91/11/2001: The Day That Changed America
War on Terror: America Strikes Back
What are our goals in the new war on terror?
By Suzanne McCabe
Reprinted from Junior Scholastic, November 12, 2001

When Patrick Groves, 10, heard about the U.S. air strikes on targets in Afghanistan, he thought about his father, who is retired from the Navy.

"I don't think it's good," Patrick told a Seattle newspaper, "because my father could be called back and die in a war."

Members of the U.S. military routinely risk their lives to protect America and other countries from external threats. But the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon made that commitment grow deeper.

"There's a sense of mission," says one member of the armed forces. "We're ready to do what we have to do."

Air Strikes in Afghanistan
After the September 11 attacks, the U.S. identified terrorist Osama bin Laden (oh-SAH-mah bin LAH-den) and his organization, Al Qaeda (al-KYE-duh) as prime suspects. Bin Laden has been living in Afghanistan, where he runs the Al Qaeda network. The country's radical Muslim rulers, the Taliban, have refused to hand him over.

On October 7, the U.S. began an air assault on targets in Afghanistan. Bombs were dropped on the Taliban's military bases and airports, as well as Al Qaeda's camps and communications systems. But military strikes are only one tool in the war on terrorism. International Help

President George W. Bush and other U.S. leaders have worked to build an international coalition (alliance of countries) to fight terrorism. Some countries, like Britain and Australia, are providing military support. Others, such as Uzbekistan, are allowing U.S. planes to use their air bases.

Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain has visited world leaders to ask that they condemn bin Laden and other terrorists. Such condemnations may help convince the Muslim world that terrorist acts are not a solution to such problems as poverty, corruption, and isolation.

Already, cooperation between international intelligence agencies has led to the arrest of hundreds of known and suspected terrorists. And, at President Bush's request, bank accounts linked to known terrorists have been frozen. Without money, terrorists can do little.

What's Next?
More than 90 percent of Americans have expressed support for the war efforts. But the struggle, warns Bush, will be long and costly.

U.S. Special Forces troops can be airdropped into Afghanistan. These troops are highly trained for difficult operations. But they will face danger in the steep mountains and dusty caves of Afghanistan. If casualties mount, Americans' support and patience could wane.

The attacks also risk alienating millions of moderate Muslims around the world. Most denounce the terrorists' violent tactics. But many also criticize U.S. support of Israel, and believe that U.S. foreign policy is harmful to Muslims.

To show that this is a war against terror, not Islam, President Bush ordered the military to drop packages of food and medicine for Afghan civilians. He also has asked each child in the U.S. to contribute $1 to a relief fund for Afghan children.

Sharing Values
Bush has pledged a U.S. role, under the guidance of the United Nations, in establishing a post-Taliban government favorable to the Afghan people. The U.S. erred, Bush says, in walking away from Afghanistan after troops from the former Soviet Union were defeated in 1989.

With no strong leadership, Afghanistan was wracked by civil war between rival guerrilla groups. The power vacuum helped create a haven for terrorists.

Such diplomatic efforts will help show Muslims across the world that we are, in the words of President Bush, "a freedom-loving nation, a compassionate nation, a nation that understands the values of life."

"The world only knows America through Hollywood, violence, Rambo, and Coca-Cola," says Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, an image consultant. "Nobody is telling the world that we go to church, temple, or mosque on weekends; that we give more to charities than anybody else in the world; that we are a free country, where we try our very best to give everyone the same opportunity, and the same fair treatment."

Perhaps the world will take heart in the demonstrations of support, generosity, and sacrifice that U.S. citizens have shown in the weeks since the September 11 attacks.