Beyond the Blasts

A selection of in-depth articles, relevant documents, and information sources to help put Sept. 11, 2001 and its aftermath into context. Updated regularly.

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Central Asia’s powderkeg — Foreign Affairs
This seminal essay by Ahmad Rashid — considered by many the most knowledgeable journalist writing about Afghanistan — warned that Western policymakers were setting themselves up for trouble by ignoring Afghanistan. “The United States dealt with issues as they came up in a haphazard, piecemeal fashion,” Rashid writes, “pursuing constantly changing single-issue agendas that were driven more by domestic American politics than the goal of ending the civil war.”

Nuclear Terrorism? — Center for Defense Information
By turns disconcerting (yes, there is lots of plutonium the Russian nuclear industry can’t account for) and reassuring (most of it was probably lost or buried, not stolen), this analysis examines the possibilities for a terrorist network like al-Qaida to acquire and deploy a nuclear weapon.

Why we were in Afghanistan — The Nation
A detailed analysis of how and why the US and its allies armed and supported Afghanistan’s mujaheddeen fighters against the Soviet Union in the 1980s — and how that effort helped make Usama bin Ladin into the world’s pre-eminent terrorist leader.

Afghanistan Up Close —
If the US goes to war against Afghanistan, it will be attacking a country with very little left to destroy, as this photo essay makes starkly clear.

Suicidal logic — Foreign Policy
A magisterial overview of the history and various current manifestations of suicidal terror attacks, from Israel to Sri Lanka.

Why the CIA didn’t see it coming — The Atlantic
A nine-year veteran of the CIA’s Middle Eastern division calls the US counter-terrorism operations in the region “a myth.”

Usama in depth — The New Yorker
A detailed sketch of the life of America’s leading adversary.

More Terror Attack Coverage
Beyond the Blasts current stories
Beyond the Blasts archives
Afghanistan Up Close
Beware of Backlash
Reader Discussions


Rumor control —
Ever since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, rumours have spread like shrapnel across the Internet, some unbelievable yet true, some plausible but false. offers this handy page to seperate some of the truths from fiction.

All things Afghan — Various
Curious about the country the US may soon be bombing? Here are the basic facts, courtesy of the CIA; a thorough index of information on Afghani culture; and a gateway to other links providing sources for everything from the prevalence of HIV to the weather forecast in Kabul.

The official word on terrorism — National Security Institute
“The premier Internet resource for the security professional” has compiled this exhaustive list of links to terrorism-related US government research and legislation. One finding worth bearing in mind as the US gears up for an assault on Afghanistan, is this nugget from a Congressional Research Service report: “Bin Ladin does not appear to be acting on behalf of the Taliban, or vice versa.” The report’s publication date: Sept. 10, 2001.

Usama bin Ladin for beginners — Various
Who is this man officially named America’s number one enemy, and what does he want? The Smoking Gun has helpfully posted the CIA’s official fact-sheet on Usama bin Ladin, and Slate offers a concise summary of what drives him. Bin Ladin’s top grievance, according to CNN’s Peter Bergen, author of a forthcoming book on the man, is the American military presence in Saudi Arabia, Islam’s Holy Land.

All about Arab-Americans — The Detroit Free Press
One of the dailies covering the city with the United States’ most concentrated Arab-American population offers this extensive set of FAQs covering everything from demographics to common stereotypes and background on religious practices.

How To Help
American Red Cross blood donation
United Way Sept. 11 Fund


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