Reflecting France's vocal opposition to the US-led war against Iraq, left-leaning French daily Liberation said President Bush's leadership over the past five years was "disastrous."
"The Bush administration has succeeded in destroying the huge pool of compassion and solidarity which gripped the world after Sept. 11," the paper said. " (Bush) is helping to turn the planet into a vast battleground, precipitating the clash of civilizations to which the most radical jihadists aspire", it wrote.
Britain's Independent also remembered the goodwill of five years ago when there were "images of a world briefly united in sympathy for an America reeling and grieving from the attack on the Twin Towers and the deaths of almost 3,000 New Yorkers." "How moving but dated they seem today," the paper said.
Summing up the mood in the British press, the Financial Times said: "The way the Bush administration has trampled on the international rule of law and Geneva Conventions, while abrogating civil liberties and expanding executive power at home, has done huge damage not only to America's reputation but, more broadly, to the attractive power of Western values."
Austria's Der Standard pinpointed the war in Iraq as a turning point which almost caused the trans-Atlantic partnership to break up. "The world of today has been molded by self-willed decisions in the White House and not by the collapse of the Twin Towers", it said.
Italy's La Stampa, which sees no end to the war on terror, said: "There is no victory in sight, no indication about how the undertaking might finish. (Instead we see) a proliferation of ethnic-religious wars, of terrorist attacks in various parts of the globe."
Likewise in Spain, El Pais said the Bush administration was using the September 11 attacks to pursue the agenda of the "Neo-cons," whom it accused of "pursuing unilateral policies, abandoning diplomacy in favour of military might, eroding civil liberaties and expanding presidential powers." " The result, five years after, is a more dangerous world," the paper said. "But the worst is that the methods of the terrorists contaminated the spirit of the democracies which fight them."
Germany's conservative Die Welt on the other hand, did defend the use of military action in the fighting terrorism, but with the following proviso, " The terror principle can and must be countered by military means, but security policy measures must be taken without betraying one's democratic principles," it said.
The paper was referring to last week's disclosures by President Bush that the CIA held high level operatives of al-Qaeda in secret prisons, unleashing a flurry of criticism in many European countries, including Germany.
Berlin's left leaning Tagesspiegel urged cooperation between America and Europe. "They should open up a dialogue with the Islamic world, but there are certain principles where there is no compromise: democracy, freedom of religion and opinion, equal rights for women, the security of Israel, are only a few examples."