How Safe Are Our Skies? Assessing the Airlines' Response to Terrorism

By Rodney Wallis | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3

Governments Response to Air Terrorism: An Effective Approach or a Dangerous Myth?

The response of the United States and its allies to the attack on U.S. targets in September 2001 was immediate and unconditional. President George W. Bush declared war on terror. His primary target was Osama bin Laden, the immensely rich Saudi exile who led the fanatical Muslim terrorist organization al-Qa’eda. Bin Laden had based his group in the mountain wastes of Afghanistan. His natural allies, the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist movement, had been the unofficial government of most of the country since 1996. To the president, war against bin Laden meant taking on the Taliban, a task he was prepared to accept. Thus for a third time in modern times, troops from a Western country moved into Afghanistan. The British had been there in the nineteenth century when they fought two wars with the Afghans, occupying Kabul on both occasions. It was the turn of the Soviets in the twentieth century, and now, at the start of the twenty-first, the Americans arrived with their British allies. The Russians also returned. This reaction to the destruction wrought on U.S. targets by the airborne agents of al-Qa’eda was well outside the responses normally associated with air terrorism. However, other actions were taken that more directly affected civil aviation. The first of these actions closed the skies above America. As a result, U.S. airports, including Washington’s National Airport, were closed. No

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