[TODAY]Squandering the ‘Sept. 11 effect’“Today we are all Americans,” declared France’s Le Monde, well-known for its traditionally less-than-friendly attitude toward the United States, just after the Sept. 11 terror attacks two years ago. Waves of sympathy and condolence flowed from all parts of the world to the Americans after their terrible tragedy. Even Iran, governed by a theocracy hostile to the United States, held a public rally condemning terrorism, and North Korea, though deeply chagrined by U.S. President George W. Bush’s hard-line policies against it, joined the ranks of those who denounced the attacks. NATO invoked Article 5 of its founding treaty, in which the parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all. The war to overthrow the Taliban government in Afghanistan that provided support and a hiding place for Al Qaeda, the group responsible for the attacks, was supported by many countries as a “just war.”
However, as we commemorate the second anniversary of the attacks, things stand quite differently. In a sense, the “Sept. 11 effect” seems to have worn off. Even with threats of a recurrence of terror attacks, allies and friends of the United States are busy criticizing it for abusing its power and trying to build up an “American Empire” instead of sympathizing with it and forming a common front to prevent further terrorism.
The United States lost much international support in the process of engaging in war on Iraq. With its “justice is mine” attitude, it had snubbed opposition from the United Nations and major allies such as France and Germany and attacked Iraq with Britain, Spain and Australia as its sidekicks. Many called this “unilateralism,” and thorough unilateralism it was.
The United States had ignored world opinion to open the way for broader participation in the war by acquiring another UN Security Council resolution endowing legitimacy to the war. At the start, Washington argued that war against Iraq was part of its ongoing war against terrorism. However, it soon became obvious that Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were not only not partners in terrorism, but had been wary and distrustful of each other. The U.S. government changed its story to that of Saddam Hussein hiding weapons of mass destruction in all corners of the country, justifying a preemptive strike. However, neither during nor after the war were any such weapons found.
The war ended as the neo-conservatives in Washington had planned. However, the level of postwar efforts to fill the power vacuum left by Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, to form an Iraqi-led democratic government to justify the United States’ attack and occupation and to rebuild the economy is far below expectations. Iraq seems to be in a desperate situation of chaos. Despite the presence of some 150,000 U.S. troops and 60,000 British soldiers, the Jordanian Embassy and the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad received terror attacks in succession. One of Iraq’s most important Shiite clerics, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, who was expected to contribute greatly to politically stabilizing Iraq, was also killed when a car bomb exploded outside a mosque in An Najaf.
The American and the British troops find it increasingly difficult even to protect themselves. Terrorist remnants that had lost their “workplace” in the war in Afghanistan are reported to have gathered in Iraq to join hands with Saddam Hussein supporters. The fact that most Iraqis suffer from a shortage of the three most important things needed for daily life, security, water and electricity, lends force to the anti-American agitators in Iraqi society.
Had the postwar efforts gone smoothly, not even France or Germany would have dared to criticize the United States. However, there is a subtle atmosphere of “schadenfreude,” or smugness at others’ hardships. The neoconservatives in Washington brought this upon themselves. Robert Kagan, a neoconservative scholar, admitted frankly, to the point of sounding intentionally evil, that international politics is power against power, the strong winning over the weak according to the laws of the jungle. To the neoconservatives, power is justice, and it is there to be used.
The neoconservatives, who are pro-Israel, have formed a coalition with Christian fundamentalists who think that building the Israelite nation is God’s will. The primary objective of their policies is to change the Middle East into a pro-American, pro-Israel region.
The neoconservatives must overcome their lack of foresight and their greed for war trophies and seek the cooperation of allies and friends of the United States. That is the only way to end the ongoing Sept. 11 and, as President Bush said, to fight the threat terrorism poses against cilivization.
* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie