Opinions were forthright and clear, and competed with each other in resolution, not only in the West but everywhere. In the Arab world, condemnation was nearly universal, only Saddam ensuring that Iraqi state television played a partisan song, "Down with America," calling the attacks "the fruits of American crimes against humanity." Yasser Arafat condemned the acts on behalf of the Palestinians, though unfortunately, most especially for the Palestinian cause, the TV showed pictures of some jubilant Palestinians celebrating.
The most common words that day were "war," "evil," "sympathy," "solidarity," "determination" and, of course, "change." Above all, it was accepted that the world had changed. How could it be otherwise? The reason for such a description was also not hard to divine. The first attempt to attack the World Trade Center, in 1993, had been foiled, but the planning this time had obviously been meticulous. The enemy had been prepared to wait until it had accumulated the necessary means and opportunity.
However, more than that, a terror attack of this scale was not calculated to do limited damage. It was designed for maximum casualty. It was delivered by a suicide mission. It therefore had an intent, a purpose and a scope beyond anything we had encountered before. This was terror without limit; without mercy; without regard to human life, because it was motivated by a cause higher than any human cause. It was inspired by a belief in God; a perverted belief, a delusional and demonic belief, to be sure, but nonetheless so inspired.
It was, in a very real sense, a declaration of war. It was calculated to draw us into conflict. Up to then, the activities of this type of extremism had been growing. It was increasingly associated with disputes that seemed unconnected, though gradually the connection was being made. Kashmir, Chechnya, Algeria, Yemen, Palestine, Lebanon; in each area, different causes were at play, with different origins, but the attacks, carried out as acts of terror, were growing, and the ideological link with an extreme element that professed belief in Islam was ever more frequently expressed. Until 11 September, the splashes of colour on different parts of the canvas did not appear to the eye as a single picture. After it, the clarity was plain, vivid and defining.
We look back now, almost a decade later when we are still at war, still struggling and managing the ghastly consequences which war imposes, and we can scarcely recall how we ever came to be in this position. But on that bright New York morning, not a cloud disturbing the bluest of blue skies, we knew exactly what was happening and why.
We knew that so far as we were concerned we had not provoked such an outrage. There had been acts of terror committed against us: Lockerbie, the USS Cole, the U.S. embassy in Tanzania. We had tried to retaliate, but at a relatively low level. They were individual tragedies, but they did not amount to a war. They were the price America paid for being America. The other conflicts we reckoned were none of our business; or at least they were the business of our diplomatic corps, but not of our people.