TERRORISTS TARGET AMERICA:
Perspectives from the Foreign Press
The quality of much foreign commentary, not for the first time, exceeds that
of our "mainstream" press.
Simon Jenkins warned in The Times of London (September 12):
Those critical of NATO bombing might offer America more sympathy if NATO had
offered sympathy for the hundreds of civilian deaths from its missiles and
cluster bombs far from home. US generals openly demanded the bombing of
civilian targets in Belgrade and Baghdad, to "break the will" of local
people. Is that not what the perpetrators of yesterday's outrage might say?
Here we tread warily. Sponsoring the state of Israel led America into a
prolonged and senseless hostility to the cause of the dispossessed
Palestinians. The financing of anti-Soviet warlords in Afghanistan in the
1980s armed and galvanised terrorist groups, including Osama bin Laden and
others behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre . . . The message
of yesterday's incident is that, for all its horror, it does not and must
not be allowed to matter. It is a human disaster, an outrage, an atrocity,
an unleashing of the madness of which the world will never be rid. But it is
not politically significant. It does not tilt the balance of world power one
inch. It is not an act of war. America's leadership of the West is not
diminished by it. The cause of democracy is not damaged, unless we choose to
let it be damaged.
The London Guardian opined (9/13):
Pounding Afghanistan into dust with cruise missiles and long-range bombers
might make Americans feel better about the Manhattan horror. But such
cathartic vengeance would do nothing to curb the menace of transnational
terrorism.... Truly, there are no limits, if the United States were to take
this path, turning from world cop to global hitman. But nor is there much
rationality in such an approach.... No, these are the dangerous counsels of
anger and thwarted power, urging Mr. Bush to lash out wildly. They should
be ignored. The war on terrorism will not be won that way. Military
action, especially a NATO assault, must be the option of the last resort.
Writing in the same paper on September 14, Jonathan Friedland said that
Tuesday's killers have struck a blow against globalisation more potent even
than their toppling of the twin totems of the World Trade Centre. Faith in
easy, safe, jet travel--so crucial to shrinking our world--has vanished . .
. Whatever happens next, that act has won one success already. It has made
Americans, and everyone else, fear their own world.
The London Independent (9/13):
While we in Britain clearly "stand shoulder to shoulder with our American
friends" in their shock and their dread and in their determination to do
what they can to avert further atrocities, we should see the nature of
President Bush's response before identifying ourselves too closely with what
might all too easily become a counterproductive thirst for revenge. . . . No
one doubts the need for tighter security or for military action against
identifiable threats, but Tuesday's barbarities exposed the extent to which
U.S. policy towards the threat from 'rogue states' was misdirected. The
obsession with a technological fix, the 'son of Star Wars' missile shield,
has distracted attention from dealing with the religious and ideological
basis of low-tech terrorism.
The Financial Times editorialized (9/12):
Mr. Bush should also review his policy towards the Middle East. . . . The
administration's hands-off approach and its tolerance of . . . Sharon's
hardline has encouraged extremists across the region looking for any excuse
to demonize Americans.
In Athens, Eleftherotypia said (9/12):
The United States leadership must realize that the best reaction is that of
democratization of the world order, respect for international law,
abandonment of arbitrary behavior or the law of the sheriff. The answer to
terrorism is always more democracy for all the peoples of the planet.
In Toronto, Rick Salutin opined in The Globe and Mail (9/14):
Once it's been shown to be doable, it becomes redoable, with relative ease.
Except for one item, harder to duplicate and on which it all depends: the
willingness of those involved to kill themselves. This is what marks these
attacks as 21st century rather than 20th . . . Bizarrely, the rise of
fundamentalist religion as a political factor in many parts of the world
owes something to American policy. The U.S. chose to nurture Islamic
fundamentalism in Afghanistan in the 1980s, to undermine Soviet control
there; in the course of which it worked with, armed and trained--Osama bin
Laden! In a similar way, Israel chose to encourage fundamentalism among
Palestinians to undermine secular left-wing forces.
In Iceland Morgunbladid commented (9/12):
It is possible that the horrible events yesterday will lead to louder
demands in the United States for the Bush administration to revaluate their
Middle East policies.
In Portugal, the influential daily Público opined (9/12):
This proves that the United States, if it wants to survive in this new world
of wars waged on the battlefields of the purest terror, not only must better
understand the real weight of the conflicts with which it is dealing (the
Middle East in particular), but also agree to cooperation with the other
democracies in order to restore a minimum of human dignity in a world where
barbarism threatens to rule.
Jean-Marie Colombani commented in a front-page editorial in Le Monde (9/13):
The reality is that we have a world without counterweight, physically
unbalanced and therefore dangerous, because it lacks the balance of
multipolarity. . . . The future, which is etched in blood, already points to
two clear consequences that have to do with alliances: it is the end of a
strategy based solely against Russia. Russia will become Washington's main
ally. It may also be the end of an alliance, which the United States
established with the Islamic Sunni regimes, such as those of Saudi Arabia
Serge July held in left-of-center Liberation (9/13):
The United States is dying to counterattack. But here again it will be
limited by the dangerous liaisons it has woven with Islamic movements since
the war in Afghanistan.
Michel Schifres opined in right-of-center Le Figaro (9/13):
Changes will result from this attack: first, the United States will need to
reorient its secret service surveillance to political issues as opposed to
economic issues. And it will have to stop "playing" with Islamic extremists
and stop closing its eyes to the regimes that harbor terrorists.
Werner Burchardt commented on German national radio station Deutschlandfunk
The "massive retaliatory strike" which Washington announced does not bode
well. We Germans, who owe so much to the Americans after the end of WW II,
should keep a critical distance to the United States and prevent it from
Maksim Yusin remarked in Moscow's Izvestiya (9/13):
Differences among civilizations are not in what politicians say. They are
in how ordinary people act in a crisis. The moment of truth has put
everything in its place. No matter how much some of our politicians speak
of a "strategic partnership" and near-friendship with Saddam, Qaddafi and
Iran's ayatollahs, the world knows now with whom we really are--as people
bring flowers to U.S. diplomatic missions in Moscow and other Russian
Also in Russia, Vremya commented:
The Americans should review their military doctrine. Now is the time for
them to think about what makes anti-American sentiment so strong in the
world, why the Great Satan is hated so much, and if the late Senator William
Fulbright was right about the "arrogance of power."
Aleksandr Frolov stated in Sovetskaya Rossiya (9/13):
Early commentaries clearly overdid it, speaking about an "unprecedented"
event. All commentators suddenly "forgot" about precedents such as Dresden,
Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Vietnam, and Yugoslavia, all set by America. People
remember that. Even so, if the attack is retribution, it is unjust. It has
missed those who are really responsible for the war that has been going on
in the world for the past 50 years.
Jerusalem Post editorialized (9/13):
The free world must recognize that it is in a war of self-defense whose goal
is victory. The concept of a war against terrorism is meaningless without
the goal of removing terrorist regimes. . . . A war against terrorism that
avoids the issue of regime change in countries such as Iraq, Iran, and
Afghanistan cannot be won, because it has not even really been joined.
Israeli daily Ha'aretz commented (9/12):
The price America has paid and pays for its is done in the name of all
freedom-loving countries, including Israel, which are not ready to bow their
heads before extremists who enlist God to justify their murderous
Yediot Aharonot wrote (9/12):
For almost one year, Israel has withstood a cruel terrorist offensive on its
own. Israel's sometimes excessive responses have been greatly criticized in
the world and have been met by a good deal of misunderstanding and a lack of
empathy. The New York and Washington scenes will now open the eyes of many
people. . . . The U.S., Britain, France and other Western countries will now
do their moral stocktaking as to what they did or did not do to eliminate
terrorism and to contain it.... We, the Israelis, will tell them
sorrowfully and with a feeling of a shared fate: "We told you so."
Jerusalem Post editorialized (9/12):
We are sickened, once again, by scenes of Palestinians dancing in the
streets, this time celebrating the deaths of Americans. We have trouble
fathoming the hatred directed at us, so we can only imagine the bafflement
and pain of Americans attempting to contemplate the baseless hatred directed
at them. . . . Until now, the democracies have fiddled with and indulged the
states where terrorism has been cultivated and grown.
In Tel Aviv Hatzofe wrote (9/12):
The determination that has not been seen thus far in the war against
fundamentalist terrorism will now be activated. Simply because there is no
other choice. What happened yesterday is unlike any terrorism we have been
Mohammad Subeihi wrote in Al-Arab Al-Yawm (9/12):
We also realize that the American people, now fallen to grief, will find the
chance to review its administrations' policy that has made the U.S. a target
for terrorist organizations that are increasingly growing inside and outside
Israel's Arabic language daily Al-Ittihad held (9/12):
In order to fight terrorism, one needs to look for its background . . . and
its causes. The U.S. administration should stand in front of the mirror and
ask itself questions about organized state terrorism it has carried out
against Cuba, Libya, the Iraqi people and many others. [It should consider]
its crimes in support of Israeli terrorism against Palestinians.
On the West Bank the semi-official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida opined (9/13):
It is absolutely not in the Palestinian interest to express any complacency
[regarding the attacks on America]. Those ignorant few, who did that, do not
represent our public opinion. In fact such an ignorant behavior might have
happened in other parts of the world, but, unfortunately, the cameras did
not reach them and the media did not really care about those. . . . We are
victims of terrorism, and victims should stick together. We and the
Americans share the same grief.
Pro-Palestinian Authority Al-Ayyam opined (9/13):
The Palestinians and the Americans find themselves in the same boat. The
American officials in the White House have been showing understanding to the
attacks perpetrated by the Jewish State. . . . It is not clear that, having
the Americans suffer from what the Palestinians have been through for the
last year, such an understanding can continue.
Al-Quds editorialized (9/13):
The irony of the situation is that Israel is exploiting what is going on in
the United States to claim that it stands behind America in its fight
against terrorism. This is a twisted logic, considering that Israel is an
occupying country that is oppressing the Palestinian people. It is
important that the United States realize the big difference between the
American case and the Israeli case.
Jeddah-based Saudi daily Al-Bilad remarked (9/13):
Until now, the key beneficiary of yesterday's horrible catastrophe against
the American people is Israel.
The independent South China Morning Post of Hong Kong noted (9/13):
It would be opportune for the U.S. to take a realistic look at its
relationship with the rest of the world. . . . If the U.S. is to continue to
exercise its global role, it is important that besides handing out
retribution to those involved in the terrorist attacks it also pays
attention to the causes for this resentment and to try and understand it.
The security of the US cannot rest solely on the power of its armed forces.
It also needs a new diplomacy to reach out to those who feel alienated from
a US-led global order.
Chinese-language Hong Kong daily Wen Wei Po wrote in its editorial (9/13):
Terrorist activities are basically related to U.S. hegemonism in its dealing
with world affairs.
In South Korea pro-government Hankyoreh Shinmun editorialized (9/13):
Given that the U.S. has been under fire from the international community for
its power-based, arrogant attitude, the Americans need to take this incident
as an opportunity to reflect on whether they have encouraged this desperate
and hostile terrorism.
In India the centrist daily Pioneer asserted (9/13):
Osama bin Laden's Frankensteinian entity was largely created by none else
than the CIA to counter the Soviet occupation troops in Afghanistan.... the
U.S. spent more than $600 million in this operation, which has now come back
to haunt America with its worst nightmare. This is the link that U.S. policy
makers need to understand before they embark on any retribution in the form
of retaliatory attacks. Pakistan and Taliban are the creation of U.S.
foreign and military policies that have now backfired, creating in the
process enemies of humanity like.
An op-ed by Irshad Ahmed Haqqani in the leading Pakistani daily Jang
Not a single media commentary from the United States has hinted at a
critical appreciation of the country's foreign policy. Only one statement
is being repeated, that the terrorism against America will be responded to
and the terrorists will be crushed.
Michele Ouimet judged in the lead editorial in Montreal's La Presse (9/13):
Of course Americans' anger is legitimate and a lot of innocent people were
killed. . . . But American sanctions also kill. More slowly, more subtly,
unspectacularly . . . and they especially hit the innocent civilians. We
wrote yesterday about the impact of economic sanctions on Iraq. They
succeeded in agitating new hatred against America but also killed--at least
3,000 children a month, according to UNICEF. Innocent populations have
nothing to do with extremist terrorist groups . . . and they shouldn't have
to pay the price of the retaliation.
Columnist Susan Riley wrote in the Ottawa Citizen (9/12):
As for Canada: Our best protection may be distancing ourselves a little
more explicitly from U.S. foreign policy . . . Faced with the random
brutality unleashed on ordinary Americans yesterday, it is hard not to
think: Thank God, I live in Canada. We are safe because of our relative
harmlessness, more than our virtue.
In Brazil O Estado de Sao Paulo Paris correspondent Giles Lapouge asked
Wasn't Osama bin Laden cynically trained by the CIA? Wasn't he chosen by the
United States as an essential element in the fight against the Soviets?
Wasn't it the United States that produced this devil? It took lots of time
for the United States to realize what everyone knew from the very beginning.
Folha de S. Paulo columnist Marcelo Coelho judged (9/13):
A brutal, simultaneous, unexpected, cowardly attack will serve for that the
immense U.S. military power to be used without the supposed good manners of
a civilized nation. The problem is that so far the bombings and terror
actions carried out by the U.S. had remote adversaries, and distant
justifications. How many thousand children died in the bombings against
Iraq? How many civilian targets were hit due to 'technical failure' in
Serbia? How can one condemn terrorism after having used napalm in Vietnam?
Not to mention Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Of course I prefer Bush to bin Laden,
as well as the Republicans to Taliban. But we should not think whether it is
better to bomb Manhattan or destroy Kabul. . . . I deplore the American
victims, not that the Pentagon was hit.
An editorial in Mexico City's La Jornada states (9/13):
It is important to remember that regardless of the reasons for the criminal
attacks in New York and in Washington, it is a matter of U.S. domestic and
foreign policy, and that the Mexican people have nothing to do with them.
Monterrey's leading El Norte ran commentary by a former Mexican diplomat
There will also be a witch-hunt. . . . And if you think that being a
Mexican makes you safe, let me tell you that in some U.S. intelligence
circles, Mexico is not only considered a dangerous source of drug
trafficking but also of terrorism, with special concentration on the Mexican
states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero, which may harbor terrorist cells
capable of bombing banks, ambushing and sabotaging anything that has a U.S.
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