The Year 2011
A Look Back
As another year draws to its close, a time of reflection is signaled; a time to dwell on the successes and failures of the past year. 2011 will be remembered as a year of bloody fighting, catastrophic tragedy, global triumphs, and historic milestones . Old enemies were defeated, but new ones were quick to take their place. And just as shock and fury raged, a beautiful commoner and her prince gave us hope for a happy ending after all.
Starting in late 2010 to the present, a revolutionary wave popularly known as the Arab Spring has brought major protests, uprisings, and even revolutions to several Middle Eastern countries. The Arab Spring, otherwise known as the Arab Awakening, is a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world that began on Saturday, December 18, 2010. To date, there have been revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt; a civil war in Libya resulting in the fall of its government; civil uprisings in Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen, the latter resulting in the resignation of the Yemeni prime minister; major protests in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Oman; and minor protests in Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Western Sahara. Clashes at the borders of Israel in May 2011 and the Palestine 194 movement are also inspired by the regional Arab Spring. The protests have shared techniques of civil resistance in sustained campaigns involving strikes, demonstrations, marches and rallies, as well as the use of social media to organize, communicate, and raise awareness in the face of state attempts at repression and Internet censorship. Many demonstrations have met violent responses from authorities, as well as from pro-government militias and counter-demonstrators. Despite this, these uprisings appear to be in the process of significantly changing the social order of the Middle East.
Long term dictator Muammar Gaddafi was the official ruler of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977 and then the "Brother Leader" of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011. As fighting thundered across the Middle East, Libya found itself thrust into its own civil war. Gaddafi was captured alive after his convoy was attacked by NATO warplanes as the city of Sirte fell on October 20, 2011. He was then beaten and killed by rebel forces.
In May U.S. President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden, the founder and leader of the militant group Al-Qaeda, infamous for his responsibility in the September 11, 2001 attacks, had been killed during an American military operation targeting his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Shortly after 1 a.m. local time a United States special forces military unit commenced Operation Neptune Spear. The attack was ordered by United States President Barack Obama and carried out in a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operation by a team of United States Navy SEALs from the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group, also known informally by its former name, SEAL Team Six, with the support of CIA operatives on the ground. After the raid, U.S. forces took bin Laden's body to Afghanistan for identification, then buried it at sea within 24 hours of his death. Al-Qaeda confirmed the death on May 6 with posts made on militant websites, vowing to avenge the killing. Other Pakistani militant groups, including the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan also vowed retaliation, both against the US, and against Pakistan for not preventing the operation
The wrath of God replaced the wrath of man on March 11 as a 9.1-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit the east coast of Japan, killing 15,822 and leaving another 3,926 missing. It was the most powerful known earthquake ever to have hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful earthquakes in the world overall since modern record-keeping began in 1900. Tsunami warnings were issued in 50 countries and territories and emergencies were declared at four nuclear power plants affected by the quake. In addition to loss of life and destruction of infrastructure, the tsunami caused a number of nuclear accidents, primarily the ongoing level 7 meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant complex, and the associated evacuation zones affecting hundreds of thousands of residents. Additionally the earthquake caused severe structural damage in Japan, including heavy damage to roads and railways as well as fires in many areas, and a dam collapse. thousands are still unaccounted for and most likely never will be.
Scientific achievement was recognized on July 21 as the Space Shuttle Atlantis landed successfully at Kennedy Space Center after completing STS-135, concluding NASA's 30 year Space Shuttle program. On September 14, 2011, NASA announced that it had selected the design of a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency's astronauts farther into space than ever before and provide the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.[with the Space Shuttle program ended.
The world watched with bated breath at the six week long trial of Casey Anthony who was charged with the first degree murder of her daughter Caylee. The prosecution sought the death penalty and alleged Casey murdered her daughter by administering chloroform, then applying duct tape, because she wanted her freedom. The defense team, led by Jose Baez, countered that the child had drowned accidentally in the family's swimming pool on June 16, 2008, and that Casey lied about this and other issues because of a dysfunctional upbringing, which they said included sexual abuse by her father. The public felt it was a given that Anthony would be found guilty, but shock quickly turned to public outrage rage when the 25 year old was acquitted. Since the end of the trial, various movements have arisen for the creation of a new law, called "Caylee's Law", that would impose stricter requirements on parents to notify law enforcement of the death or disappearance of a child. Lawmakers in four states—Florida, Oklahoma, New York, and West Virginia—have begun drafting versions of "Caylee's Law". The law in Oklahoma would require a child's parent or guardian to notify police of a missing child within 24 hours, and would also stipulate a time frame for notification of the disappearance of a young child under the age of 12. The Florida law would make it a felony if a parent or legal guardian fails to report a missing child in timely manner if they could have known the child would be in danger. The call for mandatory reporting laws has been criticized as being "reactive, overly indiscriminating and even counterproductive." One critic noted the law could lead to over compliance and false reports by parents wary of becoming suspects, wasting police resources and leading to legitimate abductions going uninvestigated during the critical first few hours. Additionally innocent people could get snared in the law for searching for a child instead of immediately calling police. These proposals are still being debated.
On a happier note, on April 29 an estimated 36 million people tuned in watch the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey in London. Over 5000 street parties were held to mark the nuptials throughout the United Kingdom and one million people lined the route between Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. As Prince William was not the heir apparent to the throne, the wedding was not a full state occasion and many details were left to the couple to decide, such as much of the guest list of about 1,900. It was a public holiday in the United Kingdom and featured many ceremonial aspects, including use of the state carriages and roles for the Foot Guards and Household Cavalry. Hours before the service, the Queen conferred upon William the titles Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus. Upon her marriage, Middleton, a commoner, therefore became Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge. The ceremony was attended by most of the Royal Family, as well as many foreign royals, diplomats, and the couple's chosen personal guests.
This past year also marked a few historic milestones. The commencement of 150th anniversary of the United States Civil War began with the first shot fired at Fort Sumter back in April. Commemoration events will take place throughout the US and will last until 2015. September 11 dawned the somber anniversary of the terrorist suicide airplane attacks on the World Trade Center, The Pentagon, and the foiled attempt which ended in a field in Pennsylvania. A memorial was planned in the immediate aftermath of the attacks and destruction of the World Trade Center to remember both the victims and those involved in rescue. On September 11, 2011, a dedication ceremony was held at the memorial, commemorating the tenth anniversary of the attacks. The memorial officially opened to the public on September 12, 2011, while the museum will open one year later, on or around September 11, 2012. The design is a forest of trees with two square pools in the center, where the Twin Towers once stood. Incorporated in the design are the names of all those who lost their lives that day.
A year of triumphs and tribulations, 2011 saw devastating tragedy, yet still left us with hope for the future.