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Europe

European Press Review: Spinning 9/11

European papers weigh in on the findings of a US Senate Commission created to probe the Sept. 11 attacks and how the government and intelligence agencies handled information predicting that such an attack could occur.

The conservative Spanish paper ABC from Madrid wrote that the report contained two aspects which will determine the future. The first is that the threat of terrorist attacks has not gone away. Intelligence services must be reformed in order to adapt to the characteristics of international terrorism, the paper's editors commented. The second is the emergence of Iran, and not Iraq, in a worrying form as helpers of terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington. The Madrid daily concluded that the report, at least to some extent, justified U.S. President George W. Bush's "Axis of Evil" label for Iran, would even further strain an already tense relationship between Washington and Teheran.

The Vienna paper Kurier stated that the final report, which is accessible as a book and via the Internet, makes US politicians and institutions look bad. Nevertheless, noted the paper, its publication is part of a self-purifying process which will only strengthen democracy. However, the paper concluded ominously, "with all respect for the achievement of 9/11 Commission, it is still doubtful whether its recommendations can suffice to prevent future terror attacks." This form of unpredictable violence, the editors opined, "just like the spread of weapons of mass destruction or environmental destruction – can only be combated by means of a global act of strength."

Germany's Neue Ruhr/Neue Rhein Zeitung noted that report from the 9/11 Commission carefully leaves out the issue as to whether the attacks on New York and Washington could have been prevented. "Possibly, conceivably or probably? Without the level of today’s awareness? It would be a daring judgement," the paper wrote. The more important developments, the paper wrote, is that the independent probe, despite initial resistance from Bush, actually took place. "The Americans now know that their country was not prepared for a terror attack and that the there are possibilities of further attacks before it is able to arm itself against new types of such threats," it continued. Once the dust settles from the report, there will be consequences, including the reform of the US intelligence agencies. Still arguments within the government over who is to blame for 9/11 will continue.

London's Guardian commented that the 9/11 Commission’s report has exposed "gaping holes in the apparatus of government whose primary duty is to protect its citizens." The key question to emerge from all of this, the paper wrote, "is not whether September 11 could have been prevented, or whether Bush made more mistakes than his predecessor, Bill Clinton." The issue now, the paper added, is whether the right policies and systems are in place to prevent the next attack. "This is not a question which anyone in Washington or London is currently willing to answer with any confidence," the paper warned.

In Switzerland, the Tages-Anzeiger found it particularly shocking the list of missed opportunities for the possible prevention of the attacks, which caused mass murders in New York and Washington. "It is therefore understandable," the Geneva-based paper wrote, that the report recommended establishing a chief to oversee all American intelligence agencies. "What the report lacks," observed the paper, "is a comprehensive criticism of the American strategy to combat Islamic terrorism." The paper added that not a day passes in the US presidential campaign without Bush stating that the world is a "safer place" as a result of his wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But according to the Swiss paper, "the US and the world are by no means safer since the fall of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein."