The War on Terrorism, also known as the War on Terror, is the common
term for the various military, political and legal actions initiated by
the United States government, in response to the September 11th, 2001
The official objectives of the 2001 War on Terrorism are to counter
terrorist threats, prevent terrorist acts and curb the influence of
terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda. Both the term and the
policies it denotes have been a source of ongoing controversy, as
critics argue it has been used to justify unilateral preemptive war,
human rights abuses and other violations of international law.
Terrorist organizations, chiefly al-Qaeda, carried out attacks on the
U.S. and its allies throughout the last few years of the 20th century.
The 1993 World Trade Center bombing by Al-Qaida was the first of many
terrorist attacks upon Americans during this period.
Later that year, in the Battle of Mogadishu (1993), Somali militia
fighters loyal to warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid took part in an assault
upon US forces in Somalia, killing 19 members of the US military.
President Clinton subsequently withdrew US combat forces from Somalia
(there originally to support UN relief efforts), a move described by
Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden as evidence of American weakness.
These attacks were followed by others including the 1996 Khobar Towers
bombing in Saudi Arabia, and the 1998 United States embassy bombings in
Tanzania and Kenya. Also in 1998 came the World Islamic Front
declaration of February 23rd, 1998, entitled "Jihad Against Jews and
Crusaders", which described the actions of Americans as conflicting
with "Allah's order", and stated the Front's "ruling to kill the
Americans and their allies, civilians and military, is an individual
duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is
possible to do it."
Led by Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaida had by now formed a large base of
operations in Afghanistan, which had been ruled by the Islamic
extremist regime of the Taliban since 1996.
Following the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, President
Bill Clinton launched Operation Infinite Reach, a bombing campaign in
Sudan and Afghanistan against targets associated with al-Qaeda. The
strikes failed to kill al-Qaeda'a leaders or their Taliban supporters
(buildings destroyed by the Americans included a civilian
pharmaceutical plant in Sudan that produced 90% of the region's anti-
Next came the 2000 millennium attack plots, which included an attempted
bombing of Los Angeles International Airport.
In October of 2000, the USS Cole bombing occurred, followed by the
September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. The attacks of 9/11 created an
immediate demand throughout the United States for a decisive response,
leading to an invasion of Afghanistan dubbed Operation Enduring
Freedom, which removed the Taliban from power and ended al-Qaeda's use
of the country as a terrorist base.
In 2001, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1373,
which obliges all States to criminalize assistance for terrorist
activities, deny financial support and safe haven to terrorists and
share information about groups planning terrorist attacks.
In 2005, the Security Council also adopted resolution 1624 concerning
incitement to commit acts of terrorism and the obligations of countries
to comply with international human rights laws. Although both
resolutions require mandatory annual reports on counter terrorism
activities by adopting nations, the United States and Israel have both
declined to submit reports.
Stated U.S. objectives and strategies
The Bush Administration has defined the following objectives in the War
- Defeat terrorists and their organizations.
- Identify, locate and destroy terrorists along with their
- Deny sponsorship, support and sanctuary to terrorists.
- End the state sponsorship of terrorism.
- Establish and maintain an international standard of
accountability with regard to combating terrorism.
- Strengthen and sustain the international effort to fight
- Working with willing and able states.
- Enabling weak states.
- Persuading reluctant states.
- Compelling unwilling states.
- Interdict and disrupt material support for terrorists.
- Eliminate terrorist sanctuaries and havens.
- Diminishing the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to
- Partner with the international community to strengthen weak
states and prevent (re)emergence of terrorism.
- Win the war of ideals.
- Defend U.S. citizens and interests at home and abroad.
- 1. Implement the Nation Strategy for Homeland Security.
- Attain domain awareness.
- Enhance measures to ensure the integrity, reliability, and
availability of critical physical and information-based infrastructures
at home and abroad.
- Integrate measures to protect U.S. citizens abroad.
- Ensure an integrated incident management capability.
Number of persons killed in the "War
on Terrorism" as defined
There is no widely agreed on figure for the number of people that have
been killed so far in the "War on Terrorism" as it has been defined by
the Bush Administration to include the war in Afghanistan, the war in
Iraq, and operations elsewhere. Some estimates include the following:
- Iraq — 62,570 to
- Opinion Research Business (ORB) poll conducted August 12-19,
2007 estimated 1,033,000 violent deaths due to the Iraq War. The range
given was 946,000 to 1,120,000 deaths. A nationally representative
sample of approximately 2000 Iraqi adults answered whether any members
of their household (living under their roof) were killed due to the
Iraq War. 22% of the respondents had lost one or more household
members. ORB reported that "48% died from a gunshot wound, 20% from the
impact of a car bomb, 9% from aerial bombardment, 6% as a result of an
accident and 6% from another blast/ordnance."
- Between 392,979 and 942,636 estimated Iraqi (655,000 with a
confidence interval of 95%), civilian and combatant, according to the
second Lancet survey of mortality.
- A minimum of 62,570 civilian deaths reported in the mass media
up to 28 April 2007 according to IraqBodyCount.
- 4000 U.S. military dead (2008 26 March). 22,401 wounded in
action, of which 10,050 were unable to return to duty within 72 hours.
6,640 non-hostile injuries and 18,183 diseases (both requiring medical
- Afghanistan — between
1,300 and 49,600
- According to Marc W. Herold, up to 3,600 civilians were killed
as a result of U.S. bombing.
- Joshua Muravchik of the American Enterprise Institute and Carl
Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives question Herold's heavy
use of the Afghan Islamic Press, "suspicious" tallies of other news
agencies, and statistical errors in Herold's study. Conetta's study
puts total civilian casualties between 1000 and 1300.
- A Los Angeles Times study put the number of collateral dead
between 1,067 and 1,201.
- According to Jonathan Steele of The Guardian between 20,000 and
49,600 people may have died of the consequences of the invasion.
- Somalia — 7,000 plus
- In December 2007, The Elman Peace and Human Rights Organisation
said it had verified 6,500 civilian deaths, 8,516 people wounded, and
1.5 million displaced from homes in Mogadishu alone during the year
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