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'War On Terror' by the numbers: What the response to 9/11 attack has cost so far

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: 'War On Terror' sparked by 9/11 attack has cost tens of thousands of lives, trillions of dollars; how Humboldt Broncos bus crash survivor is adapting to his new life; India on track to surpass China's population

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

The Tribute in Light memorial to the victims of New York's fallen Twin Towers is seen in the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park on Sept. 10, 2016. (Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters)

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.


  • The 9/11 attacks lasted 102 minutes, while the 'War On Terror' that President George W. Bush launched in response has been going on for 6,183 days — 11 years longer than WWII.
  • Ryan Straschnitzki, paralyzed from the mid-chest down in the Humboldt Broncos hockey team bus crash, is working hard to build up his body and regain independence.
  • India is on track to soon overtake China as the world's most populous nation.
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17 years on

It has been 17 years since two hijacked passenger aircraft cut across a brilliant Manhattan morning sky and slammed into the Twin Towers.

The first, American Airlines Flight 11, plunged into the north tower at 8:46 a.m.

The second, United Airlines Flight 175, struck the south tower 17 minutes later as confused office workers, firefighters and police struggled to figure out what was going on.

Firemen work around the World Trade Center after both towers collapsed in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. (Peter Morgan/Reuters)
A half-hour after that, another commandeered jet — American Airlines Flight 77 — crashed into the side of the Pentagon, across the Potomac from Washington, D.C.

By the time United Airlines Flight 93 nose-dived into a field outside Shanksville, Pa., the south tower of the World Trade Center had already collapsed. The north tower followed at 10:28 a.m. eastern.

In all, 2,977 people, including 26 Canadians, fell victim to the deadliest act of aggression on American soil since Pearl Harbour.

From start to finish, the 9/11 attacks lasted just 102 minutes.

The War On Terror that President George W. Bush launched in response has been going on for 6,183 days, 11 years longer than the Second World War.

U.S. President George W. Bush speaks to rescue workers, firefighters and police officers from the rubble of Ground Zero on Sept. 14, 2001, in New York City. (Eric Draper/Getty Images)
A recent estimate of the cost of America's wars since 2001 — some directly related to 9/11, others aligned to broader goals — puts the price of military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, plus the increased security at home, at $5.6 trillion US as of the end of this month.

In Afghanistan, where the fighting started and hasn't stopped, 3,557 NATO coalition soldiers have been killed since 2001, including 158 Canadians.

The death toll for the Afghan Army and police has been much higher — as estimated 25,000 between 2012 and 2016 alone.

There have been a further 4,866 allied military dead in Iraq — 4,543 of them Americans.

U.S. Army soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, B battery 2-8 field artillery, fire a howitzer at Seprwan Ghar forward fire base in Panjwai district, southern Afghanistan, on June 12, 2011. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)
It's impossible to say how many Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters have been killed.

Ditto for members of the various and ever-evolving militant factions in Iraq. Last year, one former senior U.S. military commander estimated that ISIS had lost "between 60,000 and 70,000" soldiers in Iraq and Syria.

Civilian deaths are likely even higher.

One site that uses local news reports to track casualties puts the number of civilian deaths in Iraq at between 182,000 and 204,000 since 2003, including 2,500 people killed so far in 2018.

An Afghan boy cries during a funeral of members of his family in Logar province on March 27, 2013. (Reuters)
In Afghanistan, the numbers are harder to come by. A 2016 report estimated that almost 31,500 civilians had died inside the country since 2001, and a further 22,000 had been killed in neighbouring Pakistan.

The UN, which has been tracking deaths in Afghanistan since 2007, issued its latest tally in July, finding that 1,692 civilians had been killed through the first six months of 2018, a record high.

Ryan's story

When the Humboldt Broncos team bus was hit by a tractor-trailer on April 6 near Tisdale, Sask., 16 people were killed and 13 injured. Ryan Straschnitzki, one of the players, was paralyzed from the mid-chest down. CBC's Susan Ormiston has kept in touch with the family, and has been following Ryan's recovery.

Paralyzed from the waist down, even something as simple as putting on shoes poses unique challenges for Ryan Straschnitzki, but he's determined to regain as much independence as he can. 'Just relying on myself to do things instead of asking people to do them for me, it feels good.' (Susan Ormiston/CBC)
Just 48 hours after the crash, during the worst moments of their lives, the Straschnitzki family let us in, sharing the news that Ryan, their first born son, was paralyzed.

Then for the next four months they graciously welcomed us as our team turned up here and there to record the family's ups and downs, as Ryan struggled to move again.

Sometimes, covering an intense story like the Humboldt Broncos, you get tightly connected to  the characters. Ryan's story is one of those times.

This fall, as his hockey buddies go back onto the ice or off to school, Ryan is at the gym working out, strengthening his upper body so he can manipulate his lifeless legs and regain some independence. It's impressive.

Straschnitzki during a rehab session. 'He never gives up,' says his physiotherapist Christin Krey, right. (Susan Ormiston/CBC)
Ryan attributes much of his steady recovery to "a good attitude."

"There's so much to work for," he told me recently. "Keep a positive attitude. I know it sounds cliche and old, but it'll take you a long way. I mean, it's only been five months and look where I am now — and that's all thanks to my attitude and the people around me."

Watching him from April to now teaches us so much about ability, rather than disability.

  • WATCH: Susan Ormiston's story about Ryan Straschnitzki's recovery tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online

Baby boom and bust

India may soon overtake China as the world's most populous nation.

The latest figures released by the Chinese government show that the country's net population growth over the first eight months of this year was 4.1 million people, compared to India's 14 million additions.

The gap between the populations of the world's two biggest states is currently around 35 million people, and demographers estimate that it will be narrowed to zero within three to five years.

By 2030, India's predicted population will be eight per cent higher than China's, or 1.532 billion people versus 1.419 billion. Then 25 per cent larger by 2050, as China's population starts to fall while India's continues to grow.

A man and woman hold babies on a sidewalk in Beijing. China's net population growth over the first eight months of this year was 4.1 million people. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)
China did away with its longstanding one-child-per-family policy two years ago in an effort to reverse some worrying demographic trends.

As of 2017, 17.3 per cent of the country's population was 60 or older. By 2030, that proportion will rise to 25 per cent, forecasters say, and then to 35 per cent by 2050, which means China will have more elderly people than the combined overall populations of the U.K., Germany, Japan and France.

Allowing couples to have a second child did cause a population spike, with 17.86 million babies born in China in 2016. But the effect seems to have been temporary, with 17.23 million children born last year, falling short of the state target of 18 million.

A health worker vaccinates newborn babies at a government hospital in Agartala, India. The nation's net population growth over the first eight months of this year was 14 million. (Arindam Dey/AFP/Getty Images)
All of which explains why China appears to be preparing to remove all limits on family size.

Yesterday, Beijing did away with three agencies that were charged with enforcing family planning, replacing them with a new department tasked with "establishing and perfecting a specialized system for supporting families."

And while there has been no official word on scrapping the two-child policy, observers took note of a postage stamp released last month that showed two happy pigs and three little piglets.

The one-child policy is credited with slowing what would have been explosive population growth — reducing the predicted number of births by some 400 million while it was in effect. But its impact over 36 years has proven more pernicious, as the sex-ratio was thrown out of whack by families hoping for a son, selectively aborting female fetuses. According to its last census, China has 34 million more males than females.

(India has an even larger gender gap, but no limits on family size.)

And when young Chinese can find a mate, they often put off having kids or choose to have just one, due to concerns about the cost.

A nurse takes care of newborn babies at the Lake Malaren International Postpartum Care Centre in Shanghai. (AFP/Getty Images)
All of which is a sharp contrast to some news today about the world's continuing difficulties with feeding the 7.5 billion people who already inhabit the planet.

The World Food Program's annual report, released this morning, estimates that 821 million people — one in nine — are undernourished, facing chronic food shortages.

That's up from 804 million people last year, an increase that the UN body attributes to the effects of conflict and climate change.

Although, it's not that the world doesn't have enough food, just that it is unevenly distributed. One in eight adults worldwide — 621 million — are now categorized as obese.

And even as rapid economic growth has dramatically reduced the percentage of people living in poverty in both India and China, the number of people who go to bed hungry every night remains staggering.

According to today's figures, there are still 124.5 million undernourished people in China and 195.9 million in India.

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A few words on...

Reasons to stick around.

Quote of the moment

"This will be a storm that creates and causes massive damage to our country … this is not going to be a storm that we recover from in days."

- Jeff Byard, associate administrator of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, warns residents of the Carolinas to take Hurricane Florence very seriously.

Hurricane Florence is seen from the International Space Station as it churns in the Atlantic Ocean towards the eastern coast of the United States. (NASA/Reuters)

What The National is reading

  • Canada has taken in almost $300 million from retaliatory tariffs on U.S. imports (CBC)
  • Nearly 10,000 diagnosed with Ground Zero-related cancer (Guardian)
  • Native American tribes file lawsuit seeking to invalidate Keystone XL pipeline permits (NPR)
  • Tensions grow in India over government caste law reforms (Asia Times)
  • White House mulls new Trump-Kim summit after 'warm letter' (CBC)
  • Zimbabwe health minister declares cholera emergency (Africanews)
  • Putin's ex-bodyguard challenges opposition leader to a duel (PoliticoEU)
  • Guardian's modern Ireland book recommendations are 'bollocks' (Irish Times)

Today in history

Sept. 11, 1979: CBC visits far-flung refugee camps for Vietnamese boat people

At the height of the exodus from Vietnam, no one was sure just how many people had taken to the sea to flee the Communist government. But the number of people who perished as they tried to make their escape was said to be at least 75,000. An intrepid CBC crew travels to a series of remote and previously uninhabited Indonesian islands and finds them filled with refugees. At one stop they collect 4,000 letters to be mailed to family abroad. And they leave behind a CBC medical kit, doubling the available supplies for some 12,000 people crowded into the makeshift camp.

CBC television crew visits Vietnamese refugees, Anambas Islands

Digital Archives

42 years ago
A CBC television crew flies to the remote Anambas Islands, to investigate reports of thousands of Vietnamese refugees living there. 6:12

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  • When first published, this story said that in the 9/11 attacks on New York's twin towers, the south tower was struck first. The attackers first crashed a plane into the north tower, then another into the south tower.
    Sep 11, 2018 8:22 PM ET


Jonathon Gatehouse

CBC Investigative Journalist

Jonathon Gatehouse has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, covering seven Olympic Games and authoring a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey. He works for the national investigative unit in Toronto.