibility of the source.

Yes… if KSM is to be believed, the more practical-minded ObL was “right” in that trying to launch a massive terror-across-America coming-to-your-town shock campaign would be time- and resources-intensive, with too many points of failure and likely to result in organizational chaos and large pieces of the plot falling apart. So instead they went for maximum exposure, focusing on targets that guaranteed live coverage interrupting regular programming worldwide, and that means that NYC business district and the Greater-DC seat of Federal government. That alone would provide you the largest % of your first strike terror ROI – let the attacked party then worry himself to death as to where else you may be about to strike. Remember, the aim was not just to say “We can do this to you, USA” but also to say to everyone else: “Look what we can do even to the USA’s highest-value targets”. Whether or not you really have a second wave ready to go becomes almost secondary.
The WTC towers in hindsight were obvious for targeting, towering far above all other buildings in that end of Manhattan near the river.

Besides the fact the the WTC was an obvious target being the largest buildings in the financial capital of the world (very near to Wall St.), there was the simple matter of logistics. New York and Washington D.C. are on the east coast and there is no greater concentration of major airports. There was little problem in coordinating flights that could attack within a short time frame. They could chose flights from Boston, Phil., Baltimore, Newark, LGA, JFK and Hartford just to name a few.

True. Planning attacks of that type require all types of planning plus a large degree of luck. You need clear visibility and lightly passenger loaded aircraft to have any chance of success at all. They got that on 9-11 and still only took out only 50% of the intended targets even with the scaled down plans. The Washington attacks were a huge failure in terrorism terms. Destroying the White House and the Capitol would have been a much greater success and that is likely what they were trying to achieve but those plans failed miserably. All they got was a side attack on an area of the Pentagon that was largely unoccupied.

Even the World Trade Center attacks were largely a matter of luck. Osama Bin Laden himself admitted that. They knew that they could hit the towering targets if they got control of the planes but there was no guarantee that the buildings would fall at all. It was just a quirk in the way that they were designed that allowed the structural collapse. If you tried that same scenario using the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building for example, all you would get is a couple of damaged but probably repairable buildings and some lost planes. The Empire State building survived an accidental plane crash just fine from a B-25 in 1945.

That was a terrible day but the only reason it succeeded in any way at all was just a matter of luck and not because of any advanced understanding of what they were doing. It would be tough losing four airplanes full of passengers under any scenario but the whole attack could have been an almost complete dud given slightly different circumstances.