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This Is How Much the World Has Changed Since the War in Afghanistan Began

As the bombing began in Afghanistan in 2001, social media didn't exist and Barack Obama was a state senator. Fourteen years later, the war is still going on, at least according to the Department of Justice.

US Marines raise the first American flag in Afghanistan in November 2001. Photo via Flickr user MarineCorps NewYork

In December, the White House issued a press release that would make a reasonable person conclude the war in Afghanistan was over. "Now, thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform," it read, "our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending, and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion."

Not so fast, said the Justice Department in court documents unsealed on Friday. If hostilities in Afghanistan were over, the government would presumably have to free some Guantanamo Bay detainees who are being held because of their alleged Taliban ties, since the legal rationale to keep them locked up would be gone.


Technicality or not, this means that in the eyes of the US government, the 14-year-old war still isn't over. It's the longest conflict in American history, having surpassed the Vietnam War in length in 2010. There are people old enough to drink today who can barely remember a time before October 7, 2001, when American bombs first fell on Afghanistan, because they were only eight years old.

So in honor of the stubborn persistence of the war, here's a look back at what the world was like before it began:

Color screens were just being introduced to cell phones.

We didn't know Lance Bass or Ricky Martin were gay yet.

Kevin just met the girl of his dreams. There's just one small problem…

The Fast and the Furious had just come out.
…to not-so-great reviews. And then they made six more.

There was no social media.
Not even Friendster.

Angelina Jolie was famous for making out with her brother at the Oscars.

Now she has six children with Brad Pitt and is an award-winning humanitarian.

Gas cost $1.46 per gallon.

Jennifer Lopez had just gotten married to Chris Judd.
Remember that? No? OK.

Billy Corgan wasn't yet a wrestling promoter making appearances on Infowars.

Bow Wow and Romeo were still both "lil" and had number one songs.

Lena Dunham was 15 years old.

Runescape was the apex of online gaming.

Gmail was three years away from beginning its existence as an invite-only beta.

George W. Bush had just come back from his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, who he liked a lot.
"I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue," Bush said. "I was able to get a sense of his soul."


Barack Obama was a state senator who had just appeared on a local Chicago restaurant review show.

"So Barack, it looks like they serve some liberal portions there."

Everyone wanted to know who the father of Rachel's baby was on Friends.
Literally tens of millions of people watched this show.

Al Gore had a beard.

Sum41 appeared on Saturday Night Live to perform "Fat Lip."
Like someone getting pregnant on Friends, this was a thing millions of people presumably wanted to see.

George W. Bush said this: "In the months ahead, our patience will be one of our strengths—patience with the long waits that will result from tighter security; patience and understanding that it will take time to achieve our goals; patience in all the sacrifices that may come."

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