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Western Press Review: The 9/11 Attacks, Two Years On; Chechen Elections; And The WTO In Cancun

  • Khatya Chhor

Prague, 11 September 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Much of the commentary in major news dailies focuses on the second anniversary today of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States. Among the issues debated are the successes and failures of the ensuing war on terrorism, priority shifts in U.S. foreign policy, and the links to another anniversary today, that of the 1973 coup in Chile that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power. Discussion also centers on the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting of foreign ministers in Cancun and upcoming presidential elections in Chechnya.


A "New York Times" editorial today discusses the anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington in light of the two U.S.-led wars that followed. It says the reasons for war in Afghanistan were evident. Since the ruling Taliban was providing safe haven to Osama bin Laden, believed to be the architect of the attacks, the war's "logic, if not its conclusion, was clear."

But the paper says the reasons for the war in Iraq "seem muddier now than when the conflict began. For many, there seemed to be a connection between Saddam Hussein and the terrorists who crashed into the Pentagon and the trade center. That connection was encouraged by President [George W.] Bush and his administration and taken on faith by many Americans." The paper says, "It is worth reminding ourselves, on this day particularly, that we come no closer to understanding the significance of 9/11, at home and abroad, if we use the memory of what happened that morning falsely and vainly."

Two "great tides" swelled in America in the aftermath of the attacks, says the paper. One was a sense of "generosity, a deep compassion." The other was "a sense of patriotism." But in the two years since, there has been "a regrettable narrowing" of this patriotism to become "a blind statement of faith." But the paper says, "Those buildings did not fall or their occupants die to become symbols in an incoherent argument. That outpouring of strength and consideration was never meant to serve as the pretext for false conclusions."


An editorial in the London-based "Financial Times" says two years after the attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, the United States now appears more ready to look to the future. "Unlike the somber spectacles a year ago, the commemorations in New York and around the [U.S.] will strike a measured note, in tune with the mood of the nation," it says.

"There are plenty of signs that Americans want to move on. The flags on suburban lawns are less visible. In New York, the recent blackout was met with relative calm. In the Midwest and on the West coast, the talk turns to jobs and healthcare rather than the threat of another terrorist attack. Even in Washington, DC, the mood has shifted. Democrats and Republicans are no longer in thrall to President George W. Bush's declared war on terrorism."

And yet, says the paper, "the legacy of the 9/11 hijackings endures. [Despite] the non-stop roar of construction," the former site of the World Trade Center "remains a gaping hole in the heart of the city's financial district." But today's remembrance services mark "one more opportunity for Americans to come together as a nation ready to mourn its victims but determined to look more to the future than to a grim past."


Writing in "The Moscow Times," RenTV journalist Yulia Latynina discusses political control in Chechnya in light of last week's seizure of the Grozny radio and television company. Security services loyal to Chechen leader Akhmad Kadyrov shut down the station along with eight of Chechnya's newspapers.

Kadyrov is the Kremlin-backed candidate in upcoming 5 October presidential elections in the breakaway republic. And Latynina says the outcome of the election "is not in doubt." In Chechnya, "victory will go [to] the one with the most friends in high places and the most guns." And Kadyrov, with Moscow's support, "is better-connected and -armed than anyone." Yet Kadyrov "doesn't control Chechnya," she says. Nor does the Kremlin. "Chechnya is controlled by men with machine guns whose control extends only as far as the range of their weapons."

Russia, she says, "has fallen into a trap" in Chechnya by trying to apply "the rules of socialist realism" to the Chechen election. The vote "was meant to prove that everything in the republic is hunky-dory. But war is a difficult thing to keep under wraps. If the country is starving, you can fill the airwaves with the news that in fact everyone is well fed. If people are dropping like flies, television can tell them they are healthy. But if the country is at war, all the spin in the world won't prevent a stray grenade from going off in the studio sooner or later and confronting viewers with grim reality."


Writing in France's "Le Figaro," Stephane Marchand says over the next several days, delegates at the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Cancun, Mexico, will deliberate endlessly over whether increased liberalization of trade is the answer. For liberal idealists, the opening of markets is the guarantee of prosperity for all. But this theory is gaining more and more critics, says Marchand. The anti-globalization protesters see free trade -- as currently practiced -- as sacrificing the needs of, for example, African peasants so that multinational corporations can control the world from New York, London, or Paris.

The last round of negotiations -- launched in Doha, Qatar just after the attacks of 11 September 2001 -- reaffirmed the WTO's commitment to alleviating poverty for a world newly convinced that poverty also breeds terrorism. In two years, progress has not been insignificant, Marchand says. By battling hard at the WTO, Brazil, India, and others won the right to sell generic drugs. Developing nations are no longer just "scattered victims," he says. Today, led by the economic giants in their ranks, they can push more powerful nations to honor their pledge to drastically cut subsidies to European, American, and Japanese farmers.

As imperfect as the WTO is, says Marchand, it remains essential. Without a multilateral forum for negotiation, a country like Mali would be left all alone to take on the United States or Europe over customs duties -- and it would be crushed. "It is the WTO or chaos," he says.


A commentary in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reacts to yesterday's mutual apology by the presidents of Croatia and Serbia-Montenegro for what they called "all the evils" committed by their respective countries during the 1991-1995 civil war in the former Yugoslavia.

Croatia now considers itself a stabilizing factor in the Balkans, following in the footsteps of Slovenia, which was less perceptibly scarred by the war and has brighter prospects of EU membership in the near future. And as far as Serbia is concerned, the commentary says the apology is a step in the right direction, considering the foot-dragging that preceded the transfer of former President Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague war crimes tribunal.

The commentary describes the situation in Serbia as "far from meeting European standards," whether in the military-security realm, the oligarch-dominated economic sector, or in the stagnation evidenced in the political system.

These knots "could be untied," says the commentary, by such politicians as nationalist-conservative Serbian President Vojislav Kostunica and Croatian reformer Miroljub Labus, by at least beginning negotiations. And new elections, says the paper, would serve as a good beginning.


Writing in "The Moscow Times," independent defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer says two years ago today, the "seemingly invincible sole superpower, separated by oceans from the hotbeds of war, deprivation, and discontent in Asia and Africa, turned out to be soft and vulnerable."

The Al-Qaeda masterminds behind the attacks "most likely believed that this demonstration of vulnerability would teach the 'Yanks' some humility and facilitate a U.S. strategic withdrawal into Fortress America." In Moscow, "many in the military, intelligence and political elite believed that after Sept. 11 Washington should turn to the UN and act with other countries, paying special respect to Russia." Neither of these things has happened.

Felgenhauer says in the United States, "there is now an increasingly bitter squabble between American 'siloviki' [security, law enforcement, and military agents] -- the civilian leaders of the Pentagon, the vice president and national security adviser -- who want to continue an aggressive interventionist foreign policy and an opposition being formed of Democratic presidential hopefuls, pacifist liberals, Republican isolationists and so on."

And today, "the world seems in many respects to be as bleak a place as it was two years ago." Felgenhauer asks, "Will the isolationists win over? Will there be an 'exit' from Iraq? Will the U.S. forces retreat into Fortress America, leaving the rest of the world to face the inevitability of future local nuclear wars in the Middle East and Asia?" The "future of billions of people depends on the good judgment of a few," he says, just "as it did during the Cold War."


An editorial in "The New York Times" draw parallels between the 11 September 2001 attacks on Washington and New York and the 11 September 1973 coup in Chile that installed General Augusto Pinochet in power and ushered in an era of torture, death, and exile for thousands of Chileans. "Death came from the skies. A building -- a symbol of the nation -- collapsed in flames in an act of terror that would lead to the deaths of 3,000 people. It was Sept. 11. But the year was 1973, the building Chile's White House, La Moneda, and the event a coup staged by General Augusto Pinochet." The coup deposed and let to the death of democratically elected Socialist President Salvador Allende.

The paper says in the United States, 11 September "will forever be a day to remember our victims of terrorism. Yet our nation's hands have not always been clean, and it is important to recall Chile's Sept. 11, too." Recently declassified documents show that the administration of former U.S. President Richard Nixon, "which had tried to block Mr. Allende's inauguration, began plotting to bring him down just 72 hours after he took office."

Allende, whom the paper calls "a Socialist but a democrat, [had] done nothing to Washington." Nixon "worried most that a successful Socialist would inspire others." "The New York Times" says the United States "did not directly participate in the coup, but it laid the groundwork for it and supported the plotters. Afterward, even as mass murder ensued, the Nixon administration secretly embraced Mr. Pinochet's regime." Thirty years on, and whatever the U.S. role, the paper says Chile's national reconciliation must come from "full information, reparations and justice."


Writing in the "Frankfurter Rundschau," Werner Balsen looks at the 30th anniversary of Pinochet's coup in Chile.

Balsen writes that the coup, "which the United States supported with advice, deeds and money, set the stage to end an attempt to pave the way towards socialism in Chile, a country which for Latin American standards was well developed with a long democratic tradition, strong trade unions and influential politically left-geared parties."

The Socialist- and Communist-dominated government of the Unidad Popular party headed by Allende wanted to pursue this path without violating democratic-parliamentarian principles, against the will of the right-wing parties and the entrepreneurs, but with the consent of parliament. Its program to pursue housing programs and fight poverty provided a new perspective on the poor.

Balsen describes these developments in Chile as a dictatorship that shaped its economy in accordance with a constitution based on freedoms, which paved the way for the Andes state to return to democracy once the military in the 1980s could no longer hinder it. In fact, under the dictatorship the economy and social model became so entrenched that conditions were later difficult to alter.

(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)