HONG KONG (AFP) – Newspapers strongly criticised the US response to September 11, accusing the Bush administration of bungling its “war on terror” and squandering global goodwill by invading Iraq.
On the fifth anniversary of Al-Qaeda’s assault on New York and Washington, editorials around the world united in condemning the attacks and expressing revulsion for the Islamic extremists who carried out the atrocity.
While papers said many people were still grappling with the immensity of what happened on that day, nearly all agreed the world had since become a more dangerous and uncertain place.
Much criticism, especially in the Midde East and Europe, was reserved for US President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq under the banner of the “war on terror.”
The New York Times acknowledged the United States had lost the feeling of unity and purpose which gripped the nation in the aftermath of the attacks, and lamented a lost opportunity.
“When we measure the possibilities created by 9/11 against what we have actually accomplished, it is clear that we have found one way after another to compound the tragedy,” said the paper’s editorial.
It said the war against extremists in Afghanistan was “stuck in neutral” and complained that Iraq, which it said had nothing to do with 9/11, had been turned into “a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists.”
Britain’s Independent also remembered the goodwill of five years ago when there were “images of a world briefly united in sympathy for an America reeling and grieving from the attack on the Twin Towers and the deaths of almost 3,000 New Yorkers.”
“How moving but dated they seem today,” the paper said.
Summing up the mood in the British press, the Financial Times said: “The way the Bush administration has trampled on the international rule of law and Geneva Conventions, while abrogating civil liberties and expanding executive power at home, has done huge damage not only to America’s reputation but, more broadly, to the attractive power of Western values.”
Left-leaning French newspaper Liberation said Bush’s leadership of the “war on terror” had been disastrous.
“The Bush administration has succeeded in destroying the huge pool of compassion and solidarity which gripped the world after September 11,” said the paper.
German daily Handelsblatt said the war in Iraq had been erroneously started in the name of September 11, while Spain’s El Pais said the Bush administration used the attacks to impose a neo-conservative foreign policy.
“The result, five years after, is a more dangerous world,” said El Pais. “But the worst is that the methods of the terrorists contaminated the spirit of the democracies which fight them.”
The criticism, and in particular the condemnation of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, was echoed in newspapers across the Middle East and Asia.
Many Arab newspapers said the US campaign and the invasion of Iraq had pushed the world closer to a clash of civilisations between the West and the Muslim world.
“The administration of George W. Bush used a vengeful mentality in dealing with the 9/11 crime and has turned the entire world into a battleground,” wrote the editor-in-chief of the independent Al-Ghad daily in Jordan, Ayman Safadi.
Saudi Arabia’s Al-Jazira said US policy had turned Iraq into an incubator for terrorism. “US policy has failed and has turned the war on terror into a clash of civilisations,” said the paper.
The United Arab Emirates daily Al-Khaleej added: “Bush’s policies have not brought security to Americans and have instead brought chaos to the entire world.”
The People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of China’s ruling Communist Party, said the world had been changed more by the US response to 9/11 than by the attack itself.
“It’s fair to say that September 11 changed the United States. But what really changed the world was the erroneous US response to September 11, especially the war in Iraq,” it said.
In Pakistan, a key US ally in the battle against Al-Qaeda, The News daily wrote a hard-hitting editorial entitled “Five Years of Nothing”.
“Looking back it would be hard to say whether the years have been spent in something meaningful or constructive,” it said. “Many would agree the world is a more dangerous place and the United States is nowhere close to winning the war on terror.”
The US administration received some support from the media in Australia, where the government has been a staunch supporter of US policy since the 2001 attacks.
The Australian newspaper said terrorist strikes against Western interests since 9-11 in London, Madrid, Indonesia and elsewhere had left no doubt the world faced a concerted attack by extremists.
“Radical Islam is corrupting impressionable minds, encouraging disaffected youth and the newly converted with a poor understanding of faith to offer their lives as suicide bombers in what is essentially a political campaign.”
In Thailand, The Nation said the impact of September 11 on Asia was much bigger than people wanted to admit, while in the Philippines the Manila Times said the damage was so great that many were still trying to cope.
“We are still shocked by the number of lives that were lost that day, close to 3,000. And we still remember how dread enveloped the world like a thick black shroud.
“But 9/11 left us with a deeper sense of loss, a loss of innocence. We are still trying to comprehend how hatred could drive people into a senseless act of violence. It is that loss that we find it hardest to get over.”