Point of Divergence
Sometime in 1996, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed arrives in Afghanistan and quickly kindles a relationship with Osama bin Laden. "KSM" joins al-Qaeda immediately (which did not happen in the OTL until 1999) and enraptures Bin Laden with a plan to fly hijacked airliners into U.S. skyscrapers (which actually happened in 1996 in OTL). Bin Laden is so enamored with the plan that he scraps his plan to bomb U.S. embassies in Africa on the seventh anniversary of the arrival of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. Instead, he chooses to mark the anniversaries with a direct attack on the United States - planned by KSM.
At 9:17 AM on the morning of August 8th, 1998, a hijacked airliner flies into the South tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. Just 13 minutes later, another plane hits the North tower. A third plane crashes into the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall in a failed attempt to strike the US Capitol Building, and a fourth crash lands in a park Prince George's County, Maryland after passengers storm the cockpit.
As a result, President Bill Clinton must confront a national crisis, while the attacks generate a massive shift in the upcoming 2000 Presidential Campaign.
OTL vs. ATL
The fact that the attack occurred before, rather than after, the 2000 election caused a massive reordering of presidential contenders, which would have a far-reaching impact on the futures of both United States political parties. The earlier beginning of the post-8/8 War on Terror also shifted number of world events outside the United States
- President Clinton's approval rating briefly surged after the 8/8 attack and subsequent attack on Afghanistan. Democrats won the House of Representatives in the 1998 midterm election, three months after the attack. Dick Gephardt succeeded the defeated Newt Gingrich as Speaker, and the impeachment of Bill Clinton never occurred.
- The revelation that he had refused Sudan's offer to hand over Osama bin Laden caused a collapse of Clinton's approval ratings in 1999. Clinton left office with disapproval ratings matching those of LBJ during the Vietnam War.
- As a result of the collapse in support for the Clinton administration, Hillary Clinton could not run for the U.S. Senate in 2000 and did not become an elected official in her own right. Vice President Al Gore attempted to run for the 2000 Democratic Nomination but was beaten by Senator Bill Bradley.
- The 8/8 attack catapulted New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to national prominence two years before the 2000 Presidential Election. A massive Draft Giuliani movement engulfed the GOP nomination process, causing George W. Bush, John McCain, and Steve Forbes to abandon their planned campaigns. Giuliani resoundingly beat Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey in the general election and became the 43rd President of the United States.
- As a result of Giuliani's election, the Republican Party was not clearly identified as socially conservative during the ensuing decade.
- As a result of his presidential campaign, Giuliani did not have a routine prostate cancer exam in May of 2000. Instead, his cancer was not discovered until after his inauguration, resulting in a much longer and more public battle with the disease. Giuliani also never met his third wife Judith Nathan, and married his longtime press secretary in 1999 after his second wife Donna Hanover filed for divorce.
See Timeline - 9/11 in 1998 for more detail.
Sometime in 1996: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed joins al-Qaeda and immediately begins planning the 8/8 attacks
August 8th, 1998: World Trade Center and National Mall hit by airliners in a terrorist attack engineered by al-Qaeda.
September 17th, 1998: The United States invades Afghanistan.
January 29th, 1999: The Washington Times publishes a report detailing President Clinton's refusal of Sudan's offer to hand over Osama bin Laden in 1996.
November 7th, 2000: Rudolph Giuliani elected as the 43rd President of the United States.
February 28th, 2001: President Giuliani announces that he has been diagnosed with advanced but treatable Prostate Cancer and will begin intensive treatment immediately.
November 30th, 2001: President Giuliani announces that his cancer has entered remission.