America After 9-11 Essay Topics For High School Students

Simon Jenkins: 'The response to 9/11 was as Bin Laden must have dreamed'

No single figure since the second world war has made so profound an impact on world events as Osama bin Laden. Had the world responded to his 9/11 attack on America with moderation he would probably have disappeared, expelled from Afghanistan or killed by his Tajik enemies. Even the Taliban were known to have been shocked by 9/11, when almost the entire Muslim world came out in sympathy with America (including the PLO in Palestine).

It was a brief moment of American moral supremacy. Yet by launching armed aggression, first against Afghanistan and then against Iraq, America wholly squandered this gain. The aggression led to a tide of anti-Americanism and surge of support for fanatical Islamism across the Muslim world. The wars cost tens of thousands of lives and caused mass destruction. The billions of dollars expended on them was financed largely from borrowing, which in turn has destabilised the world economy.

All this was out of all proportion to the attacks on 9/11. Indeed the response to 9/11 was as Bin Laden must have dreamed. He saw widespread hostility towards the west and its aggressive behaviour in the Muslim world. Civil liberties were curbed and governments reverted to cold war paranoia. America was again the great Satan. The peace dividend so eagerly awaited at the end of the 20th century evaporated as the security industry exploited counter-terrorism and seized every chance of profit and risk aversion. Bin Laden became a role model for fanatics everywhere. The decade since 9/11 must rank among the most inept and counterproductive eras in the story of modern statesmanship.

Jonathan Powell: '9/11 may have been the high water mark for al-Qaida'

9/11 changed America fundamentally, far more so than outsiders realised at the time. For Americans it genuinely was a new Pearl Harbour, an attack on the homeland that made them feel vulnerable for the first time in 60 years. It turned an administration with quasi-isolationist tendencies into one committed to robust intervention overseas.

The outcome was a new focus on combating global terrorism, particularly al-Qaida. Huge new resources were thrown into the battle. Paradoxically, looking back, 9/11 may have been the high water mark for al-Qaida rather than the beginning of a new terrorist threat. The group has since been unable to mount so spectacular an attack again. The Arab spring has now rendered it almost irrelevant. In retrospect, perhaps the west put too much effort into the physical battle against international terrorism and not enough into addressing the grievances the extremists were able to exploit, particularly the failure to advance peace in the Middle East.

The destruction of the twin towers graphically illustrated the dark side of globalisation. Terrorists used the tools of a modern global society, the internet, open borders and hi-tech aeroplanes, to attack the west at home. Fortunately, they failed to provoke our societies into closing their borders and hunkering down at home and instead we reacted with a greater willingness to engage internationally. The attack gave birth to an unprecedented universal coalition of revulsion. That consensus fragmented over Iraq. Divisions over Afghanistan, Libya and Syria show that it has not yet been rebuilt. I hope one day it can be recaptured without a repeat of the appalling tragedy that first brought it into being.

• Jonathan Powell was chief of staff to Tony Blair 1997-2007

Mohammed Hanif: 'Pakistanis realise that the trauma is far from over'

"Why do you attack innocent children," a failed suicide bomber in Pakistan was asked in an interview last year. "Who says children are innocent?" he replied. American drones hovering over Pakistan's northern areas are programmed to work with the same logic: guilty until proven dead.

When United States decided to outsource part of its "war of terror" to Pakistan's military establishment, it effectively sealed the fate of democracy in the country for a decade. When George W Bush embraced General Pervez Musharraf he was doing exactly what his predecessors had done when they propped up another military dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq, to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. We all know how that turned out. Taliban fighters are mujahideen's orphaned children, and they believe that American innocence is nothing but a well-rehearsed pose. Even the Taliban's victims concur.

In the days after 9/11 some Pakistanis had hoped that the American bombs would fall on Saudi Arabia from where the attackers came. But those bombs fell on Pakistan. And when they didn't fall from the sky, they blew up in mosques and bazaars.

Pakistanis are too poor to go and seek treatment for post traumatic stress disorder. They also realise that the trauma is far from over. When army generals and their cheerleaders talk about Afghanistan's end game people see a series of random slaughters across their land. There is no dearth of western academic sneering at bewildered Pakistanis and telling them that they brought it upon themselves. Try saying that to survivors of the 9/11 attacks.

• Mohammed Hanif is a novelist and special correspondent for BBC Urdu

PJ Crowley: 'Building up a global immune system to fight this disease will take more than a decade'

The good news 10 years after 9/11 is that the world has and is changing, but in ways that contradict the narrative Osama bin Laden advanced before his death.

Al-Qaida has been a non-factor in the Arab spring. The inspiring protest movements in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and elsewhere are uninterested in taking their region or their religion back in time, as Bin Laden advocated. As they push autocratic leaders to the side, they seek a political state close to democracy, certainly not a Caliphate.

The protesters, connected to the internet and the modern world, don't define themselves as being separate. They see the gap in political, economic and social development that exists with the rest of the world and want better. They want opportunity, within a religious framework that is not yet fully defined, but open to debate, not closed by dogma.

Over the past decade, international co-operation and co-ordinated action have reduced, if not eliminated the threat. Networks that engage in or support violent extremism are under pressure, but they remain dangerous. From Yemen and Somalia to Pakistan and the Maghreb, these groups could take advantage of chaos or disillusionment if the ongoing Arab transition fails to deliver real results.

If there is a lesson to be learned from 9/11, it is persistence. It is politically tempting after Bin Laden's demise to declare victory, but the job is not done. Building up a global immune system to fight this disease will take more than a decade. It will take a generation.

• PJ Crowley is the Omar Bradley chair at Dickinson College, Penn State University law school and the Army War College

Orzala Ashraf Nemat: 'The war has done great harm to our people for all sorts of reasons'

The twin towers collapsed oceans and miles away from Afghanistan – at that time a country that looked like a graveyard, whose people were still suffering from war, discrimination and humiliation. In 2001, a small battery-run radio was the only means of communication in most of the country. Many Afghans felt that the US attack may mark the beginning of the end of the horror we were experiencing. Many felt good may come from what the United States had experienced, not because they are sadistic, or take pleasure in the death of others, but simply because they thought that the world powers will only understand our suffering if they experience it themselves.

It took the US only one month to react militarily, attacking the "source" of where the 9/11 attacks were planned. Hundreds and thousands of Afghan once again had to flee their homes, as they feared being hit by US bombs. As terrorists and all who collaborated with them were targeted, the fear of B52 war planes persuaded many warlord commanders to shave or shorten their beards and dress like democrats in black suits – but as we have subsequently seen, many of them remained the same on the inside.

First bombs and then political settlements followed the events. In Bonn, Germany, most of the active Afghan actors gathered to agree on power sharing and the only two groups who felt unrepresented there later became the ones who cause most of the troubles.

Ten years on, it would be unrealistic to ignore the tremendous level of progress that Afghanistan has made thanks partly to the international community and partly to the determination of Afghans themselves, who chose to work rebuilding and recreating Afghanistan again. From paved roads to girls going to school, to historical record-breaking media development, there have been positive developments.

However, the war – never the choice of the Afghan people – has done great harm to our people for all sorts of different local, national, regional and international reasons. Widespread corruption, the massive arming of militias, the fuelling of war by neighbouring countries, the civilian losses and night raids and deterioration of security have all undermined our children's education, out women's ability to work, our ability to provide basic social services to the neediest part of population. Overwhelming dependency on foreign aid is still a challenge for Afghan people who would like to make their country stand on its own feet and live life peacefully.

• Orzala Ashraf Nemat is an independent human rights and civil society activist/researcher from Afghanistan

George Galloway: 'Now scarcely anyone believes the state whatever it says'

Within an hour of the second plane striking the twin towers in New York I was filing a piece for the Guardian. What I wrote was widely criticised at the time by kneejerk, laptop warriors because, while placing the blame for the atrocity squarely on the Bin Laden-inspired Salafists (who turned out indeed to be the culprits), I argued that the planes didn't come out of a clear blue sky but emerged from the swamp of hatred the west had sown over many years. I drew attention to our double standards and the injustice we had perpetrated and facilitated throughout the Muslim world. I identified – in the article, and in a speech a few days later when the House was recalled – our role in the Palestinian catastrophe and the propping up of the dictators who ruled almost all of the Muslim world as being the twin reasons that some enraged Muslims were being drawn to Bin Laden.

In my speeches in the House after 9/11 I argued that if we handled this atrocity the wrong way we would produce 10,000 new Bin Ladens, which we surely did. I argued that for as long as Muslim blood and freedoms were regarded more cheaply and more dispensable than the west's own wellbeing we would face a deepening confrontation with the near 2 billion-strong Muslim world. And we have.

I underestimated the extent to which our own people would rise up against the failure of western policy towards the east, and also the damage that this and the subsequent militarised mendacity would do to the whole credibility of governance in countries such as our own and the United States.

Now scarcely anyone believes the state whatever it says, on terrorism, war, freedom of information, climate change, even when the governments are telling the truth. It is the final vindication of the great Claud Cockburn's famous dictum "believe nothing until it has been officially denied".

• George Galloway is the vice president of the Stop The War coalition

Aditya Chakrabortty: '9/11 has marked countries and political cultures neither faraway nor impoverished'

It's tempting to think that the aftermath of September 11 was felt largely Out There: in Washington, say, or Kabul. Tempting, but wrong – because 9/11 has marked countries and political cultures neither faraway nor impoverished. Places like Norway. Or Britain.

Hours before he began his killing spree this summer Anders Behring Breivik posted a 1,500-page manifesto. He claimed to be waging war on "Islamic imperialism" and his supposed "martydom operation" was against an Islamic civilisation rolling across western soil.

Breivik and other neo-Nazis used to assert racial superiority; now they claim an existential threat from Islamic culture. For proof they point to Osama or to home-grown terrorists.

This is the argument pushed by the English Defence League, who so impressed the Norwegian gunman. As academic Matt Goodwin points out, the EDL bases its arguments not around the BNP staple of white supremacy but "the more socially acceptable issue of culture". They don't hate Muslims for their colour, but their beliefs – although on a dark night in Luton after a fascist march you'd struggle to discern the difference.

This view was lent legitimacy by George W Bush and (especially) Tony Blair, who framed the argument after 9/11 as a clash of values. Nowadays, former ministers to Silvio Berlusconi justify Breivik's ideas as "in defence of western civilisation". And in this year's Munich speech, David Cameron attacked "Islamist extremism" and "state multiculturalism" before laying down the most blandly toxic of lines: "Let us engage groups that share our aspirations." But who exactly does the prime minister consider "us", and how do "our aspirations" differ from theirs?

Inayat Bunglawala: 'The turmoil of the past 10 years emphasises the need to be vigilant about the power exercised by our governments'

The 9/11 attacks represented a patent attempt by al-Qaida to goad the United States into open warfare. All the better, after all, to convince young Muslims across the world that America was really at war with Islam and that they should heed al-Qaida's call to come to the defence of their faith.

Osama bin Laden must have been thrilled by the wars launched against Afghanistan and Iraq, and the opportunities this presented to them. He and his recruiters were now able to point out how the world's most vocal proponents of freedom, dignity and human rights were actually behaving towards Muslims in Guantánamo Bay, through extraordinary rendition, the copious use of waterboarding, and routine torture in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

What the turmoil of the past 10 years have served to emphasise is the need to be vigilant about the power exercised by our governments, and to work to ensure that the human rights of all people – Muslim or otherwise – are properly safeguarded.

• Inayat Bunglawala is the founder and chair of Muslims4UK

Carne Ross: 'Stateless phenomena need to be fought by stateless means'

Events since 9/11 have demonstrated a fundamental tension of the 21st century, but one that is barely admitted – and certainly not by governments. It is that between states and statelessness or, to put it another way, between states and borderless or globalised phenomena.

Al-Qaida transcended borders. It has succeeded in starting a global movement, with almost no structure, few funds and virtually no hierarchy. Groups and individuals have affiliated to it in almost all regions, and including the US and UK. There are no membership requirements, save shared belief and a willingness to kill.

Apart from this last quality, al-Qaida represents a new form of political organisation in the 21st century: stateless, self-organised, dynamic not fixed or institutionalised. Al-Qaida is a particularly nasty variant, but this kind of organisation, or rather movement, will eventually become the norm.

In response, states have tried to pretend that we still live in a world where states matter most of all, and organise the world. The US/UK invaded states – Afghanistan, then Iraq. Neither invasion has quelled terrorism. They may have exacerbated it, if the head of MI5 is to be believed.

After the horror of 9/11, it was clear that governments faced their own desperate requirement: to reassert their own usefulness and necessity, having so abjectly failed in their primary duty of protection. They launched vastly expensive wars, in money and lives.

And they have failed. We now confront a war without end, with our privacy and sense of safety permanently compromised. Governments think this is just fine: their necessity is endlessly reaffirmed; their self-given rights to invade our lives and minds reinforced. A vast new security industry has been born, with mercenary armies and secret, sometimes lawless and typically unaccountable bureaucracies. This industry has an intrinsic interest in the perpetuation of the danger.

The lesson of the last 10 years is that stateless phenomena need to be fought by stateless means. We need new movements to take on terrorism, with ideas, with argument, with engagement by a force far more powerful than any army. That force is our own compassion, wisdom and collaboration. It is us.

• Carne Ross is a former British diplomat who now runs Independent Diplomat

September 11: Lessons and Resources for Classroom Teachers

What are teachers doing to help their students understand the attacks that took place September 11, 2001? EducationWorld has culled from the Web and listservs a list of possible resources.

For millions of Americans, December 7, 1941, is inextricably linked to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. November 22, 1963, is instantly synonymous with John F. Kennedy's assassination. Now, Americans have one more dark day indelibly etched in our memories: September 11, 2001.

How can teachers help students put the events of September 11 into a meaningful context? Below, EducationWorld has gathered background information, lessons and ideas that can help.

Don't miss the EducationWorld article Helping Children Cope: Teacher Resources for Talking About Tragedy.


Schools will recognize the September 11 anniversary in many different ways. Some will honor the memory of those who died. Other teachers will engage students with lessons that challenge them to think or that help them put the events of September 11 in perspective.

Education World presents Remembering September 11, which includes five new lessons to help teachers reflect upon the September 11, 2001, attack on the United States. Those lessons keep alive the spirit of patriotism and tolerance stimulated by the events of 9/11. We also offer below a long list of online lessons and other resources to help make classroom observances more meaningful and inspiring.

Two more resources worth noting:

  • About Our Kids [archived copy] offers resources such as a school manual with practical steps for recognizing the anniversary of September 11.
  • The National Association of School Psychologists offers Remembering September 11 [archived copy], which includes "One Year Later" tip sheets for parents, adolescents, and teachers plus a list of do's and don'ts for memorial activities at school.


  • PBS: America Responds
    PBS offers a variety of lesson plans for educators. Those plans include A World At Peace (for grades 2-6), Tolerance in Times of Trial (grades 6-12), Emergency Preparedness (grades 6-8), Taming Terrorism (grades 9-12), and more.
  • Beyond Blame: Reacting to the Terrorist Attack
    The Education Development Center created this 25-page curriculum for middle and high school students in response to concern that the terrorist attacks created a hostile climate for Arab Americans -- much like the climate Japanese Americans faced following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • Who Are the Arab Americans?
    Activity ideas designed to challenge student misperceptions about people of Arab descent -- from the Web site Teaching Tolerance.
  • Dear Teacher: Letters on the Eve of the Japanese American Imprisonment
    A classroom lesson focused on letters sent by Japanese American middle school students to their teacher in the days following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.
  • Reflecting on September 11
    The Constitutional Rights Foundation has assembled a series of online lessons designed to help young people deal with terrorism, reactions to tragedy, information and disinformation, civil liberties, Islamic issues, and international law.
  • Teaching September 11
    This lesson from PBS's Online News Hour provides classroom discussion resources for talking about the recent controversy over the 9/11 resources published for teachers on the NEA's Web site.
  • Helping America Cope
    This updated guide contains activities to help children cope with the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The guide is designed for use with children six to 12 years of age; however, many of the activities have effectively been adapted for use with older children.
  • Dealing With Tragedy in the Classroom
    WNET in New York City offers these activities to help students cope with loss and learn how to talk to on another about their feelings.
    The New York Times presents this page, which provides lists of all those killed on September 11 and a National Book of Remembrance in which Americans can write their reflections about the events of September 11.
  • America Responds to Terrorism
    The Constitutional Rights Foundation has prepared online lessons, including September 11 -- How Did You Feel?, Fact Finders -- The Media During Times of Crisis, and Analyzing Rumors and Myths.
  • Understanding Stereotypes
    This lesson from teaches the ideas that assumptions can lead to stereotypes and unfair judgments about individuals and groups.
  • Lesson Plans About Terrorism
    This list from links to lessons comes from
  • Chain of Hope
    This news article from the St. Petersburg Times tells of a classroom lesson in which students created a "chain of hope." Students wrote personal messages on strips of red, white, and blue paper. They planned to send the chain to the New York City Fire Department.
  • Aaron Shepherd's Reader's Theater: The War Prayer
    "The War Prayer," a short story by Mark Twain, is presented in reader's theater format on this page from Aaron Shepherd's Web site. The script is appropriate for middle and high school students.
  • Another Day That Will Live in Infamy
    In this lesson from the New York Times Learning Network, students are encouraged to share, through discussion and writing, their feelings about September 11, 2001.
  • Hooray for Heroes
    This lesson challenges students to define what a hero is and to select a hero to spotlight.
  • Culture Matters Workbook
    Teachers and students in grades eight and up can benefit from this cross-cultural training workbook. It was developed by the Peace Corps to help new volunteers acquire the knowledge and skills to work successfully and respectfully in other cultures.
  • An American Tragedy: September 11, 2001's resources include a timeline of the events of September 11, a printable map of the four hijacked airliners' routes, news and informational articles, lesson plans, and more.
  • One Man's Freedom Fighter Is Another Man's Terrorist
    In this WebQuest, students determine the extent of the threat to the United States from terrorism, both domestically and internationally.
  • Preventing Terrorism on the Home Front
    In this lesson plan from CNN, students examine a report by the U.S. Commission on National Security in the 21st Century. They analyze the recommendations of the bipartisan commission and defend or oppose the commission's recommendations.
  • Terror on Trial
    In this lesson plan from the New York Time Learning Network, students examine the motivations, goals, and actions of terrorist countries.
  • What About You?
    Teachers might use this short story about aliens to start a classroom discussion about prejudice.
  • MidLink Magazine's Resources for Helping Students Deal with Tragedy: Lessons and Curriculum
    This page offers links to a variety of lessons.
  • Pencil Flag
    Have students create their own "remember" pencil flags.
  • USA Activities
    ABCteach offers activities and other resources. Included: September 11th Bookmarks.
  • Teaching 9/11/01: Lesson Plans and Syllabi
    Links to lesson plans for all grades, compiled by the Clarke Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Contemporary Issues (Dickinson College).
  • Global Connections: The Middle East
    PBS offers a rich collection of background articles, lesson plans, timeline, and other resources, which are indexed to help educators quickly find topics and materials that are most relevant for their classroom needs.
  • United We Stand
    Publisher Prentice Hall offers classroom lessons on understanding prejudice and students' responses to the terrorist attacks. (Click on Classroom Lessons and Resources at the bottom of the page.


  • In the Mix: The New Normal
    Resources to accompany a three-episode series of In the Mix, a weekly show for teens.
  • Muslim Students in the Classroom
    This teacher-created resource explains what Muslims believe and what to expect from the Muslim student.
  • Why Is My Loyalty Questioned?
    In this student-created Web site, parallels are drawn between how the Japanese were discriminated against in the days after the attack on Pearl Harbor and how the same thing happened to many Arab Americans in the aftermath of September 11.
  • America Responds
    Resources from PBS.
  • Children of September 11
    This children's page of the Families of September 11 Web site includes links to resources for teachers.
  • September 11 Through Children's Eyes
    A student-created Web site. The students visited New York P.S. 89, which is located a block from Ground Zero. The site shares their interviews with students and teachers and more.
  • A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam, Muslims, and the Koran
    This Islamic guide for non-Muslims is rich in information, references, bibliography, and illustrations.
  • Life After 9/11
    Special reports from the PBS Online News Hour with Jim Lehrer.
  • Scholars of Islam and the Tragedy of September 11
    This Web page is produced through the cooperation of more than 50 professors of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies.
  • Global Connections
    This resource from Boston's PBS station, WGBH, offers a timeline of Middle Eastern history and resources for responding to six big-issue questions.
  • America Rebuilds
    A resource from PBS that documents the cleanup of the WTC site and planning for the future.
  • Why the Towers Fell
    This companion Web site to a NOVA (PBS) episode follows a team of forensic engineers during their in-depth investigation of the precise causes of the Twin Towers' collapse.
  • Heroes of Ground Zero
    This is the companion Web site to a WNET program that presents a candid account of the firefighters in two New York City firehouses as they struggle to cope in the aftermath of the tragedy.

(Updated 8/15/2011)


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