Names & Terms in
   Fasttrack to America's Past
   Section 9: A New Millennium
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9/11 attacks - a widely used term for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York City and the Pentagon building just outside Washington, D.C.  Hijackers from the Middle East crashed jetliners loaded with fuel into the buildings, destroying the majestic towers and badly damaging the Pentagon.  A jetliner crash in Pennsylvania that occurred as passengers attempted to stop hijackers on that plane was also part of the day's tragic events.  The hijackers were all followers of a fanatical version of Islam led by Osama bin Laden, who preached a jihad, or holy war, against the U.S.
    The attacks killed more than 3,000 people, and prompted the U.S. to declare a war on terrorism.  The days after 9/11 also saw a remarkable burst of pride nationwide for the heroic actions of rescue workers in the burning buildings. 

bin Laden, Osama - a radical Islamic leader in the Middle East who organized terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and on the Pentagon building just outside Washington, D.C. 
    Bin Laden was born into a large and prosperous Saudi Arabian family.  As he embraced an increasingly fanatical version of Islamic beliefs, however, he moved his base of operations to Afghanistan.  There, he operated the terrorist training camps of his al Qaeda organization under the protection of a fanatical Islamic group called the Taliban.  His bizarre beliefs and anti-American preaching attracted a wide following, as cruel brutality wrapped in religous fanaticism often does.  American officials believe groups of his followers still pose a serious threat to the United States and other nations all over the globe.
   After years of living in hiding after 9/11, bin Laden was located in Pakistan and killed during a raid by Navy SEALs in 2011.  His body was buried at sea so no burial place on land could become a shrine to his followers.

Bush, George W. - elected president in 2000, he is the son of President George H.W. Bush and is a former governor of Texas. 
    The presidential election was so close that the Supreme Court was called upon to decide how certain ballots cast in Florida should be counted.
    The threat of terrorism was the first major challenge for the new president.  His firm but steady reaction to the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon won him wide respect.  The Bush administration quickly enlisted the support of many other nations in a military action in Afghanistan to capture or destroy groups that had aided the attackers. 
    At home, President Bush pushed for a reorganization of various federal offices under a new Department of Homeland Security.  The nation began planning for the possibility of even larger terrorist attacks against the U.S. by followers of Osama bin Laden. 
    The president's decision to send troops to the Middle East in a showdown with the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, however, brought criticism from those who hoped war could be avoided.  The war in Iraq, which quickly overthrew Hussein's government, did appeared to be going well at first.  Violent attacks by groups within Iraq against each other, however, dragged the conflict out year after year, with American troops often caught in the middle.
   While President Bush enjoyed widespread popularity his first term, his second term saw that support greatly reduced.  In 2007 the nation's economy made a severe downturn in a recession that threw millions of Americans out of work.  Osama bin Laden, the architect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was still at large.  The war in Iraq was still lingering.  Many of the president's critics - fairly or unfairly - laid the blame entirely on him.   

Great Recession - the common nickname for the economic downturn that began in 2007 and ended in 2009.  Overall, it was the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  It is called the "Great Recession" because although the recession technically ended in 2009, the economy did not quickly return to the normal pattern of growth.  Unemployment figures remained high for many years, and many employers began hiring part time workers instead of creating full time jobs. 

Iraq War - the invasion of Iraq by the U.S. and allied countries that started in 2003 with the goal of ending the rule of its brutal dictator Saddam Hussein.  Based on intelligence reports, many American leaders believed Hussein was providing help to terrorists, and that his military was developing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).  Hussein's government was quickly overthrown, he was captured, and was executed several years later by the new Iraq government. 
   No clear evidence of a large scale WMD program was discovered in Iraq, however, leading some critics of the war to argue that the invasion was based on false information.
   American troops helped run the first elections held in Iraq in many decades, and there were high hopes that the war would end with the establishment of a new, peaceful democracy.  That hope was dashed as various Islamic groups within Iraq, harboring long-held hatreds, began terrorizing each other in a struggle for power and revenge. 
    A "surge" of American troops in 2007 helped bring the situation under better control.  President Obama, following his campaign pledge, ordered U.S. troops to begin withdrawing.  By the end of 2011, all U.S. troops were out.  Some American military experts, however, criticized the withdrawal as unwise.  As they correctly predicted, the weakness of Iraq's own army made it possible for a new terrorist organization called ISIS or ISL to begin taking over parts of the country in 2014.  By the middle of the next year, President Obama agreed to allow the U.S. military to make limited air strikes against the organization's fighters.

Islam - a religion that emerged in the Middle East in the 7th century, and which today includes over 1.5 billion followers worldwide.  Its followers are called Muslims.  Islam's sacred book is called the Koran (also Qur'an).  According to believers, the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in the early 600s by God acting through an angel named Gabriel. 
Muslims consider that it is the final and complete revelation of God, who is called Allah in the Arabic language. 

jihad - in the religion of Islam, this term that can have several meanings.  It is often used to mean the duty of believers to struggle within themselves to live a good and proper religious life.  It can also be used to refer to a struggle to spread the religion, or a struggle against enemies of the religion.  As a result of the rise of terrorism rooted in radical Islamic beliefs, however, the term is often translated or understood in that context as meaning "holy war" against non-believers.

Obama, Barack - a former community organizer, law professor, and U.S. Senator who was elected in 2008 as the country's first African American president.  With a campaign slogan of "Hope and Change," the Democratic Party candidate inspired many voters who were angry about an economic downturn and rising unemployment.  He also pledged to work to reduce tensions with groups in the Middle East, and said he would move quickly to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
   As president, Obama pushed for a much greater role for the federal government in providing health insurance.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is generally known as "Obamacare," and was passed by Congress in 2010 after intense political pressure from the president and his supporters.  The program is intended to make it easier for low-income families to obtain health insurance, but his critics argued that the plan would make medical care more expensive in the long run. 
   In the Middle East, President Obama withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011.  Peace was not long-lasting in that country, however.  With American troops gone, a radical Islamic organization called ISIS or ISL began taking over and terrorizing parts of Iraq and parts of nearby countries in 2014.  As the situation grew worse, the president agreed to a limited role for American air strikes against the organization's fighters. 

Pentagon - the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, just outside Washington, D.C., in the Northern Virginia suburb of Arlington.  The Pentagon was hit by one of the jetliners hijacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, killing more than a hundred people inside.  Many thousands more would have died, but because of renovation work, most employees who normally worked in the area of the building that was hit were working in other areas.

World Trade Center - a group of office buildings in New York City, including the two towers that were hit by terrorists who crashed jetliners into them on Sept. 11, 2001.  The two buildings collapsed shortly after the hijacked planes hit them.  Over 2,600 people in or near the buildings were killed.  Thousands of others managed to get out before the buildings fell.  City officials quickly declared that they would build a new, even more spectacular building on the site.  The new building, called One World Trade Center, opened for business in 2014.

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Copyright 2015 by David Burns.  All rights reserved.