It was a day to mark the catastrophe of five years earlier, to remember as
if any could forget the tragedy that devastated the United States and
changed the world. But remembrance had no monopoly, because yesterday as
over the weeks and months stretching back to 11 September 2001 old
suffering in America was being joined by the new across the globe.
In the United States, the calendar demanded reflection and prayer five years
after Islamic extremists perpetrated attacks on American landmarks with
hi-jacked airliners which killed 2,973 people and catapulted the nation and
its allies into a complex and bloody struggle against terror that still has
At a sombre ceremony at Ground Zero, the still-barren hole in Lower
Manhattan where the felled Twin Towers once stood, spouses and partners of
victims took turns to read out the full roster of names of those who died on
11 September 2001.
Moments of silence were observed at 8.46am and 9.03am, when the two aircraft
struck the towers, and again at 9.59am and 10.29am, when they collapsed.
Yet the much larger tally of destruction and death spawned by 9/11 and by
the campaign of retribution launched in its name by the US only grows, and
yesterday, with more scenes of violence and sorrow in Iraq, in Afghanistan
and in Britain, was no different. War makes no concessions to anniversaries.
If some knew instantly that the consequences of 9/11 would be long-lasting
and bloody, the future we now inhabit was crystallised with a vow by George
Bush six days later to "rid the world of evil-doers". He said: "
This crusade, this war on terrorism is gonna take awhile. And the American
people must be patient." With one word, "crusade", he seemed
to set up a clash of religions and civilisations, a sentiment he echoed last
night as he talked of a "struggle for civilisation".
In Britain yesterday the grief was fresh as the families of five of 19
British soldiers killed in Afghanistan in recent days gathered at RAF Brize
Norton to receive the bodies of their loved ones. Flag-draped coffins of the
five Pte Craig O'Donnell, L/Cpl Paul Muirhead, L/Cpl Luke McCulloch,
Fijian Ranger Anare Draiva and Cpl Mark Wright were lifted from a C-17
In Afghanistan, mourning and violence collided as a suicide bomber attacked
the funeral for a provincial governor murdered the previous day. Six cabinet
ministers attending the funeral were unhurt, but six other people were
killed. The country is experiencing the worst violence since the US
coalition forced out the Taliban regime in the weeks after 9/11.
Violence in Iraq continues unabated. Yesterday, 12 people, mostly recruits
to the Iraqi army, were killed when a suicide bomber attacked their minibus
in Baghdad. Across the city, Saddam Hussein, the former dictator ousted by
the US-ledinvasion of March 2003, was again voicing defiance in a courtroom,
where he faces charges of genocide against Iraqi Kurds.
"All the witnesses said in the courtroom that they were oppressed
because they were Kurds," Saddam shouted. "They're trying to
create strife between the people of Iraq. They're trying to create division
between Kurds and Arabs, and this is what I want the people of Iraq to know."
Surely also damaged in these five years has been the cause of Middle East
peace and the reputation of Mr Bush's first ally, Tony Blair. Lebanon this
summer was engulfed in war, and Mr Blair, who was seen to side with Mr Bush
in delaying the push for a ceasefire, found himself besieged yesterday by
protesters during a visit to Beirut. In an effort to repair a tattered
legacy, the Prime Minister vowed again to dedicate his remaining tenure to
ending strife in the region.
Yet the spectre of violence looms large still, with al-Qa'ida using the
anniversary to issue a new video urging yet more attacks against the UN
for its role in Lebanon, against the US, against its allies in the Persian
Gulf and against Israel.
In the video, the deputy al-Qa'ida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, warned Western
leaders: "Do not bother yourselves with defending your forces in Iraq
and Afghanistan. These forces are doomed to failure. You have to bolster
your defences in two areas ... the first is the Gulf, from which you will be
evicted, God willing, after your defeat in Iraq, and then your economic doom
will be achieved."
But in America, where in New York the sky was the same clear blue as on the
day of the Twin Towers massacre and where tolling church bells ushered in
the morning, these and the other consequences of President Bush's "
crusade" were set aside. It was a day for mourning its own.
Mr Bush, who on Sunday quietly laid wreaths in two reflecting pools placed
on the footprints of the towers at Ground Zero, observed the first two
moments of silence with the first lady, Laura Bush, at a historic fire
station, known as Fort Pitt, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Eschewing the low profile he has kept on previous anniversaries, Mr Bush
later left New York en route to the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania,
where United flight 93 crashed, killing 40 passengers and crew, and
thereafter to the Pentagon, where 184 people died after American Airlines
flight 77 ploughed into the building.
In a televised address from the Oval Office last night, Mr Bush said: "
America did not ask for this war, and every American wishes it were over.
And so do I. But the war is not over, and it will not be over until either
we or the extremists emerge victorious."
"If we do not defeat these enemies now, we will leave our children to
face a Middle East overrun by terrorist states and radical dictators armed
with nuclear weapons. We are in a war that will set the course for this new
century and determine the destiny of millions across the world."
Losing the war
* Most Britons believe the war against terrorism is being lost at home,
according to an NOP poll for the BBC. Only 24 per cent think it is being won
in the UK, while 53 per cent say it is being lost. Fifty-five per cent of
people believe the Government has aligned itself too closely with US foreign
policy, compared with 11 per cent who believe the UK should be more closely
linked to the US. Equally, a majority, 56 per cent, believes the fight
against international terrorism is being lost abroad, while 20 per cent of
people believe the fight is being won. The results reflect those in a YouGov
poll published yesterday.
© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited