WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 -- The world's media were sweeping in their condemnation of Monday's air attacks by terrorists against the United States, with similarly straight-up coverage on their Web sites of the carnage in New York and Washington. While most news outlets took an editorial stand that conveyed only sympathy for Americans on what was declared a day of mourning, others sounded notes of caution on what the violence means and what it portends.
Iraq, a bitter foe of the United States, was singularly spiteful in its assessment, as a news anchor read out a government-approved commentary blaming U.S. policies for the attacks, which the Iraqis called "the operation of the century."
"The American cowboy is reaping the fruits of his crimes against humanity," he read, heaping blame on U.S. support for Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians.
Libya -- like Iran and Afghanistan, considered by the United States to be a sponsor of terrorism -- made an offer of dubious sincerity and that was guaranteed to be ignored -- humanitarian aid "to console the American people on this memorable day characterized by this serious and horrible incident," despite its "political differences with America," the state-run Jana news agency reported
An editorial in the Thursday edition of the Jerusalem Post said, "Even we Israelis, who have been battling a wave of terrorism for almost a year, have trouble fathoming what has befallen tens of thousands of innocent people in America." The paper called on the United States and other democracies to pressure the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on states that sponsor terrorism - something the panel has been loath to do - or "our world will become as tragically unrecognizable as the New York skyline."
The Post, likening the hatred directed at Americans to that which Israelis have faced, said: "Some Americans, like some Israelis, may be tempted to think about what they have done wrong, what they might have done to cause people to take so many lives along with their own. The answer is that America has been attacked not for what it has done wrong, but for what it has done right, and for being the hope of the entire world."
Another Israeli paper, Haaretz, shared the sentiment: "The citizens of the U.S., in any case are not alone on this terrible day. Those who believe in its values stand by their side to strengthen America in this uncompromising war against terrorism."
The editorial tone of the Jordan Times reflected the delicate position of its home country in the Middle East, though the paper itself is privately owned. While offering "our prayers and most sincere condolences to the American people, president, government and the grieving families of the innocent victims whose lives were so brutally shattered," the paper added that "U.S. policies toward Iraq and uneven-handed stands in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have fueled anti-American sentiments among most social and political sectors in the Arab world. Even traditional and loyal allies, such as Saudi Arabia, are finding it extremely difficult to continue dealing with Washington with the same cordiality."
In the United Arab Emirates, the Gulf News said it feared the U.S. military would retaliate without being certain of the culprit.
"In the past America has sought vengeance for attacks on U.S. government buildings by retaliating against sites in Libya, Afghanistan and Sudan," the paper's editorial said. "It was not clear at that time that America was attacking the right places, and it has become more clear with time that the sites attacked were mistakes. Such tit-for-tat violence has resulted in continuing attacks from violent groups, and has not solved anything.
"It is important at a time like this that America remembers its role as the world's leading power, and its commitment to justice. Bush's intention to 'punish' should not disintegrate into plain revenge, but should incorporate justice as well. In such a search for justice America carries the sympathy and support of the world."
Russia, which has felt itself under threat from Islamic fundamentalism on its southern frontier since the demise of Soviet power kept such passions in line, has made it clear since the bombing that it believes it can help the United States fight the scourge of terrorism. Russian media -- full and partly state-run outlets and their privately owned brethren alike -- have reported the many expressions of sympathy expressed by ordinary citizens.
Defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, writing in the Moscow Times, however, doubted that the seeds of any Russian-U.S. alliance against terrorism would yield anything but bitter fruit, given the Kremlin's competing interest in selling arms to states such as Iran and Syria, which Washington regards as terrorism sponsors. "Thus, the newly forged anti-terrorist alliance between Moscow and Washington may well be short-lived and end in acrimony."
In China, the English-language organ of the ruling Communist Party was straightforward in its assessment, making no mention of the tensions it has had -- over downed spy planes, jailed dissidents and so on -- with the United States in recent years. "There can be no excuse for such inhumane and spiteful acts against innocent civilians," read the editorial in the China Daily. "Terrorist crimes must be condemned by the world community and the perpetrators brought to justice. The fact that abhorrent crimes of this type are still happening today should ring alarm bells in the international community, which must be fully aware that terrorism is posing a serious threat to the civilized world."
The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia (a country whose prime minister was on a state visit to Washington this week) remarked that "the terribly and cowardly attacks have changed many things," including destroying the United States' sense of itself as "the impregnable superpower."
The editorial saw the tragedy as impetus for change in the Bush administration, which has been criticized around the world for a lack of global leadership. "(The attacks) should - not only for the sake of the U.S. but for the world -- also cause a change to a more outward-looking America, one preferring engagement with, rather than retreat form, the world in which it stands so powerfully. In that way it will, as Mr. Bush said yesterday, truly stand as a beacon of freedom."
Spain's largest daily, El Pais, said the "first act of 'hyperterrorism' in the age of global information has affected all of us," not only in the immediate sense but in the fear that subsequently drove the world's financial markets into a tailspin and sent oil prices rising.
"The sense is that this act marks the start of a 21st century plagued with serious uncertainty," it concluded.
France's Le Figaro, echoing the centrist sentiment, said: "No one knows yet who is behind these attacks. Only thing is certain: Terrorism has become, in the 21st century, a weapon of war."
Under the headline "Once A Safe Haven, Now A Safety Risk" a commentator in the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung cautioned that the effects of the strike on the World Trade Center ("the great trademark of global capital's capital city") could cast a long-term cloud over the already-slumping world economy.
"Newspaper and television pictures will not be the only thing that will stick in the minds of traders and investment bankers," the op-ed continued. "Approximately 180,000 people work in New York's financial services industry. Each one of them has at least one business contact, one acquaintance, one friend or even one relative working in the World Trade Center."