Professors assess impact from 9-11 attacks

Thursday, September 12, 2002

A year after terrorists hijacked airliners and killed thousands, Americans are coping with a damaged economy, the loss of civil liberties, failed intelligence agencies and worries about a possible war with Iraq.

A panel of Southeast Missouri State University professors discussed those issues at a noon session on Wednesday marking the one-year anniversary of the devastating attacks by members of Osama bin Laden's Islamic terrorist group.

Across campus at Academic Hall Auditorium, a noontime memorial service drew about 300 people.

More than 100 people, mostly Southeast students, attended the more-than-hour-long panel discussion at Dempster Hall's Glenn Auditorium.

Jonathan O'Dell, a senior from Millersville, Mo., showed up dressed in an American flag hat and T-shirt. "I've always had a sense of patriotism," said O'Dell who spent four years in the Navy and now serves in the Army National Guard.

Economy damaged

Dr. Willie Redmond, assistant professor of economics, said the terrorist attacks damaged the economy, particularly right after the attacks.

"Consumers stopped consuming. Investors stopped investing. Travelers stopped traveling," he said.

In the aftermath of the rubble of the World Trade Center towers in New York City, the damage to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and the crash of an airliner in Pennsylvania, the nation's economy took heavy hits.

It is estimated 750,000 jobs may have been lost and the nation experienced a reduced economic output totaling $75 billion to $100 billion, Redmond said.

The airline industry has been particularly hard hit with U.S. Air seeking bankruptcy and United Airlines suggesting it may follow suit. American Airlines has laid off 20,000 people and is talking of eliminating even more jobs, Redmond said.

"We need this industry for the economy to do well," he said.

Insurance companies are faced with paying out more than $40 billion in claims arising from the death and destruction, he said.

The nation's intelligence agencies took a hit too from the fallout of 9-11.

Federal agency under fire

Dr. Joel Rhodes, assistant professor of history, said the Central Intelligence Agency was under fire even before the terrorist attacks as critics questioned the need for the organization in the aftermath of the Cold War.

The attacks a year ago prompted widespread criticism of the CIA and the nation's other intelligence agencies. Rhodes said it was "the greatest intelligence failure in U.S. history since Pearl Harbor."

The terrorism revealed the lack of cooperation between the various agencies, particularly the CIA and the FBI. "Those two generally have not worked well and played well together," Rhodes said.

The terrorist attacks demonstrated how few spies the CIA had in the Middle East, he said. The agency is trying to address that problem by recruiting more spies. To that end, it's even advertised in Rolling Stone magazine, Rhodes said.

Civil liberties have been affected too. In the aftermath of 9-11, Congress passed the Patriot Act. The 146-page law expanded wiretapping and government access to everything from business records to students' files, said Dr. Brian Smentkowski, assistant professor of political science. It's also made it easier to deport foreigners, he said.

About 1,200 people, including illegal aliens, are currently being detained, he said.

The terrorist attacks also have dramatically reshaped U.S. foreign policy, said Dr. Alynna Lyon, assistant professor of political science. President George Bush's war on terrorism is now focused on deposing Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein, she said.

Lyon said Bush had support from a coalition of nations in the war against the al-Qaida terrorists. But the U.S. could lose international support if it attacks Iraq, she said.

"This is not a good time to walk alone," Lyon said.

Hussein, she predicted, would use chemical and biological weapons if the U.S. invades Iraq. "He has nothing to lose if we attack him," Lyon said.

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