The 2000s (The Decade That Defined Gen Y): Part 1 - Terrorism and Politics (Warning: Contains Graphic Images)
Many regard the 1980s as the turning point of contemporary civilization when everything from politics to pop culture began going global and the world of finance and marketing was sub-scripted with words like 'I want what I want' and 'Excess'.
Its true that even today, we owe a lot of the consumer excess, tastes in music and the way we do business to the 1980s 'me' decade but I personally do believe that people of my generation would mark the first 10 years of the 21st century as an equally defining period for us - We witnessed 9-11, the biggest stock market crash since 1929 which directly affected many of us, defined how we used (and still use) technology (whether its our smartphones, iPod or social media) and have also made ourselves aware of certain geo-political realities including the acceptance of Asia and other emerging markets as the possible dominant power of the 21st century.
As an early gen Y baby myself, I've first-hand witnessed and lived through some of these changes and events and thought I'd write a major article about it to acknowledge how the past decade has molded me and my compatriots into living our lives the way we do today. Some believe the 2000s a decade best forgotten, but it is still one which defined my youth so here's my tribute to it while I reflect.
N.B.: While I credit much of this article's contents to my own memory and knowledge, I give due credit to online resources such as Google, YouTube and Wikipedia to conduct my research.
N.B.: Some readers/viewers may find certain contents within this article disturbing and/or controversial. I state that I've tried to present this article as objectively as possible and based on factual information available from credible sources.
N.B.: As is the case with all my work on HubPages, I own the Intellectual Property for this article and any Intellectual Rights associated with it - Copying all or part of its contents is prohibited for any reason without my explicit permission.
N.B.: Special thanks to National Geographic Channel and their 10-part series, 'The 80's: The Decade That Made Us' which served as an inspiration for me to write this article.
The 9/11 Attacks in USA (September 11, 2001)
Almost anyone above the age of 20 today will never ever forget what happened on the morning of September 11, 2001 in New York - the day the world never forgot as it was the day America was literally under 'attack'. A day which anyone would remember as 'where were you and what you were doing' before reflecting back on it, images of it still resonate with an equally gripping sentiment today - over 12 years later - within almost every educated and reasonably aware person on the planet who was alive and aware that fateful morning.
The events began unfolding when at roughly 9:00 AM, American Airlines Flight 11 (a Boeing 767) crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade center in New York and minutes later, United Airlines Flight 175 (Another Boeing 767 and flying the exact trans-continental route from Boston's Logan International Airport to LAX), crashed into the South tower of the WTC.
At first, when AA11 crashed into the North Tower, everyone thought that it was a freak accident, but upon witnessing the second plane come into the south tower, authorities and citizens were convinced that this was a co-ordinated attack against Earth's only superpower and further investigations revealed that it was a co-ordinated attack lead by a 32 year old Egyptian man named Mohammad Atta who was at the helm of American Airlines Flight 11.
Further investigations revealed that Mohommad Atta was the leader of a group of terrorists which had at least 30 members and after years of denying, multi-millionaire terrorist and the leader of Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, along with Khaled Sheikh Mohammad, admitted they were directly involved in orchestrating the attacks with Khaled Sheikh Mohammad pleading guilty for orchestrating the operation from A to Z while Osama Bin Laden provided the financial support both directly and indirectly.- while Khaled Sheikh Mohammad was sentenced, Osama Bin Laden was eventually tracked down and captured in Abotabad, Pakistan by the end of decade and shot dead by US Special Forces.
Overall, the attacks on September 11th 2001 were considered the deadliest terror attacks the US had ever faced and more than 3000 people lost their lives that morning. In addition to the two Boeing 767 planes which crashed into the World Trade Centre, a Boeing 757 operating as American Airlines Flight 77, was hijacked by a group of terrorists working in co-ordination with Mohammad Atta and crashed the plane into the Pentagon while a 4th plane, a United Airlines Boeing 757, operating as flight UA93 was hijacked over Pennsylvania - however, passengers and crew managed to overpower the hijackers (which proved to be fatal as the plane eventually crashed) before they reached the target - it is speculated that the flight was intended to crash into either Capitol Hill or the White House - UA93 was the only flight out of the 4 hijacked planes that morning which never made it to its intended target.
The attacks of 9/11 had a catastrophic effect on the US and as such the global economy and more importantly, exposed America's major weaknesses when it came to handling homeland security - for example (and I base this during my travel to Minnesota and Illinois only 2 years earlier in 1999), passengers and their non-flying guests were freely allowed to accompany each other during flights right until the departure gate - something one would never expect in any other major country. A snake pit of conspiracy theories also began emerging (to this day) that how could the world's most advanced millitary and super power not know that a bunch of young men (despite evidence from previous terrorist attacks like the 1993 bomb at the World Trade Centre or the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995 and the Atanta Olympics Attack in 1996) were planning something this heinous (all of them apparently enrolled themselves into flying schools and the lead hijackers in particular weren't too interested in landing or taking off, but were more keen on 'target flying'.
9/11 essentially set the tone of US foreign policy throughout the decade and paved the way for one of the most controversial wars in modern history - the attack on Iraq to take out Saddam Hussein and the prolonged involvement in Afghanistan. Moreover, the attacks also arose a snakepit of numerous conspiracy theories, including the making of the movie, 'Loose Change' where more and more people (both from outside and even within the administration) alleging the government of the United States - moreover the intelligence services headed by the CIA had orchestrated the attack - all to manipulate oil prices and the US Dollar and to justify invasion of 'rogue' states in the Middle East.
Whatever the inside story re 9/11, it remains as one of the most horrific memories among people of my generation and God forbid I ever go through something like that.
America 'Attacked' (9/11 Attacks on the World Trade Centre, New York)
The Iraq War (2003 Onwards)
One of the controversial events over the first decade of the 21st Century and under the Bush Administration in America was the decision to invade Iraq with the aim of overthrowing the reigns of Saddam Hussein.
As a reaction to 9/11, America and its allies (predominantly those from NATO) first launched a military strike in Afghanistan to flush out the Taliban (who unfortunately still exist to this day) and after a long and prolonged effort, helped secure a more democratically elected government headed by Hamid Karzai (critics often labelling him as something nothing more than an American puppet).
However, within a couple of years of the Afghan operation, it was decided that an invasion of Iraq was necessary as Western Powers saw the country and its Bathist Party leaders headed by Saddam Hussein as a threat to US Security and interests and had labelled him as a terrorist and leader of a 'Rogue State'. Murky intelligence (which was later revealed to be lies) from numerous sources revealed that Iraq had been holding massive stockpiles of chemical weapons and other WMD's (Weapons of Mass Destruction) and alleged these had been stored since the 1980s when one of Saddam Hussein's associates, 'Chemical' Ali had used them against a populated village.
The attack on Iraq took place in 2003 and was considered as one of the most unpopular wars in modern history, more or less swinging the general opinion of America across a generation -with more and more conspiracy theories from 'credible' sources emerging and the eventual admittance by people within the US Administration and the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld, it was eventually proven that the war against Iraq was for nothing but control of the oil-rich assets in the country and had nothing to do with WMD's nor did Saddam Hussein have anything to do with Al Qaeda (which was the original argument used to justify the war in front of the United Nations).
Saddam Hussein was eventually captured and hanged in 2006 and while some believed it was good riddance given he was a ruthless dictator during this time and his invasion of Kuwait during the first gulf war was wrong, the legality of the Iraq War still remains largely in question due to the blatant disregard for international convention on war with some analysts suggesting George Bush Jr. did it not only for the oil but to finish what his father began during the first gulf-war.
'The War Tapes' - A Documentary on the 'Iraq War'
The 7/7 Attacks on London (July 7, 2005)
Dubbed by the media as the UK's own '9/11' and one of the deadliest terror attacks to strike the country (after PanAm 103's explosion over Scotland in 1988), London was hit by 4 bomb blasts primarily targeting its public transport infrastructure during rush-hour.
The coordinated bomb attacks, which began at roughly 8:50 AM, struck 3 'London-Underground' trains around the St-Pancreas and Kings Cross area while a fourth bomb struck a double-decker London public bus an hour later.
In total, 56 people died and many more were injured - and this is one actually one of the first (and deadliest) bombings under the 'Islamic jihadist' ideology as two more hits would strike the British capital in as many years but with limited success.
The perpetrators of the attack were home-grown radical students (funded by individuals out of Pakistan who had direct links with Al-Qaeda and other terror outfits) who were avenging the UK's involvement in Iraq.
As was the case with 9/11, the London bombings also attracted its fair share of skepticism regarding what really happened, to the point that Britain's own BBC released a documentary featuring interviews and investigative reports into uncovering the 'supposed' truth behind 7/7.
Nevertheless, this along with 9/11 and 26/8 essentially marred the memories of people my age as far as major geo-political events go as the 2000s was really all about the new wave of post 9-11 terror and how it has since shaped international relations (up until the point Bin Laden was killed and the onset of the 'Arab Spring' during the current decade).
The 7/7 Bombings Conspiracy Files: An Investigation by BBC-Two
The 26/11 Attacks on Mumbai (November 26, 2008)
Dubbed as India's own '9/11' - one of the world's fastest growing and most powerful economies was faced with yet another terrorist attack on November 26 2011, when trained Pakistani based militants (affiliated to the terrorist organization named 'Lashkar-E-Taiba') managed to make their way into India's own harbour city (and also its financial and entertainment capital) via the sea and indiscriminately captured and killed tourists and local residents at no less than 8 locations across the southern suburbs of Mumbai - the biggest targets being two major 5-star hotels, the Taj Mahal Hotel and the Oberoi Trident. Other locations which were attacked included a Jewish Cafe and a Jewish Centre, Mumbai's main train station - the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (formerly known as Victoria Terminus) and also a taxicab which was blown up.
The only attacker who managed to evade being killed was 21 year old Pakistini Ajmal Kasab who later under interrogation from a hospital bed confessed he was ordered to kill as many people as possible and that the 10 men underwent some serious endurance and immunization training at a Pakistani millitant camp. I was also revealed that their commanders had managed to brainwash the attackers into carrying their orders out without remorse or prejudice. Ajmal Kasab was eventually found guilty of murder and terrorism under the Indian Penal Code and was eventually hanged.
All in all, over 164 people were killed over a period of 4 days as the attackers had essentially taken over both the hotels and had held its occupants and staff hostage - the situation finally came to a head when Indian Special Forces (i.e. the National Security Guard commandos, who're the rough equivalent of the British SAS) along with the Indian Police stormed both hotels and eventually killed the remaining terrorists.
While India's no stranger to terror attacks - the administration came into heavy fire and criticism for the way the situation was handled, including the major delays between the attacks and the eventual arrival of the NSG commandos apart from the evident failure in intelligence gathering. Nevertheless, 26/11 turned out to be one of the deadliest terror attacks any major Indian city had faced in modern times and will be remembered by people of my generation for a long time and the impact it had on our mindsets and memories.
Mumbai Terror Attacks of 2008: An IBN Documentary
Zimbabwe's Land Reforms (2000 Onwards)
The world has witnessed plenty of land-reforms going back to at least the 17th and 18th centuries, but none can be more controversial than Zimbabwe's land reforms which were ratified in the year 2000 by the country's president, Robert Mugabe.
Once known as the 'bread basket' of the world due to its rich fertile farmlands, Zimbabwe's now turned out to be one of the poorest countries in the world thanks to an extremely hyper-inflated market and a ridiculously devalued currency (the Zimbabwean Dollar) and the downright illegal takeover of farm lands due to a change of land ownership laws.
Essentially, Robert Mugabe deemed the extent of lands owned by white Zimbabwean land owners to be illegal and used an association called 'the War Veterans' army (which actually didn't have many war veterans in it at all) to march on white-farmer owned lands and forcefully take them over, blaming it on their desire to eradicate Zimbabwe off 'colonial stains'.
Unlike South Africa, Zimbabwe had no history apartheid since its founding in 1980 and the white farmers were contributing to the country's massive economic growth until the 1990s. However, with the onset of the farm invasions, the white farmers (who were also not all British, some were from continental Europe and Ireland) left Zimbabwe and the country wasted no time in falling into shambles and also was expelled from the Commonwealth.
Mugabe still practically holds most of the reigns in Zimbabwe but has met with fierce opposition from his chief rival, Morgan Tsvangirai but it is going to be a long and tiring road before Zimbabwe to really become the 'bread basket' of the world again.
A Short Documentary about Zimbabwe's controversial Land Reforms
The Beslan School Siege and Massacre (September 1, 2004)
The new wave of terror which re-shaped the political scenario during the 2000s wasn't really restricted to the 'west' and its allies.
On September 1 2004, Chechen separatists orchestrated one of the bloodiest terror events to befall on Russian soil, when a school (simply known as 'School number One') in the town of Beslan, Ossetia (which is an autonomous republic within the Russian federation) took in excess of 1000 people (including 700 pupils!) hostage for at least 3 days. Their cause being the long-standing battle against Russia to recognize Chechnya as a breakaway republic which has led to numerous deaths and terror events in the past.
Russian special forces eventually decided to not give in to the seperatists's demands to declare Chechnya independent and instead decided to storm the school with tanks and armed forces - the onslaught resulted in the death of more than 300 people (including children).
Despite the deaths, the Russians remained unapologetic for the deaths, saying they did it in the interests of national security and the deaths were simply collateral damage and at no cost would they have ever negotiated with terrorists.
Russia has faced its share of terror attacks over the past few years (including the Moscow cinema and subway attacks) but thanks to increased power given to the President's office (due to the Beslan siege), the handling of any such event is usually met with swift response.
3 Days in September: A Documentary about the Beslan Siege and Massacre
The '3/11' Train Bombings in Madrid (March 11, 2004)
Occurring exactly 2.5 years after 2001 and one of the most brutal terror attacks to strike Europe during the 2000s, 10 bombs went off in coordinated fashion at roughly 7:40 AM local time on March 11 2004 across 4 trains on the Madrid commuter train network, killing 191 people and made it the deadliest terrorist attack in post-war Spain.
This attack was rare in the sense that even 10 years down the line, investigators have not really been able to establish a clear-cut claim or a link to any particular individual or organization, although a Moroccan individual along with moles within the Spanish police were arrested in connection with the attack.
Experts from the CIA and other major law and intelligence organizations believe that this was one of the few major terrorist attacks where Islamic terror groups had actually worked with non-Islamic terror groups and eventual blame was laid on the long-standing Basque separatist group ETA.
This was one of the first major terror events to strike a major city since 9/11 and even today, speculators believe it was at least in part carried out due to strong disapproval of the Spanish government's decision to send troops to Iraq during the US-led invasion.
ABC's Breaking News on the Madrid Bombings
The Election of Barack Obama as US President #44 (2008)
There probably was no greater political highlight during the 2000s than the election of President Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America - the first African American President to take the Oval Office in history and also one of the youngest President's the country had ever seen.
After the severe unpopularity of George W. Bush primarily due to the scandal of the Iraq war and the financial crisis, Obama fought a more or less one-sided election against his Republican rival John McCain and won with a significant majority, signalling that Americans were truly ready for a change.
With Hillary Clinton being Secretary of State, Obama's primary aim was to restore America's reputation as a well-meaning superpower instead of just being an oil-hungry war mongering nation and set out to mend the country's relationship with the Middle East by making a historic visit to the region apart from signalling other changes in home and foreign policy.
While Obama's Presidency has not been without its controversies (especially regarding health insurance and the way his government handled the WikiLeaks affairs), his tenure has certainly been seen as a breath of fresh air by most independent analysts today