Janet's Conner

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

5 YEARS LATER, SOLIDARITY AND SKEPTICISM



Leaders across the world Monday expressed solidarity with the United States on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. But behind the soaring rhetoric, a strong skepticism remained toward America's war on terror and President George W. Bush's leadership.

International Herald Tribune
By: Dan Bilefsky
September 12, 2006

There were outpourings of grief for the nearly 3,000 dead, among the Britons, Indians and many other nationalities. The target 5 years ago was America, but globalization saw to it that the attacks on New York and Washington reverberated far beyond the United States.

Daniel Keohane, foreign policy expert at the Center for European Reform in London, said that common global concerns such as the war against terorism, fear's over Iran's nuclear program and the recent war in Lebanon were helping to bridge the differences between the United States and its European allies.

But he said a wide gap remained between political leaders' grudging support for Washington and the wariness among the European public. Nowhere has this been more pronounced that in Britain, where Prime Minister Tony Blair's outspoken support has caused his popularity to plummet and inspired intensifying pressure from him to leave office.

"We are all Americans," the French newspaper Le Monde proclaimed on Sept. 12, 2001, in the aftermath of the attacks.

But its headline Monday---"Bush's Mistakes"---bluntly addressed the growing disillusionment with his conduct of the war in Iraq.

Le Monde qualified the war in Afghanastan a "relative" success but the invasion of Iraq "a major error."

"In 5 years, the United States has pushed the world toward the clash of civilizations Al Qaeda had wanted," Le Monde said.

A Swiss newspaper, Le Temps, had a biting variation on Le Monde's 2001 headline.

"Europe has long stopped saying, 'We are all Americans.' In London you can read, 'We're all Hezbollah,'" it said.

The commemoration ceremonies were darkened Monday as Al Qaeda renewed its call for more terrorist attacks against the United States.

Appearing in a new video in which he urged Muslims to step up their attacks, Al Qaeda deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, warned of "new events" and said that Gulf allies of Washington and Israel were the next targets.

With Europeans digesting recent foiled attacks in Britain, Germany and Denmark, America's allies expressed solidarity with the United States and vowed to defeat terrorism.

"These horrific attacks clearly demonstrted that terrorism is a threat to all states and to all peoples," said a statement from the European Union.

In Germany, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in front of 70,000 people Monday in the German pilgrimage center of Altotting and listened to a brief prayer for peace. In Britain---Washington's most steadfast ally in Afganastan and Iraq---public ceremonies were few at the request of victims' families. A new poll Monday indicated that only 7% of Britons believe that the United States and Briain are winning the fight against global terrorism.

In Europe, the outpouring of high-level support for the United States reflected renewed solidarity following a prolonged chill in the trans-Atlantic relations following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

After Sept. 11, 2001, America's European allies rallied around the United States. But Bush's unilaterism after the attacks alienated many of America's friends and divided Europe.

Analysts said the European animosity that followed was slowly beginning to dissipate, but that enormous skepticism about U.S. foreign policy and Bush remained.

The growing clash between Islamic fundamentalism and the West---reflected in attacks in London and Madrid and in the cartton controversy in Denmark that triggered protests throughout the Muslim world---had helped bring the United States closer to European governments by creating a global community of shared values. Yet it has also alienated many Europeans, who fear Europe's civil liberties are at risk. Allegations that European governments colluded with Washington by allowing CIA agents to interrogate suspected terrorists on European soil have caused widespread consternation.

According to a recent Transatlantic Trends survey of 12 European countries published by the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., only 3 European countries---Britain, the Netherlands, and Romania---view United States leadership more positively than negatively. When asked to evaluate feelings of warmth toward the United States on a scale of 100, the overall response among Europeans declined from 64 degrees in 2002---the year after the attacks---to 51 degrees in 2006. "While people remain empathetic about Sept. 11, that does not erase their unease with the way Bush conducts America's foreign policy or with European governments that support him," Keohane said. "Europeans remain wary of Bush and his division of the world into 'us' and 'them,' which they don't think is conductive to solving global conflicts."

Outside of Europe, the reaction to the anniversary was more ambivalent. In Afghanastan, President Hamid Karzai thanked the United States for its help in forcing the Taliban from power. But Afghan newspapers had little coverage of the anniversaty and Afghans complained that their lives had seen little improvement since the U.S. invasion in 2001.

Their skepticism resonated at a NATO meeting in Brussels, where calls by the alliance for reinforcements of up to 2,500 troops have met a cool reception by countries increasingly wary of alienating public opinion and putting their soldiers in harm's way.

Australia chose the anniversary to appeal to moderate Muslims to be more critical of terrorism, while Pakistan warned against pinning the blame for terrorism on Islam and urged the international community to attack poverty and alienation instead.

"We are not attacking Muslims generally, but you have to call terrorism what it is," Prime Minister John Howard of Australia, said in an interview with the Australian newspaper. "It is a movement that invokes a totally blasphemous and illegitimate way the sanction of Islam to justify what it does."

Chinese state media chided the United States for destabilizing the world with the war in Iraq.

"It's fair to say that September 11 changed the United States," said an editorial in People's Daily. "But what really changed the world was the erroneous U.S. response," it added, "especially the war in Iraq."

Such criticism was expressed more vociferously in the Middle East, even in moderate Arab countries allied with the United States. Egypt's press was particularly angry, sharply criticizing U.S. foreign policy.

"Five years after the disaster of 'black Tuesday,' terrorism is still present, but even more dangerous and more spread out," Mohammed Barakat wrote on the front page of Al Akhbar.



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