Posts Tagged '2002'

A Decade in Review: The 25 Events and Moments That Defined the 2000s

The Years 2000-2009

The decade that began with fears of the end of the world and the great “Y2K scare” has drawn to a close after 10 of the most eventful years in modern history. Those who were alive in this time saw events that will be forever recorded in the history books. Here’s a look back at 25 of the most significant events of the years 2000-2009.


1. October 12, 2000 – Attack on the U.S.S. Cole

In a foreshadowing of things to come, suicide bombers attacked the U.S.S. Cole, a U.S. Navy destroyer. The attack, carried out in the Yemeni port of Aden, killed 17 U.S. sailors, and injured at least 40.

Several lawmakers strongly condemned the attack, including Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona). “The United States has the ability to find out who perpetrated this outrage,” said McCain. “We will find those people. There will be a heavy price to pay. We cannot allow these acts of terror to take place.” Then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) echoed similar sentiments:  “Clearly this is a terrorist act and those who perpetrated it will be held responsible. We will find out who they are and we will not rest until we do.”

Even with these harsh condemnations of terrorism, our definition and understanding of terrorism at the time was quite different than it is today. We failed to see that the attack on the U.S.S. Cole was more than just a random act of terrorism; it signaled the start of an all out war against the United States and Western Society. But in less than a year after the Cole bombing, our understanding of terrorism would be changed forever.

2. November 7, 2000 – George W. Bush Elected 43rd President of the U.S.

When George W. Bush won the 2000 election against former Vice President Al Gore, he became the man who would lead the nation through eight of the most tumultuous and trying years in our history. The election of 2000 was one of the most bitterly contested elections ever, going on even beyond the November 7th election and into December, as Al Gore fought for a recount of the Florida vote. Even today, there are those who accus Bush of “stealing” the election.

Bush could not possibly have known that during the next eight years, he would face the greatest terrorist attack ever on American soil, the worst natural disaster, or that he would at one point have the highest approval rating of any President in history as well as one of the lowest.

Link: NPR Coverage of Election 2000

Video: NBC Declares Bush President on the Night of the Election

Video: December 14, 2000 – Bush Officially Declared President-Elect After Recount


3. September 11, 2001 – 9/11 Terrorist Attacks

Not since the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941 — the “date which will live in infamy” — has any single date become so important to Americans as September 11, 2001. On this day, multiple commercial airliners were hijacked and crashed, two into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and one–by a heroic group of civilians who were determined to stop the hijackers from reaching their target in D.C–into an empty field in Pennsylvania.

In all, 2,973 innocent livers were lost on this day, excluding, of course, the 19 hijackers who were carrying out their suicide mission. More than 6,000 others were also injured.

I was only a kid in Middle School at the time, but I remember this date so clearly. I was skipping school on this morning, and when I awoke, I went into the living room to find my grandmother watching television. At first, I saw what I thought was a building that had caught on fire. But as I continued watching, I began to see some of the magnitude of what was taking place, although I had not yet grasped how important the event I was witnessing truly was. I can still remember the crying reporters on their sets, the frantic reporters on the ground, the shaky cameras and running cameramen, and the images of American citizens jumping from the burning towers. The next day in school, there was no discussion of anything else, and my first assignment that morning was to write my thoughts on the attack on America. “Will there be a war?” I remember writing; most other students shared that same question.

September 11th was the date that defined the rest of the decade and the generation; a resurgence of patriotism erupted; the arts–films and music–all reflected a revival of American nationalism; our comfortable, isolated American world stood shattered and a renewed interest in religion followed, with some churches being filled for the first time in ages. Every major foreign policy decision that would take place thereafter would be rooted in the events of that day. Without September 11, the 2000s decade and the Presidency of George W. Bush would have been unrecognizable from what they became.

Link: The 9/11 Digital Archive

Video: Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

4. September 14, 2001 – The Bullhorn Address at Ground Zero

President Bush’s “Bullhorn Address” at Ground Zero, in which he spoke to a crowd of firefighters, police officers, and volunteers through a bullhorn, quickly became one of the defining moments of the 9/11 aftermath and one of the most important Presidential addresses in history. If you listen carefully during the speech, you can hear one rescue worker shout out, “George, I can’t hear you!” President Bush immediately responds with a loud proclamation that signals the course of his Presidency from that day onward:

I can hear you! I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people–and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!

Thunderous applause and chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” followed as the President’s passionate determination inspired a nation to rally behind him as he set out on a quest for justice.

5. October 7, 2001 – War in Afghanistan Begins

On this day, the U.S., along with allies around the world, struck back at terrorism by making its first strikes in Afghanistan in a mission to displace the Taliban and destroy terrorist camps. President George W. Bush issued a resounding declaration that would later be criticized as hearkening back to a Texan “with us or against us” attitude:

“Today we focus on Afghanistan, but the battle is broader. Every nation has a choice to make. In this conflict, there is no neutral ground. If any government sponsors the outlaws and killers of innocents, they have become outlaws and murderers, themselves. And they will take that lonely path at their own peril.”

At the same time, Osama bin Laden released a video threatening that there would be no peace in the United States until there was peace in the Muslim world and the “infidels” were vanquished.

“As to America, I say to it and its people a few words: I swear to God that America will not live in peace before peace reigns in Palestine, and before all the army of infidels depart the land of Muhammad, peace be upon him.”

With these words, the war on terror, which would last throughout the rest of the decade and beyond, commenced.

NBC Nightly News: America Strikes Back (10/7/09)

Link: News Articles and Headlines

Link: Text of Bush and Osama Speeches

6. October 21, 2001 – Bush Signs the USA PATRIOT Act into law

After being passed by wide margins in Congress by both Republicans and Democrats, President Bush signed the Patriot Act into law on October 26, 2001. USA PATRIOT Act is an acronym which stands for “Uniting and StrengtheningAmerica by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.” This controversial act, which many believe violates civil liberties and the right to privacy of American citizens, allows for ease of access to telephone, e-mail communications, medical, financial, and other such records of anyone suspected of terrorist activity by federal authorities without the necessity of a warrant. It also allows for the detainment of immigrants suspected of terrorism.


7. January 29, 2002 – Bush Defines “Axis of Evil” in State of the Union Address

With approval ratings still hovering around 80%, President Bush delivered his first State of the Union address since the 9/11 attacks. While he did devote some time to addressing the 2001 economic recession and the Enron scandal, most of the speech was devoted to discussing the war on terror. In it, he defined the “Axis of Evil,” a term which he would continue to use throughout his Presidency to describe rogue nations and regimes around the world. He specifically pointed to Iraq, Iran, and North Korea:

“Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction.  Some of these regimes have been pretty quiet since September the 11th.  But we know their true nature.  North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.

Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people’s hope for freedom.

Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror.  The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade.  This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens — leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children.  This is a regime that agreed to international inspections — then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.

States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.  By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger.”

Bush received much criticism for his “Axis of Evil” designation, often being described as a war monger who was “declaring war on the world,” but he was without apology.

Link: Transcript of the 2002 State of the Union Address


8. February 1, 2003 – Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster

Less than 20 years after the Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed, the Space Shuttle Columbia became the second space shuttle in history to destruct. Sixteen minutes before it was to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the shuttle broke apart over Texas upon reentry. The seven astronauts onboard were killed. These were:  Commander Rick D. Husband, Pilot William C. McCool, Michael P. Anderson, David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, and Ilan Ramon. It was later revealed that the cause of the tragedy was a piece of styrofoam that had hit the left wing at launch.

Video: Space Shuttle Columbia Disintegration, Explosion

9. April 9, 2003 – Statue of Saddam Falls in Baghdad

The most iconic image of the Iraq war was that of the fall of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square, Baghdad. The toppling signaled the end of Saddam’s brutal reign as U.S. forces began to seize control of the Iraqi capitol. No longer was Saddam the ruler of Iraq; Iraqi civilians, who at one point would have been killed for mocking the dictator, were now stomping on the image of his face, hurling insults and shouting jubilantly as they triumphantly celebrated the end of a rule of tyranny.

Video: Toppling of Saddam’s Statue Live On Sky News


10. May 17, 2004 – Massachusetts Becomes First U.S. State to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

When the Judicial Supreme Court of Massachusetts ruled in Goodridge v. Department of Public health that it was unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry, Massachusetts only the sixth jurisdiction in the world and the first state in the U.S. to legally recognize same-sex marriages. Afterward, the issue of same-sex marriages turned into a cultural battle zone as religious groups went to war in order to “preserve the sanctity of marriage” (as they saw it). Over the next few years, several other states would legalize same-sex marriage, including New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa, and the District of Columbia. Legalization in California lasted for only a short time before Proposition 8 overturned it in 2008.

11. June 5, 2004 – Former President Ronald Reagan dies

In the midst of the heated 2004 Presidential campaign between John Kerry and President George W. Bush, the world lost one of its greatest leaders when former President Ronald Reagan, who had been suffering with Alzheimer’s disease for ten years, passed away in his Los Angeles home at the age of 93. He was also known as “the Gipper” and “the Great Communicator.” Reagan’s death was significant because of the impact of his Presidency; he began the “Regan Revolution,” which emphasized the conservative principles of smaller government, personal responsibility, individualism, lower taxes, and self empowerment. He was also highly respected for helping to bring the Cold War to a decisive, non-violent end, and for his famous speech at the Berlin wall, in which he famously urged, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Video: “Tear Down This Wall”

12. November 2, 2004 – Bush Wins Reelection Against Sen. John Kerry

The war in Iraq placed a serious strain on President Bush’s approval rating, as he came falling down from a high of 90% approval in the early months of the war in Afghanistan. Many, eager for a quick end to war, thought that Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) had a good chance at defeating him in the 2004 election. However, a blistering series of campaign ads against Sen. Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that alleged he lied about their service in Vietnam seriously damaged his credibility and Bush was reelected to serve a second term, winning both the popular vote and the electoral vote by comfortable margins.

Link: CNN: America Votes 2004

13. December 26, 2004 – Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami Kills Over 230,000

On December 26th, an undersea megathrust earthquake occurred in the Indian Ocean. It had a magnitude between 9.1 and 9.3, making it the second largest earthquake ever recorded, and the biggest earthquake in the Indian Ocean in around 700 years. The earthquake then trigged a series of tsunamis that struck over a dozen countries, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Somalia, Burma, Maldives, Malaysia, Tanzania, Seychelles, Bangladesh, South Africa, Yemen, Kenya, and Madagascar.

In all, approximately 230,000 people died, the third largest death toll ever resulting from an earthquake. It is only topped by the Tangshan earthquake of 1976, which killed 242,000, and the Shaanxi earthquake of 1556, which killed 830,000.

Link: Asian Tsunami Web Archive

Video: Another Up-Close Video of the Tsunami


14. March 18, 2005 – Terri Schiavo Case Ignites Nationwide Right-to-Life Battle

Terri Schindler Schiavo had been in hospice care since 1990 at the age of 26, when an unexplained event caused her to go into cardiac arrest and a resulting lack of oxygen caused her to develop a severe neurological disorder that left her in a near vegetative state. Over the years, her parents and siblings, the Schindlers, fought her husband, Michael Schiavo, to keep her alive. Even as Michael moved in with another woman and raised kids with her, he refused to grant the Schindler family custody of Terri, who wanted to take care of her themselves. They insisted that she was not completely brain dead, citing the fact that she seemed to respond to them in small ways, even by smiling. Her husband, on the other hand, made several attempts to have her feeding tube removed and allow her to die of dehydration.

On March 18, 2005, he succeeded in having her feeding tube removed after a court order by Judge George W. Greer, and the battle over Terri’s right to live or die ignited a nationwide firestorm that brought protesters and supporters of the Schindler family from all across the country to stand in solidarity, praying for a reversal of the decision even as Terri lay dying. Many people were arrested as they symbolically attempted to enter the hospice with a cup of water. Everyone from Florida Governor Jeb Bush, to Congress, to President George W. Bush got involved. Congress passed a bill on a 203-58 vote that allowed a federal judge to review the case. Later, President Bush said that “In cases like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life.”

The effort failed, however, and on March 31, after 13 days of dehydration and starvation, Terri died at the age of 41.

Link: The Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation

Video: President Bush Addresses the Schiavo Case Following Her Death

15. July 7, 2005 – Terrorist Attack on London

For the United Kingdom, 7/7 was the day terrorism became a tangible reality and not just a series of images from across the ocean. The bombings took place during the morning rush hour, carried out by four British Muslim men. Three bombs went off in three London Underground trains, with a fourth going off on a double decker bus. The blasts ended up killing 52 people, as well as the four bombers themselves. Approximately 700 were injured in the blasts. The bombings served as a reminder that Islamic radicals had no plans to relent in their war against Western society.

Link: BBC News Special Report: In Depth Coverage of the London Attacks

16. August 29, 2005 – Hurricane Katrina Ravages New Orleans, Mississippi

In one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, Hurricane Katrina made landfall as a Category 4 storm. For years, the Louisiana and New Orleans governments had known that that the New Orleans levees were insufficient to withstand a Hurricane of such magnitude, but had failed to address the issue. On the morning of August 29, the levees were breached and New Orleans went underwater as over 30,000 evacuees headed for refuge at the Superdome.

Most people fail to realize, however, that while New Orleans suffered tremendously due to the breach of the levees, Mississippi–and especially the Mississippi Gulf Coast areas of Gulfport and Biloxi–was hit by the worst part of the storm. I myself, being about an hour and a half inland, witnessed much destruction first hand as the storm ripped through the Hattiesburg area.

A picture I took of the bike trail behind my backyard the day after Katrina hit the Pine Belt.

There were failures at all level of government, from the local New Orleans level with Mayor Ray Nagin, to the State level with Governor Kathleen Blanco, to the federal level with President George W. Bush. Even though more of the responsibility probably lies with the state and local governments, especially for their refusal to prepare long before the storm ever hit, most of the blame was placed on George W. Bush, and his Presidency never recovered while he was in office.

In all, at least 1800 lives were lost when Katrina hit, with hundreds missing and hundreds of later deaths resulting from the disaster.

Link: Hurricane Katrina Archive

Link: Pictures of the Damage in Biloxi and Gulfport


17. December 30, 2006 – Former Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein Hung for Crimes Against Humanity

Once the fearsome dictator of an oppressed Iraq, Saddam Hussein was hung after being tried by the people he once oppressed. The crimes he committed during his reign were innumerable, and the body count is likely in the hundreds of thousands. But one single conviction–a conviction for crimes against humanity in the killing of 148 men and boys in the town of Dujail in 1982–was what earned him the death sentence. Those who were present at the hanging report that he was strangely submissive, and wore a look of fear upon his face. At 6:10 AM, Hussein died, and his hanging was aired hours later on Iraqi television. Iraqis and Iraqi-Americans celebrated in the streets, dancing, singing, and shouting. For many, a reign of terror was finally over, and there was no longer any reason to fear Saddam Hussein.

“Saddam Hussein’s execution comes at the end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops,” President Bush said in a statement. “Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq’s course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain and defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror.”


18. January 10, 2007 – Bush Announces Iraq Troop Surge

At a time when the war in Iraq had been going very badly, even after the execution of Saddam Hussein, many were doubtful that victory was possible. It was at this time that President Bush ordered a troop surge in Iraq. The surge extended the stay of some soldiers, and sent an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq to help stabilize the region. While the decision was widely criticized at the time and many doubted it would be successful, the surge is now widely seen as a success, and Iraq is in a much more stable condition than it was years ago, so much that it became possible to begin withdrawing troops at a significant pace this past year. President Obama would later take inspiration from the surge and announce his own surge in Afghanistan. Though he originally opposed the surge in 2007, claiming that the President should focus instead on diplomacy, and then going onto say months after the surge that it wasn’t working, he eventually admitted that the surge was a great success and modeled his own surge after it.


19. August 29, 2008 – Sarah Palin Announced as John McCain’s Running Mate

New life was breathed into John McCain’s flagging campaign when he introduced then Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate in the 2008 election. Combined with a record of taking a strong stance against corruption, the Republican establishment in Alaska, and her conservatives credentials, she immediately became the rock star of the Republican party. Following on the heels of Hillary Clinton’s historic run for the Presidency, Palin became the second woman in history to run for the Vice Presidency, and the first in the Republican party to do so.

For the first time, the Obama campaigned was afraid. But the political landscape at the time meant that no Republican, not even one on a ticket that included someone as electrifying as Sarah Palin, stood a chance against Barack Obama. Still, Sarah Palin became one of the most important people in America soon after her ascendency as John McCain’s running mate.

Video: Sarah Palin Introduced as V.P. Nominee

20. September 14, 2008 – Lehman Bros. File for Bankruptcy

The ominous signs for the economy were clearly in place when the Lehman Bros. filed for bankruptcy in September of 2008. The events of this day would be followed up by numerous bailouts, massive stimulus spending, and an uncertain economic climate in which unemployment would soar to heights such as had not been seen since the recession that President Ronald Reagan inherited in the early 80s. It was this event, perhaps, which sealed the 2008 Presidential election for Barack Obama.

21. November 4, 2008 – Barack Obama Elected 44th President of the U.S.

Riding a wave of promises of “hope” and “change,” Senator Barack Obama of Illinois became the President Elect of the United States on November 4, 2008, comfortably beating his opponent, Sen. John McCain of Arizona. He made history in a profound way as he became the first man of African ethnicity to be elected to the highest office in the land. “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” he said.

Video: Fox News Coverage of the Election Night at the Moment of Obama’s Win


23. April 15, 2009 – Tax Day Tea Party Protests

Following President Obama’s economic stimulus package and bailouts of companies like GM and Chrysler, many Americans became angry at the out of control government spending and took to the streets.

Summoning the spirit of the American Revolution, these “tea parties” sought to emulate the Boston Tea Party, by sending the message to the government that “You work for us, not the other way around.” It became one of the largest grassroots movements in U.S. history, with a bipartisan coalition of Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Liberals, and Conservatives all joining the cause. The Tea Party movement first really took off on Tax Day 2009.

22. June 12, 2009 – Iran’s Presidential Election Sparks Outrage

Iran burst into chaos after the results of the 2009 Iranian election showed that incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an avowed enemy of the United States who has threatened to “wipe Israel off the map,” had won re-election with 62% of the vote. However, many in the media and people across Iran who longed for new leadership had suspicions that the elections had been rigged. His opponent, Mousavi, immediately issued a statement, declaring “I’m warning that I won’t surrender to this charade!”

Angry, often violent protests ensued across Iran by citizens hungry for freedom from Ahmadinejad’s oppressive rule. These protests led to clashes with police, government censorship, and even deaths. One woman, Neda Soltani, became a symbol and a rallying cry in the Iranian fight for freedom when she was gunned down and killed by the police while peacefully protesting. She effectively became the “voice” of the rebellion, which is fitting; Neda, when translated, means “voice.” Neda’s family were barred by the government from holding a public funeral for her.

Link: CNN Coverage

Video: Neda (Graphic Content Warning)

24. November 5, 2009 – Fort Hood Attacked

The first Islamic terrorist act in the United States since 9/11 took place in Fort Hood, Texas on November 5, 2009. Major Nadil Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, opened fire at the Fort, killing 12 and injuring 31.  Hasan was also shot and wounded, but survived.

While links to Al Qaeda and an extremist Mosque have been found, whether or not there was outside help or influence on Hasan has not yet been made clear. Maj. Hasan had displayed troubling signs many times, and especially in the days before the attack, after becoming upset upon learning that he was to be deployed overseas on November 28th.

The massacre was the worst mass shooting ever on a military base.

25. November 13, 2009 – Obama Administration Decides to Hold 9/11 Terrorist Trials in New York

As part of the Obama administration’s plans to close Guantanamo Bay prison, the President and the Attorney General made the decision to move five of the 9/11 masterminds to New York City to face a civilian court trial. Under the Bush administration, the terrorists had been used to extract information, and were in the process of facing military tribunals–which is the normal procedure used to try enemies of war.

Among the terrorists was 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who is responsible for the 2002 beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl.

Many 9/11 families, New York citizens, and military families–including Pearl’s father–were outraged at the decision.

Link: My December 2009 Newspaper Opinion Article on the Trials



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