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Wednesday, 12 September, 2001, 06:03 GMT 07:03 UK
European press review
Today's European press headlines speak for themselves: "Terror in New York", "The world is afraid", "America attacked: Maximum worldwide alert", "Terrorism: The worst has arrived" and "Terrorist slaughter in the USA" are just some examples. And there's also unanimity on the front-page pictures: almost every paper in Europe has the historic pictures of the destruction of the World Trade Center.

World War III?

"The attack on Pearl Harbour pales in comparison with what has happened in New York and Washington," says the French Le Nouvel Observateur.

"In 1941 the aggressors were known (and) reprisals were possible," it says, "but today... all we have before us is the chaos of unpredictability and irresponsibility."

The paper fears that the attacks may lead to an isolated United States and a fragmented world.

"After Tuesday's tragedy we shall feel like orphans," it says. "Any debates on anti-Americanism will become a frivolous exercise, and a great many of those who demonstrated in Genoa will live to regret the passing of the international institutions."

As it withdraws into its shell, America "could leave a vacuum worse than the ill it may ever have done", the paper believes.

In Cold War times, "the balance of nuclear terror made people feel that no-one would take the suicidal initiative of aggression", it points out. "But with suicide attacks, there is no possible sanction against the direct perpetrators - since they kill themselves - and above all there is no limit to their unbridled desire to wreak global havoc," the paper concludes.

Austria's Der Standard says that the devastating attacks on targets across the USA have brought the world superpower to a virtual standstill and points out that the scale of the strikes has not been seen since World War II.

"The [1995] bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma city centre was a mere foretaste of things to come. A force of terror was unleashed in New York on Tuesday," it says, adding that what happened in New York was like "scenes from a Hollywood fantasy film".

"Now film fiction has become reality and America finds itself in a state of emergency," it concludes.

In an editorial entitled, "Solidarity with America", Stockholm's Svenska Dagbladet says it is time for the western world to come together to fight the forces of evil, as happened in World War II.

"For a while the terrorists will be able to celebrate the damage they have done to the world, but in good time they will find that it is more difficult to kill the ideas of freedom which constitute American society and which most Swedes today also have cause to think about," the paper says.

"The sympathy of the world is with America, the blameless victim of the most concerted acts of terrorism ever perpetrated against one nation," says London's The Independent."

"It was also an attack on the civilized values of the whole world," it adds. "The people who organized and executed these outrages were utterly indifferent to the sanctity of human life. They were also, evidently, well organized, resourceful, and cunning. It is to pay them no compliment to recognize their ingenuity as readily as we should condemn their savagery.

"Never again will Americans feel safe on their own land," the paper points out. "In the days and weeks to come, as we begin to fully comprehend the full enormity of this evil, it will become clear that life in America, even the world, will never be the same again."

From terrorism to hyper-terrorism

"What happened on Tuesday in New York and Washington was a nightmare that became a terrible reality," says the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

"After this Tuesday, nothing will ever be the same again," the paper believes. "The United States' vulnerability to terrorism is now plain for all to see."

"The often-heard suggestion that terrorism was merely... a delusion harboured by people who... cannot get by without the concept of a political enemy, now sounds fatuous, now that a heinous attack has exceeded all powers of the imagination."

The attackers "had sophisticated technology", the paper adds, "but also the cold-blooded will to commit mass murder, the fanaticism to die along with their victims". "It is particularly difficult for an open society like the United States to render such people harmless."

"Only one thing is certain," it believes. "High-tech terrorism is not a subject reserved for criminologists or thriller writers. It really exists as a weapon of war in the 21st century."

The Spanish daily El Pais says "the first act of hyper-terrorism in the global information era" was an attack on "our political civilization" that showed a "terrorist capacity unknown until now and a determination born of the most extreme fanaticism".

"The world is in suspense," the paper says. "The first act of hyper-terrorism has affected us all... the feeling is that this act marks the beginning of a 21st century filled with uncertainties".

What use is a missile shield?

Germany's Frankfurter Rundschau says the attacks cruelly demonstrate that the United States cannot isolate itself from the world.

"You cannot withdraw from it politically and let things drift in the Middle East, as has happened this year," the paper says.

But it adds that the attack on the USA cannot be explained only by the desperation of an oppressed and tormented people.

"Rather, it has all the characteristics of a hate attack on symbols of Western power and feeds the suspicion that there is a religious-fanatical background," it says.

"No missile defence shield would have safeguarded Bush against such effective, all-encompassing and misanthropic violence," says Copenhagen's Information.

George W. Bush would like to avoid taking responsibility in the Middle East and prevent the USA from being bound by restrictive new international commitments, it says, but "Black Tuesday will confirm that the USA can never opt out, either in a positive or negative sense."

For its part, Spain's El Mundo says that "the destruction of the twin towers makes clear that the threat to the USA and the western world doesn't come from intercontinental missiles installed thousands of kilometres a way as much as from the daring and lack of scruples of a handful of terrorists capable of dodging security systems".

The Italian daily La Stampa describes the new scenario as "a war without an enemy, against which the nuclear bomb is of no use - and nor is the anti-missile shield".

"The attack on America ... was so unthinkable until yesterday that not even the most spectacular, hard-hitting films could have depicted it as it was", the paper's editorial says.


A commentator in the Portuguese Expresso thinks it "inevitable" that there will be some form of retaliation from the United States "in the next few hours", as "it vents its grief, its wounded pride and its weakened authority".

And the paper agrees that "there is an imperative need for an immediate, firm and exemplary response", regardless of whether the perpetrators were Islamic extremists from the Middle East or America's own home-grown far-right variety.

"It is true that democracy cannot meet terrorism with terrorism, but nor can it give in to violence and terror," it argues.

El Pais also says that "we must be prepared for a firm response" but warns that "haste at naming the perpetrators is ill-advised and could also cause greater injustices".

The paper calls for "calm" and trusts in "the capacity of the world's leading power and the allied defence system to respond to this indiscriminate attack" with "methods that reflect the values" of democracy.

The Independent strikes a similar note, arguing that "even in the face of such grievous provocation...restraint... has to be the watchword" because "the terrorists can only truly be said to have won if civilized nations abandon civilized values and themselves use indiscriminate violence against the innocent".

The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.

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