George W. Bush addresses the Nation (9-11 attacks) 2011, primary source documents with reading questions


President George W. Bush addresses the Nation after the 9-11 attacks.


Joint Session of Congress, September 20, 2011

On September 11, 2001, the world witnessed the deadliest terrorist attack in its history. That morning, nineteen Islamic extremists hijacked four commercial airplanes, flying two into the World Trade Center in New York City and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Two towers of the World Trade Center soon collapsed. After passengers tackled their hijackers, the fourth plane crashed in a field southeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, instead of reaching its intended target, either the U.S. Capitol or the White House. The incidents left more than 3,000 people dead.

Within days of the 9-11 attacks, the nineteen Saudi hijackers were identified and linked to Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist network. A millionaire and fundamentalist Muslim, bin Laden pledged to destroy the United States and Saudi monarchy. Using his fortune and a wide network, bin Laden orchestrated several attacks on Americans, including bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the U.S.S. Cole.

The Bush administration responded immediately to the 9-11 incidents. Backed by a multinational coalition against terrorism, U.S. soldiers and intelligence operatives began a global hunt for members of al-Qaeda. In October 2001, American and British forces launched air strikes on Afghanistan, whose Taliban regime harbored bin Laden and his terrorist training camps. By year’s end, the Taliban collapsed, but bin Laden escaped. In the United States, Attorney John Ashcroft issued several directives limiting access to government information and authorizing the secret detention and expulsion  of suspected terrorists. Congress passed the USA Patriot Act granting the FBI and other law enforcement agencies broad access to medical, financial, and academic records. The law also significantly expanded the government’s ability to conduct surveillance. At the same time, the U.S. Postal Service, airlines, office complexes, stadiums, and many other institutions implemented new security procedures. Although it will take years to assess fully the implications of the “war on terrorism,” it is difficult to overstate its immediate impact on American society.

In this speech, President George W. Bush addresses a joint session of Congress and prepares the nation for the “war on terrorism.”

Document with Reading Questions: George W. Bush Addresses the Nation (9-11 attacks) 2011


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