Ten Years Later: The September 11 Attacks
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International Reactions to September 11

Title: Terrorism: British mourner weeps for U.S. attack victims
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Although the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, targeted the United States, many other countries throughout the world were also affected. In addition to the 2,657 Americans killed, 316 foreign nationals from 84 different countries also died in the attacks, including 67 Britons, 28 South Koreans, 26 Japanese, and 25 Canadians. The shock and horror engendered by the attacks were truly international in scope.

Most public reaction and media coverage outside the United States was extremely sympathetic. The French national newspaper, Le Monde, declared "Nous sommes tous Américains" ("We are all Americans"). The British Mirror labeled the attacks a "War on the World." The Spanish paper El Correo ran a single-word headline: "Muerte" ("Murder"). Most world leaders were also quick to condemn the terrorists. Russian president Vladimir Putin urged that "the entire international community should unite in the struggle against terrorism," adding that the attacks were "a blatant challenge to humanity." Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi said that "this outrageous and vicious act of violence against the United States is unforgivable." German chancellor Gerhard Schrüder told reporters that "they were not only attacks on the people in the United States, our friends in America, but also against the entire civilized world, against our own freedom, against our own values, values which we share with the American people."

Perhaps even more moving was the spontaneous outpouring of sympathy from average people around the globe. Tens of thousands of people left flowers, cards, and other personal mementos at U.S. consulates and embassies in many countries. Vigils and prayers were held throughout the world in a wide range of faiths. Thousands turned out in the streets of major capitals to protest the attacks, nearly 200,000 in Berlin alone. Ireland proclaimed a day of national mourning, while in Britain the American national anthem played at the changing of the guard in front of Buckingham Palace. With many international flights grounded for days after September 11, volunteers in 15 Canadian cities took care of 33,000 stranded passengers-mostly Americans-who had been aboard 255 planes diverted from U.S. airports.

Sympathy came from unlikely places. Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, himself linked to terrorism, called the attacks "horrifying" and counselled Muslims that "irrespective of the conflict with America it is a human duty to show sympathy with the American people." Iranian president Mohammed Khatami expressed his "deep regret and sympathy with the victims," while a visibly shocked Palestinian president Yasser Arafat denounced the attacks, repeating how "unbelievable" they were. Even the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea), a rogue nation considered by many a sponsor of international terrorism, offered Americans sympathy following such a great "tragedy." In fact, few people demonstrated anything but sympathy for those who suffered in the attacks.

Sympathy for the United States and the victims of September 11 continued when in October 2001 the United States led an invasion of Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda training camps, hunt its elusive leader Osama bin Laden, and overthrow the oppressive Taliban regime that had given refuge to the organization responsible for the carnage. On September 12 the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) had invoked Article 5 of its charter, which pledged mutual assistance in the war against Al Qaeda. This was the first time in NATO's 52-year history that Article 5 was invoked.

Pakistan offered bases from which to plan operations in Afghanistan and support in tracking down Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. Simultaneously, British prime minister Tony Blair pursued multilateral antiterrorist planning within the European Union (EU). French president Jacques Chirac promised to stand with the United States, "fighting shoulder to shoulder" against terrorism. Many governments quickly arrested suspected terrorists operating in their countries. They also developed and implemented legislation aimed at combating terrorist organizations. While such measures were not without their critics, much of the world adopted more stringent security measures in the first few months after September 11.

This general outpouring of sympathy did not, however, translate into open-ended support for American foreign policy or its Global War on Terror. Many criticized U.S. president George W. Bush's worldview when he said a few days after September 11 that "you' re either with us or with the terrorists." Some saw the Global War on Terror as a cover for extending U.S. power abroad, particularly when the Bush administration erroneously began to link September 11 terrorists with Iraq. Bush's controversial "Axis of Evil" reference, in which he grouped Iraq, Iran, and North Korea in his State of the Union address on January 29, 2002, struck many listeners as inflammatory and off the mark.
 
Reports by organizations such as Amnesty International would condemn the United States for the treatment of suspected terrorist prisoners in camps at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where detainees from the conflict in Afghanistan were held. More than anything, international sympathy for the United States was largely undermined by Bush's decision to invade Iraq in March 2003 despite the fact that its major allies and the United Nations (UN) refused to support such action. Thus, the legacy of September 11 turned from one of sympathy and commonality to one of suspicion and condemnation.

Arne Kislenko


Further Reading
Anonymous [Michael Scheuer]. Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror. Washington, DC: Brassey's, 2004; Goh, Evelyn. "Hegemonic Constraints: The Implications of 11 September for American Power." Australian Journal of International Affairs 57(1) (April 2003): 77–97; Hirsh, Michael. "Bush and the World." Foreign Affairs 82(5) (September-October 2002): 18–43.
 

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