We hope lives were not lost in vain

TODAY the world will sombrely remember how one year ago a terrorist massacre in America reminded us all how tenuous is our freedom, and how vulnerable is our peace.

The very essence of freedom was rocked by an evil of inconceivable immensity, as a global audience witnessed the diabolical attack on the seat of democracy.

Twelve months ago the world stood still, frozen into disbelief as the United States of America was subjected to a series of fanatical terrorist attacks of apocalyptic proportions.

In the aftermath of that awful day when the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked, the world waited for the expected retaliation to be unleashed by the US in response to what equated to nothing less than a declaration of war on the most powerful nation on earth.

That reaction was, in time, initially manifested in the war in Afghanistan and the drive to destroy the al-Qaida terror network of Osama Bin Laden, the architect of the devastating attack on the US.

It also launched President Bush’s determination to wage an international war against terrorism, something which he has adopted in a singular fashion.

The president will address the United Nations General Assembly tomorrow and his keynote speech will underline the urgency of that body backing the stance being taken by the US and Britain against Iraq, which has persistently resisted and undermined previous resolutions.

It is crucial that the international community act in concert to neutralise the threat posed by Iraq, as propounded by America and Britain. To achieve that objective, it is equally crucial to establish exactly what that threat consists of, and then undertake an appropriate response to remove it.

Currently, disparate opinions of international standing deem Iraq capable of producing a nuclear bomb, but it could be a question of months or years before that might happen.

The earlier option could only be achieved by acquiring weapons grade material extraneously. Alternatively, it could take years, if Iraq were depending on manufacturing its own material.

Precipitating a war against Saddam Hussein could create a problem greater than it sought to solve because currently nobody knows what sort of Iraq would materialise after an American-led intervention.

With the exception of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the American cause for a strike against Saddam Hussein has received little support by other world leaders, at least without the backing of the UN.

Mr Blair has practically isolated himself from other allies and friends of the US who are not as pro-active as the British leader and Mr Bush are about a preemptive strike.

They would rather see exactly what arsenal of weapons of destruction Iraq has at its disposal before rubber stamping any US initiative.

So far, US and British intelligence sources have been pursuing the line publicly that Iraq poses an imminent threat to peace.

Neither side can quantify exactly what the threat constitutes and their warnings are largely based on estimates and supposition.

In the absence of accurate information, the only sensible strategy is another UN mandate for a return of the weapons inspectors to Iraq. Such a move would have to carry the unremitting imprimatur of the international community, and unequivocal consequences for Saddam Hussein if he refuses to co-operate.

The world cannot be plunged into a war which would “open the gates of hell” in the Middle East, simply to ratify a campaign which President Bush and Mr Blair have convinced themselves is vital to halt another wave of terrorism grounded on intelligence which is at least speculative.

September 11 last year was a crisis unequalled since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and brought the US into World War II.

Thousands of innocent people were killed, thousands more injured and families devastated, not just in the US but throughout the world, by the massacre carried out by al-Qaida.

The free world would support America in its endeavours to try to ensure that 9/11 is never again repeated, but it must be through international consensus. To do otherwise would undermine the purpose which should generate a collective response to a perceived threat.

The spectre of that date will hover over the free world today. It will forever be the anniversary of the greatest threat to democracy in recent times.

Urging America to heed world opinion rather than unleash its own unilateral action against Iraq is not to abandon it but rather to promise support from its allies.

The United States has shown a resilience in the aftermath of last year’s terrorist attack which is characteristic of its people.

Today we join with them in remembering those whose lives were lost and hope that they were not lost in vain.

We can only pray that from the devastation of Ground Zero the free world may be inspired to prevent another such outrage from being witnessed ever again.

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