The American Vision © 2010
A New Century Begins, 2001-present
This chapter describes the issues facing Americans in the twenty-first century. It also explains the impact of terrorism on the United States.
Section 1 explains how George W. Bush became president in one of the closest elections in U.S. History. The election pitted Bush against former Tennessee senator Al Gore and third-party candidate Ralph Nader. While Gore won the popular vote, the electoral vote hung on the results of the election in Florida. These Florida results were disputed, however, and the legality of a recount became the main question in a legal battle between the two parties. This legal challenge made its way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that a recount was illegitimate, giving the election to Bush. Upon taking office, Bush took advantage of having a Republican Congress and enacted massive tax cuts. He also pushed for changes in education. While making an argument for a new military program called strategic defense, Bush's plans were interrupted by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Section 2 describes how the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, led to U.S. military action. On that day, terrorists hijacked four American passenger planes and executed the most devastating terrorist attack in history. President Bush declared a national emergency while Americans helped each other at home, and the United States began a war in Afghanistan to drive out bin Laden's al-Qaeda and the ruling Taliban. This terrorism had originated in Middle Eastern anger at Western involvement in that part of the world during the twentieth century. As new Muslim movements called for the creation of a traditional Islamic society, many grew angry at American support of Israel. Osama bin Laden headed one of these groups, al-Quaeda, and launched terrorist attacks to drive non-Muslims out of the Middle East. The war in Afghanistan was meant to destroy al-Quaeda and its support networks.
Section 3 looks at the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Since the collapse of the Taliban government, Afghanistan slowly began to rebuild. Despite a successful election, Taliban insurgents remain active in some parts of the country. Osama bin Laden was never captured or killed and is thought to have escaped into neighboring Pakistan. In 2002 President Bush began making the case for going to war against Iraq. He claimed that lraq had weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States. When the United States could not get the UN to take action against Iraq, it invaded in 2003. The U.S. and British militaries easily defeated Iraq's army, toppled its government, and captured Saddam Hussein. Soon after this, however, factions within lraq took up arms against occupying forces and against each other. Between 2003 and 2006, these insurgents killed thousands of American troops.
Section 4 discusses the challenging times at home that came after the invasion of Iraq. The election of 2004 was heated, pitting President Bush against a decorated veteran, Senator John Kerry. Senator Kerry promised to address domestic issues while pursuing the war on terrorism. President Bush pledged to continue cutting taxes, fighting the war, and opposing abortion, stem cell research, and same-sex marriage. Election Day saw very high voter turnout, and Bush narrowly won the electoral vote. Bush's second term got off to a controversial start, as the Supreme Court rejected Bush's interpretation of the rights and legal status of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The government's policy of wiretapping Americans' telephone calls was also challenged. Republicans were pleased when Bush succeeded in putting two conservative new justices on the Supreme Court, but the government was much criticized by its slow response to Hurricane Katrina and the disaster it caused. This criticism, Republican scandals in Congress, and problems in lraq helped the Democrats gain control of Congress in the 2006 election.