boston.com your connection to The Boston Globe

From afar, conflicted views of US

Europeans mourn for Americans but decry Bush policy

Pakistani students lit candles yesterday in Multan during a ceremony commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. Support for Americans was tempered by skepticism over the US-led war on terrorism.
Pakistani students lit candles yesterday in Multan during a ceremony commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. Support for Americans was tempered by skepticism over the US-led war on terrorism. (Khalid Tanveer/ Associated Press)

PARIS -- Leaders across the world yesterday expressed solidarity with the United States on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. But behind the soaring rhetoric, a strong skepticism remained toward America's war on terror and President Bush's leadership.

There were outpourings of grief for the nearly 3,000 dead, among them Britons, Indians, and many other nationalities. The target five years ago was America, but globalization saw to it that the attacks on New York and Washington reverberated far beyond the United States.

Daniel Keohane, foreign policy specialist at the Center for European Reform in London, said that common global concerns such as the war against terrorism, fears over Iran's nuclear program, and the recent war in Lebanon were helping to bridge the differences between the United States and its European allies.

But he said a wide gap remained between political leaders' grudging support for Washington and the wariness among the European public. Nowhere has this been more pronounced than in Britain, where Prime Minister Tony Blair's outspoken support has caused his popularity to plummet and inspired intensifying pressure for him to leave office.

``We are all Americans," a French daily, Le Monde, proclaimed on Sept. 12, 2001, in the aftermath of the attacks.

But its headline yesterday -- ``Bush's Mistakes" -- bluntly addressed the growing disillusionment with the war in Iraq.

Le Monde qualified the war in Afghanistan as a ``relative" success but the invasion of Iraq ``a major error." In five years, the United States has pushed the world toward the clash of civilizations Al Qaeda had wanted, Le Monde said.

A Swiss newspaper, Le Temps, had a biting variation on Le Monde's 2001 headline. ``Europe has long stopped saying, `We are all Americans.' In London you can read, `We're all Hezbollah,' " it said.

The commemoration ceremonies were darkened yesterday as Al Qaeda renewed its call for more terrorist attacks against the United States.

Appearing in a new video in which he urged Muslims to step up their attacks, Al Qaeda's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri warned of ``new events" and said that Gulf allies of Washington and Israel were the next targets.

But with Europeans digesting recent foiled plots in Britain, Germany, and Denmark, America's allies expressed solidarity with the United States and vowed to defeat terrorism.

``These horrific attacks clearly demonstrated that terrorism is a threat to all states and to all peoples," said a statement from the European Union.

In Britain -- Washington's most steadfast ally in Afghanistan and Iraq -- public ceremonies were few at the request of victims' families. A new poll yesterday indicated that only 7 percent of Britons believe that the United States and Britain are winning the fight against global terrorism.

In Europe, the outpouring of high-level support for the United States reflected renewed solidarity following a prolonged chill following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

After Sept. 11, 2001, America's European allies rallied around the United States. But Bush's actions after the attacks alienated many of America's friends and divided Europe. Analysts said the European animosity that followed was slowly beginning to dissipate, but that enormous skepticism remained about US foreign policy and Bush.

The growing clash between Islamic fundamentalism and the West -- reflected in attacks in London and Madrid and in the cartoon controversy in Denmark that triggered protests throughout the Muslim world -- had helped bring the United States closer to European governments by creating a global community of shared values. Yet it has also alienated many Europeans, who fear Europe's civil liberties are at risk. Allegations that European governments let CIA agents interrogate suspected terrorists on European soil have caused dismay.

According to a recent Transatlantic Trends survey of 12 European countries published by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, only three European countries -- Britain, the Netherlands, and Romania -- view United States leadership more positively than negatively.

``While people remain empathetic about Sept. 11, that does not erase their unease with the way Bush conducts America's foreign policy or with European governments that support him," Keohane said.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES
 
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives