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Jewish World Review Sept. 12, 2001/ 23 Elul 5761

Richard Z. Chesnoff

Richard Z. Chesnoff
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PARIS | "This is not Warsaw, this is not Sarajevo," declared the French TV commentator. "Hard as it may be to believe, this is New York!"

For Europeans, as well as for Asians and Africans, the view of a panic-stricken America under warlike siege is an unimaginable nightmare. "It's like some paperback novel, a Hollywood movie," said a customer at a café on Paris' famed Champs-Elysées as he watched a TV screen showing a World Trade Center tower collapsing.

Yesterday's horrifying events in New York and Washington have gripped the French capital and the rest of the world like few events of recent years. In London's financial center, shaken traders spoke of being in phone contact with colleagues at the World Trade Center. "Suddenly," reported one man, his voice trembling, "the lines just went dead."

European television, which rarely breaks into programs for news bulletins, devoted nonstop hours to live coverage of the chaotic events at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, coverage that continued hour by hour well into the night.

As in the United States, speculation in Europe and elsewhere has focused on Afghanistan-based terror mastermind Osama Bin Laden. But the speculation is educated. Philippe Hassam, an Islam expert in Paris, asks: "Who else but Bin Laden would have had the global mechanism to organize such an attack?"

Hassam points out that, as Adolf Hitler did in "Mein Kampf," Bin Laden has already laid out his plans to "hit the United States" in most everything he has every written.

But other European terrorism experts believe that even Bin Laden could not have carried out the air attacks all by himself. "I would say that we might take a careful look at what involvement Saddam Hussein and Iraq may have had in these events," suggests one German security official.

America's terrorist Pearl Harbor also provoked sharp foreign defensive reaction. In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair canceled all flights into London's three major airports. In Paris, President Jacques Chirac, who spoke of "acts of war," gave orders to launch France's Vigipirate Plan, an intensive anti-terrorism program recently prepared by the French secret service.

In Brussels, NATO commanders announced plans to hyper- increase their normal levels of alert. In Germany, major national monuments, including Berlin's Grand Synagogue, were placed under double guard.

And Israel, always on the alert for possible terrorist attacks, closed its airspace to all but flights of El Al, its national carrier, then later announced that it was sealing its land borders with Egypt and Jordan - its only direct links to the Arab world.

Alain Richard, the French minister of defense, said, "We must all take this as an attack and a threat against us as well. Anything less would be foolhardy."

The attacks also have dealt a heavy blow to American intelligence credibility. As one senior official at the Quai d'Orsay, France's state department, put it, "How could it be that with all the millions that the CIA, the FBI and the Pentagon spend on intelligence, that no one had any idea that such a series of attacks were planned?

"What happened to airport security? What happened to America's invincibility?"

JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a senior correspondent at US News And World Report and a columnist at the NY Daily News. His latest book, recently updated, is Pack of Thieves: How Hitler & Europe Plundered the Jews and Committed the Greatest Theft in History.

Richard Z. Chesnoff Archives

© 2001, N. Y. Daily News