And that is exactly what it was: a terrorist plot. By the end of that day, the whole world knew the broad outline of the situation - a terrorist organization had planned and executed a co-ordinated series of attacks on the United States mainland, and had succeeded in destroying two huge commercial buildings in New York City, damaging the Pentagon, and killing thousands of Americans.
The first question, of course, was, "How did it happen?" The obvious answer was, "Somebody did it, and our Government failed to stop it." Details came later, and they are still trickling in, years after the official 9-11 Commission Report. Maybe we know the whole story now; and maybe we do not.
But the second question, which received an immediate answer, was "What are we going to do about it? And the Bush administration - the very same people who had failed to prevent the attacks, despite clear and urgent warnings that attacks were being planned - had a quick answer, seemingly already planned in advance: these attacks were not mere terrorism, but "acts of war" against "all freedom-loving people everywhere in the world," and that the United States "will use all our resources to conquer this enemy."
This is what the President announced, the very next morning, September 12, 2001 . . .
"I have just completed a meeting with my national security team, and we have received the latest intelligence updates.
"The deliberate and deadly attacks which were carried out yesterday against our country were more than acts of terror. They were acts of war. This will require our country to unite in steadfast determination and resolve. Freedom and democracy are under attack.
"The American people need to know that we're facing a different enemy than we have ever faced. This enemy hides in shadows, and has no regard for human life. This is an enemy who preys on innocent and unsuspecting people, then runs for cover. But it won't be able to run for cover forever. This is an enemy that tries to hide. But it won't be able to hide forever. This is an enemy that thinks its harbors are safe. But they won't be safe forever.
"This enemy attacked not just our people, but all freedom-loving people everywhere in the world. The United States of America will use all our resources to conquer this enemy. We will rally the world. We will be patient, we will be focused, and we will be steadfast in our determination.
"This battle will take time and resolve. But make no mistake about it: we will win."
Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010912-4.html, with a back-up copy of the text located at http://www.patriot.net/users/bmcgin/whitehouse20010912-4.txt and with a voice recording at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010912-4.a.ram
As we can see from this announcement, Bush had already adopted and was presenting a national policy for responding to the attacks, on the very next day after the attacks occurred. This tells me that this Bush policy had been well planned long in advance, and that the Bush administration had simply been awaiting a suitable terrorist event to put it into action.
(Some people have even suspected that the real reason the Bush Administration was so badly unprepared for these attacks was that some elements within the Administration did not really want all terrorist acts to be prevented . . .)
And thus the Bush Administration - all by itself - redefined terrorism from criminality to war, and transformed the criminal Islamist extremists into Holy Warriors For God. Soon thereafter, Bush foolishly announced that this battle against Islamic Terrorists was now a (Christian) "Crusade against terror." My heart sank when I heard him say that, because this meant that he had lost all contact with reality, and had jumped completely off the deep end. By thinking of this policy as a Crusade, Bush had guaranteed that Muslims everywhere would eventually unite against us. And this is what is now happening.
If moderate mainstream Muslims must choose between capturing and prosecuting criminal militant Islamists vs. not capturing and prosecuting them, it is easy for them to support capturing and prosecuting - the "Law Enforcement" route, as applied by Bill Clinton and all previous presidents. But if they must choose between Muslim Holy Warriors For God (Allah) vs. Christian Crusaders in a war, it becomes very difficult for them to support us.
And that is the mess we are in today, because of George W. Bush's bad