To this day, the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001 can be seen in American politics, both domestic and foreign
Sept. 11, 2001 is one of those unforgettable days, both for what happened and for its consequences.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed when three of four passenger planes hijacked in coordination by Arab Muslim extremists were flown into the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington that morning. The remaining aircraft went down in Pennsylvania when the passengers lunged at the hijackers upon learning of the other acts of terrorism.
Among the dead in New York, there were hundreds of people of different nationalities, including as many as 16 Mexicans, officially, although it was always suspected that there could have been more.
The attack itself was attributed to the Islamic extremist group al-Qaida, which, in the years that followed, was a symbol of terrorism for the Americans, and, together with parallel groups such as the Islamic State, the central target of a U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq.
That military adventure became the longest war in U.S. history, but its consequences did not stop there.
On the one hand, it put a literal end to what seemed to be a new era in the U.S.-Mexico relationship: Just two days earlier, Mexican President Vicente Fox had been feted in an almost unprecedented manner at the White House by President George W. Bush.
“Until that day, Mexico was one of the three priority countries for the United States,” said Jorge Castañeda, Fox’s first foreign secretary.
The public debate about the attitude to take, despite the death of Mexicans, delayed the Fox administration’s reaction, and although far from being the main factor, it did influence later U.S. attitudes. “All we wanted was a hug*,” commented then-Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow years later.
Among the consequences was the cancellation of possibilities for immigration reform which, even if it had not become the “whole enchilada” that seemed possible at the time, could have occurred in a more limited way.
To this day, the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, can be seen in U.S. policy, both domestic and foreign.
“The attacks ended the ‘fantasy decade,’ the interwar period between the end of the Cold War in 1991 and the beginning of the war on terrorism in 2001,” commented U.S. political scientist Bill Schneider.
“It was a decade in which prosperity reigned and the rest of the world seemed distant. This was just like an earlier interwar period: the 1920s, when Americans ‘returned to normalcy’ after World War I. The U.S. didn’t mind. The United States was not bothered by the rise of extremism in Europe and Japan. When Americans don’t feel threatened, they become complacent*,” he said.
*Editor’s Note: These quotes, accurately translated, could not be verified.