Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The European Press Views the Middle East: "Apocalypse," "Who? Why?" "A Declaration of War"; European Press Responds to Sept. 11 Attacks

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The European Press Views the Middle East: "Apocalypse," "Who? Why?" "A Declaration of War"; European Press Responds to Sept. 11 Attacks

Article excerpt

THE EUROPEAN PRESS VIEWS THE MIDDLE EAST: "Apocalypse," "Who? Why?" "A Declaration of War"; European Press Responds to Sept. 11 Attacks

The horrifying, now-familiar pictures of the World Trade Center's twin towers exploding covered Europe's front pages following Sept. 11's devastation. Some led with CNN's interpretation of events: "America Under Attack." London's Daily Mail flashed "Apocalypse" across its front page on Sept. 12, and London's Mirror warned of a "War on the World." On the same day, The Guardian and The Express in Britain opted for the more sober headline, "A Declaration of War," which appeared above photos of the smoke and destruction. Picturing a man walking among the World Trade Center rubble, the French Catholic daily La Croix of Sept. 12 simply asked, "Who? Why?"


Almost universally, European editorialists expressed solidarity with the U.S. "We are all Americans, we are all New Yorkers," said a Sept. 12 editorial in France's sometimes unashamedly anti-American Le Monde. "One cannot but feel...deep solidarity with the people and the country, the United States, to whom we are so close and to whom we owe our liberty," it continued. Commented the Spanish daily El Pais on Sept. 12, "What has happened in the U.S. may just as well happen in Europe."

To anyone looking for lofty motivations for the attacks, Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung on the same day had this to say: "for the perpetrators the meaning of their acts is the wicked deed itself. These people do not want a better, fairer world," the newspaper continued. "They simply want to wipe ours off their map."


Only in the Russian press was it possible to detect a less sympathetic response. "The only surviving superpower has suffered a blow of unprecedented force" said the Sept. 12 Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "Washington's military department, which is called upon reliably to protect the whole country could not even protect itself." The newspaper went on to say that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had warned the U.S. government that "the USA might become the arena of acts of terrorism in the future, if the government was not more active in its efforts to reach a settlement in the Arab-Israeli conflict."

Drawing a comparison with Chechnya, Moskovsky Komsomolets noted the same day that there was no tangible enemy, thus making it difficult to bring to justice those responsible for the act. Although it is a situation "Russian servicemen are up against every day," the paper continued, "Chechnya, just like all Arabs in the U.S. case, cannot be brushed under the carpet."


But when the shock subsided, the European press became less impassioned and more analytical. "For many Americans," remarked Britain's Guardian on Sept. 14, "one of the most shocking aspects of Tuesday's carnage was the jubilant scenes it triggered in some parts of the world. The temptation is to discount the cheers as the ravings of the psychologically disturbed. This would be a mistake. Alongside the Middle East, there is the wider global perception of America as the world policeman that keeps making up the law as it goes along. With the Soviet Union gone, U.S. international hegemony, ranging from trade to military intervention, has opened it to accusations of hypocrisy."

Germany's Suddeutsche Zeitung of Sept. 15 echoed the sentiment. "The World Trade Center and the Pentagon are symbols of an America that so many people around the world hate," the newspaper wrote. "The World Trade Center stands for the unlimited power of money, whereas the Pentagon is the home of those world policemen who are protecting it."

The myths of "America being able to defend itself alone," of the impossibility of "war on U.S. soil" and of the country's "invincibility" have been shattered, said Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza on Sept. 18. London's Independent of Sept. …

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