Terror Begins at Home

Terror Begins at Home

Terror Begins at Home

What the foreign papers are saying.
July 26 2004 4:18 PM

Terror Begins at Home

Around the world, nations ask what the 9/11 report means for them.

The international press examined the 9/11 Commission's final report with great interest. Not surprisingly, many papers focused on their own country's narrow perspective or interests and sought to draw local conclusions on the basis of the U.S. report.

Spain's El Mundo noted that the United States was unable to fathom the possibility of an attack like that which came on Sept. 11, 2001. Adding that a similar inability to anticipate surprises characterized the attack on Pearl Harbor, the paper said that many lessons must be learned. The paper asked if the Spanish government has begun to learn its own lessons in the aftermath of the March 11 train attacks in Madrid. (Translation from the Spanish courtesy of BBC Monitoring.)

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The Montreal Gazettenoted that the lack of coordination between various U.S. security and intelligence branches is a familiar theme to most Canadians. In an editorial, the paper recalled a series of kidnappings by Quebec separatists in 1970 that had forced the country to reassess how its local, provincial, and national security forces interacted. Now the United States must face the same difficult challenge, the paper said, and its coordination efforts must go beyond its own borders, to include intelligence agencies of other countries, such as Canada, that are partners in the war on terror.

Israel's Ma'ariv focused on the section of the report that detailed the plan proposed by al-Qaida mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed to crash a Saudi plane into the Israeli resort city of Eilat a few months before the Sept. 11 attacks. Osama Bin Laden rejected the plan.

The Tehran Times ran an English translation of the IRNA news agency's interview with an Iranian member of parliament who focused his remarks on the part of the report that pointed a finger at Iran. The MP said that the report's revelation that some of the terrorists had passed through Iran before the attacks prove nothing. "Governments shoulder no responsibility toward a person who passes through or visits a country before committing a crime," IRNA reported the MP contended. "This shows the United States' weak security system that accuses others instead of strengthening its security system," he added.

Madrid's ABC saw the Iranian link in a different light. In an editorial, the conservative paper noted that the role played by Iran lends some support to the charge leveled against the Iranian regime by President Bush when he termed it part of the "Axis of Evil" and seems sure to strain the already-tense relations between Washington and Tehran. (Translation from the Spanish courtesy of Deutsche Welle.)

The Australiannoted that, in addition to the 9/11 commission's report, important findings have been published recently by commissions in the United Kingdom and Australia that address shortcomings in dealing with the threat of terror. All of the reports "have clarified the lack of preparedness that allowed Bali and the 9/11 attacks to occur, and the measures that must be taken now. The 9/11 commission in the US proposes a three-pronged strategy: attack the terrorists, protect against and prepare for more attacks, and prevent the continued growth of Islamist terrorism. The last of these projects is especially relevant to Australia—given the region in which we live—and shows why a productive relationship with Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, is so important." The editorial continues to say that all of the reports "stress that no single nation can fight the international menace of terror alone" and "[t]here are no isolated threats. For example, the 9/11 panel notes: 'Saudi Arabia has been a problematic ally in combating Islamic extremism.' This is an understatement, given that Saudi Arabia provided the majority of the 9/11 hijackers. Saudi foundations have also been the main source of funding for the radical Islamist colleges in Indonesia that breed the next generation of JI operatives. … This chimes with the 9/11 panel's conclusion that the US must confront problems with Saudi Arabia and build a relationship 'beyond oil.' "

In an editorial, the Guardian of Britain voiced concern over an unwillingness by leaders of Britain or the United States to demonstrate an understanding of the true issues. "The issue now is whether the right policies and systems are in place to prevent the next attack. This is not a question which anyone in Washington or London is currently willing to answer with any confidence."

Carl Schrag, formerly the editor of the Jerusalem Post, is a writer and lecturer.