4.1 The ‘War on Terror’
On Tuesday 11 September 2001, almost 3,000 people were killed in the USA when four domestic passenger planes were hijacked and crashed in a coordinated attack. Many more were injured and suffered health-related illnesses (including premature death) following the events of what would come to be known as 9/11 (see The Guardian, 2016).
The attacks were quickly identified by the U.S. Government as an act of terrorism with responsibility attributed to an international militant Islamist group called Al Qaeda. Nine days later, the then President of the United States, George W. Bush, announced that the U.S. was embarking upon a ‘War on Terror’, in response to the attacks.
Since 9/11, the term ‘War on Terror’ was brought into being in western media and political discussion. The ‘terror’ referred to in the phrase ‘War on Terror’ has been used particularly in relation to terrorist events attributed to Islamist groups. These include attacks including the bombings of 2004 in Madrid and 2007 in London (‘07/07’), as well as attacks in France, Belgium, Libya, Lebanon, Indonesia, Australia, Pakistan, Turkey, and the UK, and also the 1993 World Trade Center bombing occurring 8 years before 9/11. On the other hand, ‘terror’ coming from other sources, such as right-wing political groups and individuals in the USA and elsewhere, is not generally seen as being part of the same issue or subject to the same ‘war’. The ‘war’ itself refers to western-led military intervention overseas, including in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq as well as domestic security measures.