International Papers

9/11 + 365

The amount of coverage devoted to the first anniversary of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is overwhelming, but much of it boils down to the following questions:

What does 9/11 represent? Canada’s Globe and Mail declared it “the real end of the 1990s, an optimistic decade that began with the demise of the Cold War.” Spain’s El Mundo agreed, calling the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, “the last event of the 20th century and the beginning of an era whose edges are still blurred.” An op-ed in the Jerusalem Post noted, “The one overriding lesson of September 11 … for all those who look to America as the rock of the free world, is simply: ‘It can happen there.’ And that makes living in the 21st century, especially for those of us in Israel, a far tougher proposition than any of us ever imagined.”

Did any good come out of Sept. 11? South Africa’s Star found some benefits: “Americans now know where Afghanistan is, have a better understanding of Islam and recognise the urgent need, for instance, to settle the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.” El País of Madrid praised the “general [post-9/11] movement to delegitimize terrorists,” which has helped in Spain’s fight against the Basque separatist group ETA.

How was President Bush’s response to the attacks? Britain’s Guardian characterized him as a “weak, second-rate president with no mandate and less nous” and concluded, “Perhaps only Mr Bush could have made September 11 even worse than it actually was.” For the Globe and Mail, the president “quickly displayed qualities of leadership that many didn’t think he had.”

Was the war against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan justified? An op-ed in the Independent conceded that although many civilians died in the Afghanistan conflict, “nowhere near as many as some predicted, and probably nowhere near as many as would have perished had the invasion of Afghanistan never happened.” The Tehran Times presented a more negative spin:

[I]nstead of cultivating … international cooperation, the U.S. opted for the opposite direction and embarked on a prolonged military campaign in Afghanistan, which so far has claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians. And as if this hasn’t been enough, it is contemplating an attack on Iraq, which would dwarf the miseries that have been brought on the Afghans.

For the Times of London, the essential question is “whether or not the world is safer now than it was on September 10, 2001 and, if so, whether the strategy adopted by George W. Bush and his Administration contributed to that outcome. The answer, with little ambiguity on careful reflection, is affirmative on both counts.” True, Afghanistan has not been “transformed into Sweden” but Afghans’ quality of life has improved, and the authorities “are less of a menace to their own citizens and the outside world” than was the case on Sept. 10, 2001.

Is President Bush’s plan to remove Saddam Hussein from power justified? The Financial Times reminded, “[T]he world must never forget that it was America that was attacked on September 11 2001, that it was mostly Americans who were slaughtered and that America has the right and duty to protect itself from those who would do it harm,” but most papers oppose unilateral intervention. The Daily Mirror’s front page Wednesday was dominated by a shot of the inferno at the base of the World Trade Center emblazoned with the words “How many more flames are we about to fan?” and Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post chided the Bush administration: “[T]heir approach to tackling the hatred and anger directed at the US is to use threats and military force. They misguidedly believe that the best way to fight violence is with more violence.” In Kenya, the Daily Nation said that after losing more than 200 people when the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi was bombed in 1998, the country “appreciate[d] more than  most the importance of the war against terror.” Still, the editorial added, “we cannot blindly support a campaign that seems to have no rhyme or reason. … Terrorism will not be defeated through terrorism.” According to the Berliner Zeitung, the United States “has given up the fight against terrorism … and is just as helpless against terrorism as it is against drugs and arms smuggling.” Instead, the administration prefers to pursue more conventional—and familiar—combat in Iraq. (German translation courtesy of BBC Monitoring.)

Does the media treat all victims equally? The Independent’s Robert Fisk fretted about the “double standards” being demonstrated in the commemorations:

Today, 11 September, our newspapers and our television screens are filled with the baleful images of those two towers and their biblical descent. We will remember and honour the thousands who died. But in just five days’ time, Palestinians will remember their September massacre of 1982. Will a single candle be lit for them in the West? Will there be a single memorial service? Will a single American newspaper dare to recall this atrocity? Will a single British newspaper commemorate the 20th anniversary of these mass killings of 1,700 innocents? Do I even need to give the answer?