top of page

From 9/11 to the Capitol rebellion: how the world changed

G.W. Bush won a highly controversial election in 2000 against the progressive Albert Gore. The Supreme Court, with a conservative majority, denied the recount of votes in the decisive swing state of Florida where there was evidence of many electoral inconsistencies and the difference in favor of the Republican candidate was only 537 votes, 0.009% of almost 6 millions that were counted there. The United States was the undeniable superpower that had defeated the communist bloc with Ronald Reagan and Bush father by applying an aggressive military strategy and promoting a global free market economic system. The September 11 attacks shattered America’s sense of invulnerability and occurred when a very conservative government was in office. Bush consistently stated in his post-attack speeches that he had a religious obligation to fight Evil, and that he and his government were the Good part, just exactly the same mindset that members of al- Qaeda had about themselves. It is like this that began the so-called War on Terror, which had almost full support from US politicians, media, and governments around the world. One of the first measures within this politic was to invade Afghanistan to punish the Taliban and find Bin Laden, who eventually escaped to Pakistan. He continued to coordinate terrorist attacks around the world, which were more frequent and deadly in Muslim countries than in Western countries during that period of time. In the United States, the Bush administration approved a greater intrusion on citizens lives from spy agencies with the so-called Patriot Act, which allowed private emails and phone calls to be monitored without a judicial order. This happened amid a psychosis in the United States due to a series of anthrax attacks that killed 5 people a few weeks after September 11, including two Democratic senators. At the end, it was discovered that these killings were committed by a microbiologist working for the US government that wanted to withhold federal funding for the anthrax vaccine program that his laboratory was developing.

The Bush administration created also the Guantanamo prison and other secret detention centers scattered around the world to mainly detain and torture Muslims suspected of collaborating with al-Qaeda, thereby avoiding US legislation on individual constitutional guarantees regarding the Rule of Law. In the midst of the need to reaffirm the hegemony of the United States in the world, the Bush administration designated a series of countries that were considered as hostile, pointing to Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the ‘Axis of Evil’. At the UN plenary session, the United States presented in 2003 with its Secretary of State, Colin Powell, fake evidence to make the world believe that the Sunni government of Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that it was supporting al-Qaeda. This in order to justify a military intervention in Iraq. Shortly thereafter, Bush gave the order to invade with Britain and Spain as main allies, despite lacking a clear UN mandate or evidence of Saddam Hussein’s connection to the September 11 attacks. From that moment on, the huge expressions of sympathy for the United States around the world that came just after the attacks began to fade. A global anti-war movement with more than 36 million activists quickly started and even traditional allies like France and Germany strongly disagreed with the invasion, provoking Bush’s anger to such an extent that French fries were renamed in restaurants of the US government offices as ‘freedom fries’. The war in Iraq became increasingly unpopular as reports surfaced about how the Bush administration was operating there. The US network CBS published in 2004 many shocking photos of Iraqi detainees being tortured and sexually abused by US soldiers in the prison of Abu Ghraib. The new US-imposed Shiite government that emerged after the fall of Saddam Hussein also fired hundreds of thousands of Sunni public servants and excluded this group from public life. These sectarian divisions, along with the hate from the abuses committed by the United States, would eventually be used by al-Qaeda and in 2013 the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was founded with the aim of creating a totalitarian caliphate and fight the Western world. Moreover, in 2010 the nonprofit media organization Wikileaks published nearly 400,000 secret documents showing the excesses committed by the Western governments in the war. By 2013, Edward Snowden, a private contractor working for the CIA and NSA, began to leak nearly 1.7 million intelligence documents. These revealed the existence of massive, illegal and indiscriminate surveillance programs that the United States carried out against citizens and governments of countries around the world with the help of technological giants such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo, among others. This weakened the position of the United States as a world Human Rights defender. In addition to all the economic, human, and geopolitical problems that the Bush wars were causing, the United States caused in 2007 the largest global economic crisis since the Great Depression of 1929. Structural financial problems, together with sharp drop in interest rates from 6% in 2000 to 1% in 2003 of the Federal Reserve chaired by Alan Greenspan, the admired central banker of the United States who rescued the economy in 1987 and pushed strongly for financial deregulation. The initial objective was to fight the recession caused by the financial crisis of 2001 coming from technological companies and the attacks of September 11 in 2001. Bush took advantage of this situation to launch an ambitious plan through which the government would provide generous financial aid to individuals and banks to achieve the ‘American dream of each family having their own home’. Greenspan was not concerned about the growing bubble in the financial derivatives market that was used to lend to people who would otherwise never have obtained a mortgage, arguing that he was confident that the market would eventually ‘self-regulate’. The bubble of these ‘subprime’ mortgages finally burst in 2007 and the world entered a serious recession due to the magnitude of the leverage of banks with this type of loans. Most of the world economic indicators kept down until 2011 and in some countries, such as Greece and Spain, they have not yet recovered their pre-crisis levels. The measures to cope with this recession focused on fiscal austerity, bank bailouts with taxpayer money, and low interest rates, which alltogether created a general popular unrest. In Latin America, a region very sensitive to the hegemony of the United States, the rise of left-wing populist governments became mainstream. In Europe and the United States, social movements of extreme left and right strengthened, but citizens still continued to vote mostly for options within the traditional parties At same time, globalization, intensive use of information technologies, and anger towards hierarchical social structures allowed the emergence of Critical Theories among the Academia and the public opinion. These emphasized that most of the problems in the world were due to the existence of racist, patriarchal and colonialist structures that ‘kept individuals trapped’. Western political institutions and governments quickly began to adopt many of these ideas as a natural way to maintain much of the social, political, and economic order of the liberal democracy that emerged after World War II. However, this system of democratic values began to present several flaws: 1. Economic nationalism was rejected in favor of commercial exchanges without taking into account balances in the national accounts and their long-term effects on the processes of deindustrialization, debt and social marginalization. 2. Political nationalism was rejected in favor of intensifying the regional and world political integration of the countries to strengthen economic ties and international cooperation. 3. Ethnic-national identity was rejected in favor of increasing migration flows as part of the maintenance of the world system of globalization. This included receiving refugees as a consequence of an interventionist foreign policy on the part of the western powers (Afghanistan, Iraq, North Africa and Syria), and it was an opportunity to put into practice the elements of the new popular social theories among the educated population about the benefits of establishing a multicultural society. 4. The kind of feminism that dominated the public agenda largely denied the influence of biological factors on gender differences, attributing their causes merely to ‘social constructions’. Heterosexual white men were repeatedly blamed in the Western world for being the major initial causes of gender differences and social injustices in the world. The opposition to this system of ideas, which were been implemented in the West in many cases with authoritarian methods, were finally expressed with Brexit, the election of Trump and the emergence in Europe of many right-wing nationalist parties and governments. After a trial period in which voters of Europe and the United States gave these anti-establishment and nationalist movements a chance to come to power between 2015 and 2020, many of these claims were actually absorbed and implemented by the traditional parties. Because of this, in the end there was no radical change in the international economic, political and social system. For the United States however, the magnitude of the structural distrust towards government institutions, combined with the particular leadership of Trump, provoked an unprecedented rebellion motivated by the rejection of the electoral results that gave Joe Biden, the establishment candidate, as a winner. This distrust in the United States leadership that began to grow strongly after the attacks of September 11, finally culminated with the assault on the Capitol on January 6, with the significance of being an attempt to force a regime change from the very inside of the most powerful country in the world.


bottom of page