World remembers with mixed emotions
Paris ? The nations of the world joined Monday in solemn remembrance of 9/11 – but for many, resentment of the United States flowed as readily as tears.
Critics say Americans have squandered the goodwill that prompted France’s Le Monde newspaper to proclaim “We are all Americans” that somber day after the attacks, and that the Iraq war and other U.S. policies have made the world less safe in the five years since.
Heads bowed in moments of silence for the 3,000 killed in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Yet dissident voices said the world has traded in civil liberties and other democratic rights in its war on terror.
In Europe, where Islamic terror has struck twice since 9/11, in the Madrid train bombings and the London transit attacks, the silent tributes were tinged with doubts and recriminations.
Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel – an advocate of repairing ties with Washington that were frayed under her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder – had veiled criticism of the United States, saying: “The ends cannot justify the means.”
“In the fight against international terror … respect for human rights, tolerance and respect for other cultures must be the maxim of our actions, along with decisiveness and international cooperation,” she said.
Skeptics question Iraq war
Allies in the U.S.-led war on terrorism renewed their resolve Monday to fight fanaticism, while skeptics countered that they can no longer follow a superpower they say has relinquished its right to lead.
“Right after 9/11 the world was united with Americans. Their moral leadership was unquestioned,” Pawel Zalewski, head of the Polish parliament’s foreign relations committee, wrote in the Gazeta Wyborcza. “However, this strong moral authority was abused as a result of the Iraq war.”
Exactly five years after its message of solidarity, Le Monde titled its lead editorial “The Mistakes of Bush.”
In Caracas, Venezuela, about 200 marchers protested what they called “imperialist terrorism” carried out by the United States since the 9/11 attacks. Demonstrators – many of them supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and some of Arab descent – carried Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian flags. Many criticized the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani wrote President Bush on behalf of the Iraqi people, expressing condolences to the families of 9/11 victims.
“On this sad and memorable day, I would like to reiterate the gratitude of the people of Iraq for the people of America and for your leadership,” Talabani wrote. “The people of Iraq will never forget those who helped them in getting rid of the most brutal and terrorist regime of Saddam Hussein.”
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clark joined many when she said: “No, we’re not more secure since 9/11.”
Clark said more should be done to reach out to moderate states and leaders in the Islamic world to encourage understanding between different peoples, and to help end the sense of alienation and exclusion among some young Muslims that fuels extremism.
In Europe, bells tolled in Rome’s city hall square. Bouquets of white roses and yellow carnations were piled in a memorial garden in London where the names of 67 Britons killed in the New York attacks are inscribed. Relatives tearfully remembered their dead.
“It doesn’t get any easier, but our minds are much calmer, and we can think through all the events without being flooded by tears and sadness,” said Adrian Bennett, whose 29-year-old son, Oliver, was killed.
At a 38-nation Asia-Europe summit in Helsinki, Finland, leaders stood in silence in a circle. The stock exchanges in Nordic and Baltic countries observed two minutes of silence to honor the victims.
French President Jacques Chirac, in Helsinki, reiterated in a written message to Bush his nation’s “friendship” in the fight against terrorism.
A week after the 9/11 attacks, Chirac flew over the World Trade Center site – the first foreign leader to pay personal condolences.
That solidarity quickly dissipated into rancor in the buildup to the Iraq war, when Chirac led opposition to Bush’s plans.
Present, future concerns
Israel’s Haaretz daily expressed disappointment and cynicism in an op-ed piece that said: “This is 9/11 five years later: a political tool in the hands of the Bush administration.”
In Southeast Asia, U.S. and Philippine troops fighting Islamic extremists in the jungles prayed for peace and safety.
Other remembrances took place in Japan, Australia, Finland, South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who won the country’s first post-Taliban election, expressed the appreciation of the Afghan people to the U.S. for the “sacrifices of your sons and daughters” in rebuilding his country. But in the Afghan capital, many residents said they had not seen much improvement since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban for harboring bin Laden.
Despite about 20,000 U.S. forces fighting al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, and about the same number of NATO troops, and billions in aid, the Taliban resistance has shaken the country, while corruption has stymied development.
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer led a solemn military ceremony outside the alliance’s headquarters to remember the victims of 9/11.
“Terrorism remains a threat to all of us … this is why we are in Afghanistan, the cradle of 9/11,” de Hoop Scheffer said.