World and nation transform during '02s' four years

by Carl Burnett | 6/9/02 5:00am

While the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks defined the news cycle during the Class of 2002's final year at Dartmouth, tumult has characterized the graduates' world since their arrival -- a presidential impeachment, conflict in the Balkans, a bizarre presidential election and the start of a new "war on terrorism" have all come to pass in the '02s college careers. Here is a look back at those and other happenings in the news from the last four years.


Scandal in our nation's highest office was the biggest news story of 1998, as Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr spun an investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton's Whitewater financial dealings into charges that the president lied about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky during a deposition in another case.

Clinton's December impeachment, on counts of obstruction of justice and perjury, was the nation's second -- Andrew Johnson has the dubious honor of being the first president to be tried by the Senate.

The coincidence of the release of the political satire film "Wag the Dog" and Clinton's decision to take out Iraq's chemical and biological weapons stockpiles with air strikes led some pundits to question the motives of the decision.

Eight hundred years of conflict and violence between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland took a hopeful turn as former Senate Majority leader George Mitchell helped broker Northern Ireland's "Good Friday Agreement."

The deal, which has since broken down, called for the disarmament of numerous militia groups operating in the four Ulster counties under British rule and created a democratic body working to decide the future of the partitioned region.

On the other side of the planet, economic crisis continued to plague such countries as Japan, South Korea and Indonesia, but left the United States in largely unaffected.

The threat of nuclear warfare arose once again as India tested three nuclear bombs on May 11. Neighboring rival Pakistan promptly responded with tests of its own, confirming long-held suspicions that both countries possessed atomic weapons.

In the sports world, sluggers Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa raced to best Roger Maris' 1961 home run record. At summer's end, McGuire came out on top by sending 70 shots out of the park. Barry Bonds would break the record again with 73 in the 2001 season.

Finally, relief came to millions of previously impotent men with the release of Viagra.


Monica-gate reached its sordid conclusion in early 1999, depriving many a late-night comic of material when the Senate voted almost uniformly along lines against removing Clinton from office.

Abroad, the United States led the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's decision to deploy air strikes in the Balkans for the second time this decade as Slobodan Milosevic's Yugoslav government continued persecution of ethnic Albanians seeking autonomy for the province of Kosovo.

Stateside, public outcry ensued after two students gunned down 15 of their peers and teachers in suburban Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. on April 20. Many targeted violence in movies, video games and music -- in particular that of singer Marilyn Manson -- as the culprit in the killings.

As the days leading toward the new millennium ticked away, questions loomed about the potential hazards of the Y2K bug, the result of computers programmed to record the year using only two digits. Sources predicted widely varying degrees of damage, ranging from a few airline delays and scattered losses of power to the apocalyptic expectations of doomsday cults such as Heaven's Gate.

In the end, little came of Y2K, and the New Year passed without incident.


Primary season brought presidential prospects Bill Bradley, D-N.J., and John McCain, R-Ariz., head to head with incumbent Vice President Al Gore and president's son George W. Bush.

McCain experienced early successes, taking several primaries (including New Hampshire's) while Bush stirred up controversy by speaking at South Carolina's anti-Catholic Bob Jones University. But by Super Tuesday, both favorites had locked up their respective party nominations.

The campaign's trajectory over the summer months was marked largely by its tightness, and when Americans finally went to the polls in November, no clear victor emerged.

For weeks, politicians and the populace debated "pregnant chads" and the failings of the Electoral College before the Supreme Court decided in favor of Bush making him the nation's next president.

Conflict erupted with Cuba as young Elin Gonzalez found himself at the center of an international custody battle that ended with his forced removal from the home of Miami relatives.

In August, the world watched helplessly as a Russian submarine Kursk sunk in the Barents Sea, killing all 118 crew members.


In January, George W. Bush was inaugurated amid lingering complaints of unfair vote counts, put to rest later in the spring by full recounts of the ballots that indicated he would have won the state of Florida, upon whose electoral votes the presidency hinged.

California became embroiled in a serious energy crisis, resulting in rolling blackouts and government efforts to curb energy prices.

The ongoing crisis in the Middle East reached numerous flashpoints, as violence between Palestinians and Israelis continued to escalate in Israel.

On Feb. 6, Likud Party leader Arial Sharon defeated incumbant Ehud Barak by a landslide in Israel's February 6 special election for prime minister.

Bush's administration was tested early in April when a U.S. Navy surveillance plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet and made an emergency landing on the island of Hainan. The Chinese government detained some 24 crew members for 11 days following the crash.

In May, Vermont senator Jim Jeffords announced he would leave the Republican Party and become an independent, partly in protest of President Bush's budget plan. The switch had national significance because it shifted a tenuous balance of power in the Senate from a Republican majority to a thin Democratic one.

In June, ousted longtime Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was turned over to a United Nations war-crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. Three indictments charged Milosevic with war crimes in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia over the past decade.

Convicted of killing 168 people by blowing up Oklahoma City's Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995, Timothy McVeigh was put to death by lethal injection on June 11, the first federal prisoner to be executed in 38 years.

The biggest news of the year, of course -- and of the nascent millennium -- came on Sept. 11, when terrorists linked with Osama bin Laden's radical Al-Qaida organization hijacked four U.S. passenger airliners, aiming them at key domestic targets. The terrorists flew one plane into each of the World Trade Center's twin towers in Manhattan, and one into the Pentagon. A fourth hijacked flight crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania, causing many to speculate that it was aimed for another Washington target, such as the White House.

The terrorist attacks quickly brought the nation's -- and the military's -- focus to Afghanistan, where a United States-led international coalition began air strikes on strongholds of the extremist Taliban government on Oct. 7. The Taliban had refused to hand over Osama bin Laden and was suspected of harboring Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups.

Terrorism-related fear did not end on Sept. 11, as mysterious letters laced with anthrax scared citizens and confounded investigators. Media outlets in Washington, New York and elsewhere received mail with the toxic spores, as did the office of Sen. Tom Daschle. Among recipients and postal workers, there were five anthrax-related deaths.

The attacks also brought U.S. financial markets to a halt for a few days, exacerbating a financial slump that began at the end of 2000. The Federal Reserve cut interest rates a record 11 times in 2002, a measure that appears to have stemmed declines, but the U.S. economy continues to deal with an unusual level of uncertainty.


A shaken nation was perhaps especially disturbed to watch tensions escalate on the West Bank as the probability of peace between Israel and the Palestinian people became more remote. Attempts at diplomacy -- most notably by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell -- have seemingly fallen on deaf ears as the cycle of Palestinian bombings and Isreali military occupations has proceeded.

On Jan. 1, 12 European member nations adopted the Euro banknotes and coins as their official currency. The UK, Denmark and Sweden, despite being members of the European Union, declined to participate, complicated the process of informing European citizens of the switch.

The collapse of Houston, Texas-based energy trading corporation Enron caused thousands of employees and investors to lose their savings as the company's stock plummeted. Accounting tricks, CEO Kenneth Lay and White House officials all denied knowledge of Enron's precarious situation when the media began looking to answers for countless questions surrounding the bankruptcy.

Sept. 11 imagery was present but subordinate to a theme of international union as the Olympics returned to the United States during the month of February in Salt Lake City, Utah. Although the United States had its best medal showing ever (34 -- Germany led the count with 35), Canada often stole the show with a figure-skating scandal and a return to the gold-medal podium in men's figure hockey.