For a generation, American leaders, chastened by the Vietnam War debacle, undertook foreign military enterprises only with extreme caution. Even the Desert Storm (Ch. 15) invasion of Iraq to liberate Kuwait proceeded, successfully, only after Republican President George H. W. Bush mobilized a host of nations to participate.
By the turn of the century, however, a hardline Middle Eastern Islamic constituency seethed at the continued presence of “Crusader” and “Zionist” commercial interests, as well as military presence.
Since fighting the Soviets, the aforementioned Bin Laden had grown into an idolized legend among the multiplying legion of anti-Western “jihadists,” or Muslim “holy warriors.” He was also an international terrorist atop the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List for masterminding a string of slaughters against Americans and others that he now considered enemies.
He publicly declared his many bitter complaints against the United States. These included America’s continued support of the Jewish state of Israel against the Palestinians, the presence of U.S. troops in the “sacred” Muslim land of Saudi Arabia, and the wealth that American oil and gas pipelines were pumping out of the Middle East.
Then on September 11, 2001—a date that lives with equal infamy in American history as the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii—Bin Laden’s jihadist Al-Qaeda organization hijacked several American commercial jet airliners. They flew them into two of the world’s tallest buildings, the Twin Towers in New York City, as well as the U.S. Defense Department’s Pentagon headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The terrorists flew a fourth hijacked plane toward the White House residence in Washington of Republican President George W. Bush, son of the earlier President Bush. Only the heroic defiance of Texan Todd Beamer—immortalized by his last-minute words “Let’s Roll” recorded on his wife’s telephone voice mail—and others crashed the plane in Pennsylvania, killing all on board and likely saving the lives of many more Americans.
As it was, 3,000 people—men, women, and children—died. In a manner similar to that Pearl Harbor attack, the American public rose nearly as one in outrage as the truth emerged that men from an ideology and civilization long in tension with America were responsible. Flags festooned tens of millions of American homes. The young men and women of the nation’s voluntary military shipped out to the Middle East.
In command of them was Wynnewood, Oklahoma native and four-star general Tommy Franks. One of the most decorated Americans of the Vietnam War, Franks had won three Bronze Stars with Valor and three purple hearts for wounds sustained. He now commanded the United States Central Command, overseeing U.S. military operations throughout the Middle East.
The asymmetrical nature of the foe dubbed by George W. Bush the “War on Terror” complicated matters. It was not an identifiable geopolitical nation. As mentioned, Bin Laden was from Saudi and Syrian parentage. Most of the hijackers also hailed from Saudi Arabia. Others came from Egypt, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates.
The U.S., however, invaded Afghanistan, acting on intelligence that its brutal Taliban regime and Al-Qaeda confederates were aiding and abetting Bin Laden and his forces. Bitter fighting followed amidst the rugged hills and mountains, blind canyons, and Arctic-like winter conditions that had bequeathed Afghanistan the title of “Graveyard of Empires.” Franks’s tough, well-trained American troops crushed their enemy and removed the murderous Taliban from power.
The United Nations Security Council authorized installation of a new government comprised of Taliban enemies. The U.S. led a Herculean effort to rebuild the ravaged nation.
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Oklahomans Vol 2 :
Statehood - 2020s
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