Journalist Christiane Amanpour gives her views on some of he effects of 9/11 on the eve of the tenth anniversary. She has covered a great many of the world’s major stories, for many years.
Adrian Lancashire, euronews: The Bush-Cheney Administration called its “War Against Terrorism” a defence of freedom. The world has experienced the ten-year journey in very different ways: was this a journey for revenge, or for something more noble?
Look, the United States was attacked for the first time since WWII. It had never experienced something like this. It had never been attacked on its home land. It was an extraordinary, singular moment. When the United States decided to go after those terrorists who had attacked them, they went to Afghanistan. In this regard they had the support of the world. The NATO Alliance invoked its charter: that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. And they went after the terrorists, and I covered that. And they dispatched the Taliban and Al Qaeda from Afghanistan. This started a process to really put them on the back foot [put the enemy on the defensive]. Now, as we know, the intervening years have been very, very difficult. After going to Afghanistan, which was a legitimate act of self-defence, the Bush-Cheney administration decided that they needed to pursue this into Iraq, and you know, and the world knows, that that was a very, very controversial move. Of course, now this is many years later, and the situation in that part of the world is radically shifting and radically changing. But there is no doubt that these ten years have seen a loss of self-confidence in the United States, a loss of self-possession, a state of sort of permanent war, hyper-vigilance and fear. And there is real hope that now, ten years later, the US can be freed to start moving forward again. It is very, very important that Osama Bin Laden was found and was killed before the tenth anniversary. It is very important symbolically and materially for the US that Ground Zero is no longer a wreckage and construction site, but that a memorial has been built.
euronews: If I might ask about sacrifice, which is one of the things represented in the commemorations being held: The US led this war, shed its soldiers’ blood — so did other nations — but the US went into deep debt for it — but not the new 21st century powers. Americans did what they felt was right. They made sacrifices. Did that weaken them while others benefited? Say: China or India?
Well, as you say, the US did go into these wars supported by many of its allies, and it has come at really terrible cost. And it is not just the US that is in economic trouble right now. It is also western allies in Europe as well. This is a very difficult time now for the West. They have the sovereign debt crisis, they have the unemployment crisis, and this has all come really to a head [crescendo or climax] in the last couple of years. It is hard to know if it is specifically linked to the wars. You know, again, these are very political commentaries, and people have very varying answers and questions about that. However, this is a fact right now, that the Western powers are under extreme, and some would say unprecedented economic and social pressure. As you say, at the same time China and India are rising. But: China and India also have no interest in seeing the US economically weak. China of course holds such a huge part of the US’ debt. It does not want to see the US default or become a weak power. But this is a moment where there is a competition for not just economic strength but political strength as well, and the strength of influence and projection of power. It is a very crucial moment right now.
euronews: Did 9/11 extremism actually win the US any sympathy in the year’s Arab Spring uprisings, and fuel the people’s drive to change corrupt systems themselves?
Well, I think that it is not an accident that what is going on in the Arab World is happening right now. If you remember: the immediate aftermath of 9/11 had people in the US and around Europe asking “Where are the Arab people, where are the Muslim people? Where do they stand? What do they want? Are they inextricably linked to a violent future or not?” The Arab Spring has told us that they are not — that they are now putting their moderate voice forward for freedom, for democracy, for all the kinds of things that we all want, for ourselves and for our children: for a better economic life, for accountable government, for a say in how their countries and how their governments are run. This is a dramatic moment, a moment of huge opportunity, and, in my view, a direct repudiation of the extremism, the ‘Bin Ladenism’ that led to 9/11. It is extraordinarily important. And it is not just the United States which was attacked on 9/11, although that was the huge attack… London was attacked, Madrid was attacked, other parts of our world were attacked. This now is a repudiation of that, and it presents a huge, huge opportunity, and I just hope that the US and the Western powers will seize this opportunity for what it is.