Seven years after terrorist attacks killed several thousand people in
the United States, a new global public opinion poll shows that many people do
not believe the attacks were the work of the al-Qaida terror network. VOA's Kent
Klein reports from Washington.
An independent U.S.-based group called World
Public Opinion.org asked 16,000 people in 17 countries who they thought was
responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
Majorities in only nine of the 17 countries believed that al-Qaida was behind
the attacks, a finding that surprised World Public Opinion.org's director,
"I think it is very striking, given that even bin Laden has publicly made
statements affirming that al-Qaida was behind the September 11th attacks," he
An average of 46 percent of the people polled in each country blames al-Qaida
for the attacks. If not al-Qaida, then who? Kull says an average of 15 percent
say the U.S. government plotted the attacks.
"In Turkey, 36 percent have this view, Turkey, one of our allies. Palestinian
territories, 27 percent have this view. In Mexico, 30 percent have this view,
and perhaps most surprising of all, in Germany, 23 percent have the view that
the United States was behind the 9/11 attacks."
Of those who said the United States was the perpetrator, Steven Kull says
many believe it was an attempt to justify an impending U.S. invasion of
"Some people backed themselves into the belief, saying, 'Well, the U.S. had
an interest in this, therefore it is clear that it must be the case.' And that
interest that is suggested is that the U.S. was looking for an excuse to go to
war with Iraq," he said.
Seven percent of the people polled blame Israel for the 9/11
attacks, and one in four questioned say they do not know who was
People in the Middle East, especially Muslims, were especially likely to tell
the pollsters they believe the United States plotted the attacks. Kull says his
group's polling over time shows that Muslims believe the attacks were morally
wrong and contrary to Islam.
"So it is very hard for them to accept that a Muslim could do such a thing.
At the same time, they do feel some resonance with many of the things that bin
Laden says, so they feel some conflict about this," he said. "They are basically
using a kind of defense mechanism to deny the strong evidence that al Qaida was
behind 9/11, as a way of resolving the kind of internal conflict they feel."
Kull says he interprets the global ambivalence about the origins of the 9/11
attacks as a result of doubts about the United States' role in the world.
"Broadly, I think what this tells us is that there is a lack of confidence in
the United States around the world. It is striking that even among our allies,
the numbers that say al-Qaida was behind 9/11 do not get above two-thirds, and
barely become a majority. So this is a real indication that the United States is
not in a strong position to, in a sense, tell its story. The American narrative
is not as powerful in the world today."
Respondents with a positive view of the U.S. influence in the world are more
likely to blame al-Qaida for 9/11, and less likely to blame the United States,
than those with a negative view.