Q114: Why did the United States enter the Persian Gulf War in 1990?

A. To force the Iraqi military out of Kuwait
B. To force the Soviet Union out of Persia
C. To force China out of Persia
D. To force France out of Iraq

Q115: What major event happened on September 11, 2001, in the United States?

A. The stock market crashed.
B. The President was assassinated.
C. The country broke into a civil war.
D. Terrorists attacked the United States.

Q116: Name one U.S. military conflict after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

A. The Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia
B. The War in Afghanistan
C. The attack on the Berlin Wall in Germany
D. Red October (the October Revolution)

Question Background Information


With the end of the Cold War, American foreign policy turned toward the Middle East, and the United States ended up fighting several wars in that region at the turn of the 21st century.

After Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s 1980 invasion of his neighbor, the similarly bellicose Iran, turned to a bloody, almost decade-long stalemate, Hussein invaded another neighboring country, the much smaller Kuwait, in 1990. President George H.W. Bush assembled a massive coalition to expel the Iraqi army and restore the sovereignty of Kuwait, in what was called the Persian Gulf War.  The decade that followed proved one of the most peaceful in American history. 

That ended with the September 11, 2001 attacks. These were the most destructive attacks waged by the Al-Qaeda terrorist group against America, but far from the first.

The group, whose name means “the base” in Arabic, was led by the Saudi-born Osama Bin Laden, a wealthy heir, and Ayman al Zawahiri, an Egyptian cleric. Backed by Bin Laden’s money, Al Qaeda engaged in terrorist attacks designed to advance their understanding of Islam, particularly a variant of Sunni Islam. Bin Laden viewed the Saudi government as insufficiently committed to that proper understanding of Islam, with the United States as their wicked enablers and Israel an oppressor of Muslim peoples, and thus they sought the withdrawal of American armed forces from the Middle East. 

The Al-Qaeda network had undertaken several attacks on American targets in the preceding years, most notably in bombing U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, as well as the suicide bombing on the USS Cole in 2000.
Although Bin Laden and much of his network, including most of the September 11th hijackers, were Saudi, Al-Qaeda had established itself in Afghanistan, most of which had fallen under the control of the Taliban, a group of Islamic extremists led by Mullah Omar.

On September 11, 2001, the Al-Qaeda operatives who had been living in the United States hijacked several airplanes to attack political or culturally significant targets, killing over 3,000 Americans. These Islamist terrorists crashed two of them into the World Trade Center in New York and a third into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. A fourth aircraft crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after the American passengers fought back and attempted to recapture the plane from the hijackers. 

These attacks led to the war in Afghanistan and against Al-Qaeda more broadly (often called the war on terror), in which the United States and its allies sought to prevent further terrorism by destroying the Al-Qaeda network and its supporters. The possibility of ties between this network and Saddam Hussein, who American intelligence reported was possibly sharing weapons of mass destruction with terrorists, soon led to the War in Iraq, sometimes called the Second Gulf War. Hussein was quickly deposed by America and its allies. However, the large caches of weapons of mass destruction were never found, and the country quickly descended into chaos, especially as Al-Qaeda affiliates and allies launched a bloody insurrection to seize control of the country.

Bin Laden himself had escaped from Afghanistan to Pakistan, where almost ten years later, in May 2011, Navy SEALs raided his compound and killed him. Al-Qaeda has been weakened since then, but it has continued to inspire splinter and successor groups, such as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which eventually developed into the Islamic State (often called ISIS). 

Additional Content

Offline Activity


Maintaining the morale of one’s people in crisis is a hard part of any leader’s job. In this exercise, students will read George W. Bush’s speeches responding to the Al-Qaeda attacks of 9/11/2001 and write their own inspirational speech. (The footnote citation in the speech has video or audio of the speech, in case you want to have the students also watch or listen to that first.)

Required Materials


  • Divide the class into pairs based on the students’ individual levels. Group A is the group that needs some extra support. Group B is the core group that has the core knowledge to complete the activity. Group C is the enrichment group who have mastered the material and are prepared to extend their knowledge. Pair those who need support (Group A) with those who have core knowledge and/or have mastered the material (Groups B and C). 
    • This can also be an individual activity. 
  • Explain that they are to prepare a short (2-3 minute) speech, imagining they were presidential speechwriters helping the president respond to such an event.
  • Provide the students with Bush’s Address on 9/11/2001 — itself only a 5 minute address.
  • Provide students with time to read and develop their speeches. Even if the students are working individually, encourage them to brainstorm and work together.  
  • Circulate throughout the room to help students as needed and check for understanding.  
  • When the students have completed the worksheet, invite some or all of them to present their speeches. 

Discussion Prompts


The September 11, 2001 attack was, like Pearl Harbor, a day that would live in infamy and would undeniably alter the way that the nation’s citizens viewed the world. 

Prompt 1 

The events of September 11, 2001, affected the United States in countless ways. What major event happened on September 11th in the United States?  How did it change the United States?  

Prompt 2 

While it is vital that a nation defend itself against terrorism or violence by foreign nations, there is always a question of how far is too far. In the case of September 11th, then-President George W. Bush signed the Patriot Act of 2001 into law. This law is often criticized, accurately or inaccurately, as being too invasive and a threat to people’s protection against unreasonable and warrantless searches and seizures, as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. What kinds of tradeoffs of liberty can and should be made to protect the American people? What limits do exist or should exist? Use current and past events to show how history does or does not provide precedent for laws such as the Patriot Act.