Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - Australian Prime Minister John Howard Thursday lashed out at attempts to justify the terrorist attacks on America two years ago by linking them to U.S. foreign policy or disputes elsewhere in the world.
"I find it peculiar that in recent times in particular, there is mounting criticism in some quarters of the United States, even to the point of some people effectively saying, well, they really brought it on themselves," he said in a radio interview.
Rationalizations by "apologists for terrorists" were "obscene," he said.
"Nothing can excuse the willful, indiscriminate taking of the lives of several thousand people out of blind ideological hatred," Howard said. "No convoluted argument about the alleged dispossession or prolonged disputes in other parts of the world can alter the fact that what they did was to kill people indiscriminately."
Leaders of al Qaeda - the terrorist group responsible for the attacks - have in public messages and recordings linked their campaign with the Palestinian cause and the struggle to rid Saudi Arabia of U.S. armed forces.
Many critics of U.S. policies in the Middle East say anti-American terrorism is fuelled by Washington's support for Israel, and that the invasion of Iraq will simply feed extremists' anger.
Howard said the U.S., while not perfect, was "a force for good. The values and the ideals of the United States are good values and good ideals."
"I ask a very simple question - if the world is going to have a superpower, which nation other than the United States would you like it to be?"
Howard did agree that issues exploited by terrorists should be addressed.
"Now, that is not in any way justification for what the terrorists have done, but if we could get a peace settlement there [in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] we would remove one of the arguments used in the street by the terrorists as they try and recruit."
He stressed, however, that there could not be a start to proper discussions until suicide attacks against Israelis stopped.
Howard, who was on an official visit to the U.S. when the attacks occurred, recalled Sept. 11, 2001 as "the most extraordinary day in my public life I've lived through."
"I won't ever forget it ... the sheer audacity and the sheer brutality and callousness of the attack has never left me. I don't think it ever will and neither it should."
Australia, the closest U.S. ally in the region, marked the anniversary with various events.
In parliament, the prime minister read out a letter he received Thursday from President Bush, expressing sympathy for the 10 Australians who died in the attacks and undertaking to continue the campaign against terrorism.
Lawmakers were also asked to remember 89 other Australians who have died at the hands of terrorists since then - 88 in last October's Bali bombing, and one in Afghanistan.
As elsewhere, the U.S. Embassy in Canberra commemorated the day in a low-key way.
The mission urged Americans in Australia to join embassy and consulate staff in "making the day count" by doing voluntary work with charitable groups in their local communities.
"Through these activities, they will both honor and remember those who died two years ago by providing positive and constructive help to people in need today," it said in a statement.
U.S. Consulate staff in Sydney took part in the planting of 3,000 trees in an inner-city park to commemorate the victims.
At 10.46 pm Wednesday Australia time (8.46 am in New York), embassy staff were for the second year to light candles for each of the 9/11 victims.
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