Amid the support for Bush, some thought the U.S. got what it deserved
A MIXED RECEPTION
Amid the support for Bush, some thought the U.S. got what it deserved
Within minutes of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, world leaders expressed their outrage. But while support for the U.S.-led coalition to root out and destroy terrorists runs high, questions remain about what level of commitment to give to the cause. Even among Washingtons staunchest allies, there are doubts about launching a large military campaign, while other countries must balance the demands of an angry America against a backdrop of unrest and anti-U.S. sentiment among their own populations. Some reactions from around the world:
Flags flew at half-mast above Moscow’s Kremlin as Russian President Vladimir Putin became one of the first foreign lead-
ers to denounce the terrorist attacks. But his pledge of support for the U.S. cause was also marked by self-interest. The Kremlin maintains that Islamic terrorists based in Chechnya, where Russian soldiers have been involved in a brutal war since 1994, were responsible for a wave of apartment bombings in Moscow three years ago. And Putin wants to include Islamic militants operating within Russia’s borders in any international war on terrorism.
But Russia is walking a dangerous line. While it wants to crush terrorists in Chechnya, Moscow fears a military strike against Afghanistan would destabilize neighbouring Pakistan and lead to the explosive spread of Islamic extremism through Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, three predominantly Muslim republics on Russia’s southern frontier. The former Soviet Union also fought a disastrous 10-year war in Afghanistan ending in 1989, and Russia does not intend to return. As a result, analysts say it will restrict its role to supplying intelligence, but will not commit soldiers in the hope that it will be spared further upheaval. “I’m not sure the Americans understand how delicately poised the entire central Asian region is,” says Vyacheslav Belokrinitsky, a central Asia expert with the Institute of International Relations in Moscow. “Russia is literally sitting atop a powder keg, but the whole world is in the line of fire.”
Beset by anti-American demonstrations spearheaded by Muslim militants, Pakistan is treading carefully, caught between the wrath of a wounded superpower and the angry backlash of clerics who have been calling for a jihad—holy war— against the United States. Pakistan has yet to decide on the hall extent of its co-operation with the coalition, but in a televised address to the nation Gen. Pervez Musharraf made it clear that the country would be better off standing with the West than supporting the Taliban government in neighbouring Afghanistan. “If you are facing two problems,” he told his countrymen, “it is better to take the lesser evil.” Lesser to some, perhaps. On the streets, protesters carried signs that read, “Americas graveyard—Afghanistan. ”
At a memorial service at St. Pauls Cathedral in London, Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey told the thousands attending that America had been bloodied but not broken. “The September sun continued to shine on the Statue of Liberty,” he said. “A symbol of all that is best in America.” Britain has closer intelligence, political and military links with Washington than any other country. British support is certain to include aircraft, warships and even ground troops, probably special forces to carry out raids into Afghanistan along with American units. Prime Minister Tony Blair will also use his influence to keep other European countries in the coalition.
In a rare demonstration of solidarity with America, French President Jacques Chirac flew over the remains of the World Trade Center with New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and then held an emotional news conference, uncharacteristically in English. “I wanted to cry,” he said. Chirac, who also visited Washington on his two-day-long visit to the U.S., addressed the United Nations general assembly as well. “Today it is New York that was tragically struck,” he warned, “but tomorrow it may be Paris, Berlin, London.” Mindful of its own large Muslim community and traditionally wary of America’s ambitions, though, France cautions that if U.S. reprisals are not tighdy targeted they risk tipping the world into what Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine called “a clash of civilizations— the monstrous trap that the instigators of these attacks most surely have in mind.”
In Berlin, more than 200,000 people took to the streets on Sept. 14 in a show of support for America. But Germans also had to face the reality that at least three of the suicide bombers had lived among them, attending schools in Hamburg, one for as long as eight years. Officials now believe Germany has become a significant base for several organizations, and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said his country will join the coalition. But Schroeder stressed that “a fixation exclusively on military measures would be fatal.”
In a land where terrorist attacks are commonplace, Prime Minister José María Aznar Lopez declared his support for an antiterrorism initiative. But, like Putin, he said the coalition must target terrorists everywhere, including the Basque separatists known as the ETA who have killed almost 800 people in Spain since 1968. “It’s very important to form a coalition against terrorism in general, without nuances,” Aznar said. “You cannot distinguish between a fanatical terrorism and a less fanatical one. Terrorists are what they are.”
Every Latin American nation formally condemned the attacks. Even diehard communist Cuba held a rally in solidarity with the American people. Mexico and Chile, which on Sept. 11 marked the anniversary of its 1973 military coup, boldly pledged military support. But most Latin American countries do not believe war is the answer. Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, who often challenges the United States on foreign policy and who last year became the first world leader to visit Iraqi President Saddam Hussein since the 1991 Gulf War, urged the Americans not to start “the first war of the 21st century.” Underlying the Latin American response was more than a hint of anti-Americanism—and a sense that it was payback time for the United States. “The U.S. has always meddled in everyone else’s affairs,” said Silvio Fernandez, a 44-yearold bus conductor in Buenos Aires. “They thought they were untouchable. At least now they are getting a taste of what the rest of us suffered in the past.”
About one-third of Jordan’s 5.2 million citizens are Palestinian refugees, and no strangers to Middle East violence. They and other residents of Jordan are also angered by Washington’s continued support of Israel. So when the twin towers of the World Trade Center were attacked there was human grief for the victims, but also a sense that the U.S. was receiving its comeuppance. That was reflected in the comments of King Abdullah, who declared Jordan’s support for the war against terrorism—but also warned that the question of Palestinian sovereignty must be solved or violence in the region will continue. The same point of view was also reflected on the streets of Amman. “I feel sorry for the people that died,” said taxi driver, Mahmoud Amin, 53. “But I can’t help thinking that America needed to feel the pain we have felt all our lives, maybe now they will understand us and act more fairly.”
The Lebanese government said it will support the Americans in the war against terrorism—if the U.S. differentiates between acts of terror and national resistance, which is aimed at liberating occupied lands. If the initiative is widened to include the Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah— Party of God—whose guerrillas are credited with driving Israeli troops from the country last year, Lebanon’s Christian and Muslim populations will be bitterly divided at a time when the country is still trying to heal after the bitter 25-year civil war that ended in 1990. The Muslim majority, while not celebrating the killing of innocent U.S. citizens, believes America should rethink what many see as an unbalanced foreign policy that favours Israel. In contrast, the Christians of Lebanon think Islamic radicalism poses a great danger and believe action must be taken.
Following the Second World War, Japan agreed to never again wage war. Now, even as the rest of the world draws comparisons between the attack on the World Trade Center and the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the country is debating how much help it should give America. The mayor ofTokyo, who returned home from Washington during the Sept. 11 attack, said it’s time for Japan to abandon its pacifist postwar constitution and give the U.S. all the military help it needs. In doing so, many politicians say Japan can redefine its foreign policy and find a third way between the pacifism of today and the extreme nationalism of the past.
When students at Beijing Normal University woke up to the news of the terrorist attacks, they were so moved they wanted to march through the streets. But this was no expression of anger over the killing of thousands of innocent civilians, including, possibly, dozens of Chinese. Instead, the students were overjoyed at seeing America taken down a notch, and they weren’t alone. Chat rooms on Web sites were full of similar invective. “We’ve been bullied by America for too long,” said one message left on an Internet bulletin board. “Finally, someone helped us to vent a little.”
But China has its own fears about terrorism as it prepares to host the 2008 Summer Olympics. While President Jiang Zemin stopped short of joining the coalition, he strongly denounced the attacks and held discussions with top Western leaders, a sign that the country may become more involved in the fight. China has been hit this year by a number of unexplained bombings, and several years ago alleged Uighur separatists from the primarily Muslim Xinjiang province in the far west planted explosives on Beijing buses. There have also been numerous reports that Muslim separatists based in Xinjiang have received training at Taliban and Al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan.
Thousands of Israelis, still reeling from recent suicide bomb attacks in their own country, flew American flags and the Knesset convened a special session in a show of solidarity with the American people. But Israelis will do much more than weep. While the country will not formally take part in the coalition because Arab nations will boycott its presence, Israel will provide the Americans with critical information. “Targeting a terrorist for liquidation requires a mix of human intelligence and electronic surveillance,” said Ron Ben-Yishai, an Israeli security analyst. “Israel can teach the Americans how to do it.”
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