Thursday, September 14, 2006

People Are Talking

I generally don't make my foray into international news outlets until the weekend, but I was curious to see if the American observance of 9/11 had been noted elsewhere. Silly me! The world, which had responded with such universal sympathy and support for our nation in 2001, certainly did have some opinions about that horrific day and the events that have occurred since then. Here is a sampling from around the world.

The Netherlands:

The five-year war on terrorism has produced inadequate results. In various parts of the world, America and its allies are involved in a military conflict against the excesses of radical Islam. The struggle is prolonged and demanding, the goals are uncertain, and there is no winner on the horizon. The world after 9/11 is no better off than it was before, and due to increasing tensions, it is perhaps even worse in some places. In Iraq, the invasion has become bogged down in a civil war. Sectarian violence and a lack of security overshadow Saddam's fall and the success of free elections. Iraq has become President’s Bush's foreign policy Waterloo. An ideology died here too - that which spawned plans for the democratization of the Middle East.

...Five years of war without a final victory and the radicalization of Islam should force a change in strategy. According to recent remarks by four-star general and Middle East expert John Abizaid READ, this is the view within U.S. military circles. Abizaid put the subject of America's preoccupation with firepower as a solution to everything up for debate, and argues for negotiation and greater local involvement so that the region's people, not the Americans, can determine its future. This is correct; but its political translation, which boils down to the acknowledgement of a failed policy, is long overdue.


Five years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, America has more enemies in the world than it had before. Who would have predicted it, with the wave of solidarity which followed the nightmare of carnage broadcast on live television? Planes used as missiles in the blue skies over New York and Washington; victims jumping out of windows; desperate phone calls; and the Towers crashing to the ground in a "tsunami of dust." It is first of all the shock: 2,992 deaths, a country under siege. Then the shock wave, which to this day shakes the United States and the rest of the planet. It's time to take stock.

...After the attacks in Madrid, London or Bali, no one would think of denying the reality of the terrorist plague. But in light of the Iraqi fiasco and the shipwreck of the New Middle East after the confrontation between Israel and its neighbors (Palestinians and Lebanese), the concept of imposing democratic change by the use of force has lost many adherents. According to a survey by Transatlantic Trends RealVideo, 77 percent of Europeans and 58 percent of Americans disapprove of George Bush's management of international affairs. Guantanamo, the secret interrogation techniques of the CIA and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal has not only tarnished the image of the United States, they have shaken its moral authority. Aligned with Israel, the War President is not viewed as a mediator of peace. In their arm-wrestling match over nuclear weapons, Iran holds its head above that of a weakened America. If this isn't a direct consequence of September 11, it is a result of how Bush has chosen to react to it. Even when the use of force is necessary, it complicates diplomacy and legitimizes violence.

Some may claim that the world has hardly changed, that globalization continues and that international tourism has never been so good. But the future is much darker since the smoke of the World Trade Center rose over the horizon.


President Bush has ruined the standing of his country in Europe, weakened the support for NATO among the European people, and on both sides of Atlantic, the nuclear dispute with Iran excites greater concern than instability in Iraq.

...For the first time since 2002, the majority of Americans polled rejected the foreign policy of their President (58 percent); in Europe it was 79 percent; the worst for Bush were France, Spain, and Germany, with 85 percent disapproval.

The descending curve of European approval tracks closely the declining support for a leading American role in global affairs. In Germany in 2002, 62 percent of those asked approved of such a role; this year, 43 percent approved. A bare majority of Europeans (including 56 percent of Germans) advocate a European Union security policy independent from the United States, while in NATO stalwarts like Italy, Germany, Poland, and Turkey, support for the alliance has declined significantly.


Al-Qaeda could likely have been easily defeated had American leaders channeled all of America's resources into pursuing this threat. But instead of isolating and wiping out al-Qaeda, Bush has created a long list of new foes for his ever-broadening war on terror. In doing so, he has bolstered the popular impression that the U.S. is waging a Crusade against Islam - an impression which al-Qaeda skillfully exploits to gain added support.

After five years of bloodshed and with no end in sight, it's time for Americans to re-evaluate U.S. policies in the War on Terror.


This Monday marks the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, which the Bush Administration has used to justify invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, prevent a settlement of the Palestinian question, and then under the guise of false democracy, launch projects for the "Greater" and then the "New" Middle East.

If we were to grade the performance of the United States over the last five years, we would have to say without hesitation that it gets a big zero - and the blame goes to the worst administration to govern the United States since World War I.

Not only has its reputation, prestige, credibility, and economy been diminished, but its influence has declined after a series of major foreign policy failures.


This is September 11 five years later: a political tool in the hands of the Bush administration, and a cushion for patronizing pronouncements for its opponents. The war against terror is not what it used to be - and it is sometimes hard to believe those who are running it.

Sad, isn't it.


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