International Papers

It Was 730 Days Ago Today …

The second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks provided an opportunity for many of the world’s editorial writers to express concern about the United States’ pursuit of the war on terror. France’s Le Monde, which on Sept. 12, 2001, famously proclaimed, “We Are All Americans,” now declared, “Two years later, the standing of the United States is at an all-time low. Compassion has given way to fear that ill-thought actions will only aggravate the problems and that the struggle against terrorism is nothing but a pretext for the extension of American hegemony.” The United States, the editorial advised, “must listen to its allies, take into account the differences in the situations in which it intervenes, and respect the international rules that they themselves helped to write.”

Spain’s El País agreed, attacking the Bush administration for having taken advantage of 9/11 to “push its audacious and reckless agenda of regime change, adopt its aggressive doctrine of pre-emptive war with a self-defense excuse, accompanied by an unprecedented restriction of [civil] liberties, and thereby reinforce the imperialist tendencies of the United States.” Madrid’s El Mundo said that after 9/11, “President Bush had a blank check in his hands,” but two years later, “Bush threatens to heave the world into the abyss of a new world order, under the pretext of the war on terrorism.”

Several papers contrasted the state of the world on Sept. 11, 2003 with the situation on Sept. 10, 2001. Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post said, “[I]t would be difficult to conclude that the world has become a safer or more harmonious place.” The paper added that “the world’s only remaining superpower must realise that the ‘with us, or against us’ approach, and in particular the further use of aggression, will only fuel the hatred which motivated the attacks in the first place.” Clarín of Argentina found the world less secure than it was two years ago, since “the United States [is] beginning to realize the limits of its ability to confront a threat that requires … attention to its causes, not just to its lethal effects.” The “war on terror,” Britain’s Independent declared, “has produced only more war and more terror.” The Guardian agreed: The response to 9/11 has achieved some successes. “But overall, George Bush has made a bad situation worse. … Mr Bush has broken alliances with the same abandon that he has broken lives, causing permanent damage. … [T]he ‘war on terror’ transmutes into a loose, catch-all justification for all the US does or does not want to do.”

In an editorial titled, “How the West is winning,” London’s Daily Telegraph noted that “two regimes that, in their different ways, were implacably opposed to the West” have been destroyed. Terrorism hasn’t been eradicated—”it remains a potent and widespread scourge. But its most spectacular manifestation, rather than causing demoralisation, has opened the world’s eyes to the true nature of the threat.”

Meanwhile, the Paris-based International Herald Tribune worried about the long-term effect of 9/11 on the nation’s character: “Americans have … seen, in the past two years, a regrettable narrowing of their idea of patriotism. It has become, for some people in some ways, a more brittle expression of national sentiment—a blind statement of faith that does more to divide Americans than to unite them.” Similarly, the Independent said that following 9/11, America’s mood has changed: “Optimism and confidence gave way to defensiveness and fear.”