9/11: open wounds and persistent danger

Saturday will mark the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Together with the retaliatory measures by the US and other Western states, they are considered a major historical turning point. For many observers this anniversary is above all about open wounds given the West has made little progress on legal proceedings against the culprits and not banished the threat of jihadism.

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Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

Shattered dreams

Tygodnik Powszechny looks back nostalgically to the time before 9/11:

“At the beginning of the 21st century the world was simply indescribably beautiful. The dust of the Cold War had settled. Poland and its neighbours were already in Nato and completing their integration into the EU. The clean-up after the Yugoslav Wars was coming to an end. There was general satisfaction with the stability of the post-Soviet space and young President Putin's pro-Western reforms. The rise of the middle class in China, the pillar of future democracy, was eagerly awaited. The world was becoming prosperous, enjoying itself and looking boldly to the future that would be like the present - in the words of Francis Fukuyama, who predicted the 'end of history' which was to bring about the ineluctable victory of liberal democracy.”


New era of barbarism

Spyros Danellis, leftist politician and columnist for TVXS, sees a wasted opportunity:

“The attacks were a painful awakening for public opinion in the US and all Western societies that considered it completely acceptable and legitimate to follow military operations in the Gulf region, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Chechnya or Central Africa on television. But this rude awakening did nothing to redefine human life as sacrosanct. On the contrary, the occupation of Afghanistan, the disintegration of Iraq, the civil war in Syria, the Arab Spring and all that followed, especially the breakup of Libya, led our troubled world into a new era of barbarism.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

A long century of terrorism

9/11 ushered in a new era, explains historian Dieter Reinisch in a commentary for the Wiener Zeitung:

“September 11, 2001 can be regarded as the real beginning of the 21st century. ... The world was in shock, but hardly anyone suspected just how much the events of that day would influence the following decades. ... With the restriction of civil rights and the gradual establishment of increased state surveillance, a fear scenario was established. This fear of terrorist attacks is being instrumentalised politically. ... And this will continue to be the case in the future - the 'century of terrorism' that began 20 years ago will not be a short century.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Radical Islamists even more dangerous today

September 11, 2001 marked the beginning of a wave of global jihadism which the West has still not been able to defeat, editor-in-chief Maurizio Molinari laments in La Repubblica:

“Twenty years on, this terror offensive is not only still in full swing, it also has the wind in its sails: from the streets of Kabul to the dunes of the Sahel to the courtroom in Paris. It forces us all to remain vigilant. ... Jihadism is an extremist ideology that distorts the content of the Koran in order to give itself legitimacy. It rejects modernity, believes in violence and seeks domination first over all Muslims and then over the entire planet, eliminating the 'renegades' and subjugating the 'infidels' to establish a caliphate where women are treated as prey.”

El País (ES) /

Close Guantánamo

As a result of the attacks, the US naval base in Cuba's Guantánamo Bay was expanded to include the now notorious detention centre. The detainees there must finally be released or put on trial in normal judicial procedures, journalist Lluís Bassets demands in El País:

“It is true that among the remaining inmates there are terrorists as dangerous as those who have just formed a government in Kabul. But to keep them locked up after almost 20 years without trial is even worse than letting them go. ... Not only because this is a matter of justice, but because it is is a consequence of the global war on terrorism. If Washington wants to start regaining the trust and prestige it has lost, there should be no detainees left at Guantánamo on the 20th anniversary of the prison camp's opening in January.”

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

Why has the trial been delayed for so long?

Ria Novosti criticises the fact that the preliminary hearings are only now beginning in Guantánamo for the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind the attacks:

“As astonishing as it sounds, the verdict against the man whom the US authorities believe to be the organiser of the world's most famous terrorist act has not yet been handed down despite the fact that he has been in US prisons since 2003. ... Now the preliminary hearing is underway, but no one can guarantee that a normal trial will begin after that. ... Mohammed has been stuck in a lawless purgatory for almost 20 years. Without wanting to indulge in conspiracy theories, one must ask: why is the US leadership dragging out the trial of the organiser of 9/11 is this way?”

Expresso (PT) /

Failed attempt to gain time

9/11 remains the open wound of this century, writes Expresso:

“The attack ordered by Bin Laden set in motion a process in this century that has never stopped. Gaining time was therefore no more than wishful thinking. This 20th anniversary confronts us with many old problems. Afghanistan has turned back the clock to 2001, the US is turning its attention to its own affairs and the Pacific, Guantánamo continues to challenge the idea of justice, states' control over their citizens is unrestricted, the fear of a wave of Muslim refugees threatens European politics. We have tried to gain more time, but time has won.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Bin Laden won

In the final analysis the US's response to the terrorist attacks has done far more damage than the attacks themselves, columnist Fintan O'Toole concludes in The Irish Times:

“The death toll on 9/11 was a fearful 2,977. The wars it triggered have killed 801,000 people directly and several times that number indirectly. Thirty-eight million people have been driven from their homes. The US has spent 6.4 trillion (€5.4 trillion) to achieve these results. This is surely beyond the darkest dreams ever harboured in bin Laden's fanatical heart. The great tragedy for the bereaved and the survivors of 9/11 is that there is a real sense in which bin Laden won.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Interference has only made things worse

The US should have pulled out much sooner, columnist Tim Stanley comments in The Daily Telegraph:

“It might have made sense to tighten US security and find and capture bin Laden, while recalibrating US policy to withdraw from the region and reduce its overexposure. Instead, it did the complete opposite. Stable dictatorships were uprooted, creating a vacuum for terrorists to fill; the US handed propaganda victories to the enemy via accusations of torture. If America's empire has ended – which I very much doubt – then it wasn't when it retreated from Afghanistan, but when it injected itself so violently into the region.”