The White House responded gently to criticisms of the U.S.-led strike from a number of foreign leaders, reports CBS News Correspondent Mark Knoller. Spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush understands and respects the thoughts of those who disagree. But Fleischer said the U.S. and its allies won't be deterred from their mission to disarm Iraq.
Outrage simmered in Islamic countries and there were harsh words and protests against the United States — even on the streets of its allies and friends.
Demonstrations were held in U.S.-aligned Australia and Japan as well as Muslim nations Bangladesh and Pakistan. The world's most populous Islamic nation Indonesia called on the United Nations to help end hostilities. Protesters burned U.S. flags in India.
Riot police clashed with demonstrators and safeguarded U.S. embassies in the Philippines and Egypt. More than 100,000 protesters rallied in Athens and tens of thousands demonstrated in Italy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded a quick end to the attack, calling it a "big political mistake." China, long opposed to any military action, said the strike was "violating the norms of international behavior."
"This military action cannot be justified," Putin said in Moscow.
Germany expressed "great concern and consternation" that its anti-war diplomacy with France and Russia had failed; it immediately turned attention to the aftermath — and offered help dealing with the humanitarian consequences.
"France regrets this action taken without approval of the United Nations," its president, Jacques Chirac, said in a brief televised speech. "We hope these operations will be as rapid and least deadly as possible, and that they don't lead to a humanitarian catastrophe."
Thousands of anti-war protesters crowded a plaza in front of the U.S. Embassy in Paris Thursday. Some of the estimated 20,000 demonstrators shouted slogans such as "Bush-Blair: Killers!" Some waved banners that said "Yankee go home."
The heavily guarded embassy is closed for the day as a security measure.
France, Germany and Russia lined up in recent weeks to oppose war in Iraq and threaten to veto any U.N. resolution that automatically authorized the use of force.
Millions around the world saw events unfold on television or monitored developments on the Internet.
"There's nothing good about war," said Ngai Sik-wai, a restaurateur in Hong Kong, watching with some customers as President Bush announced the attacks. "What is America thinking?" said Hong Ji, a Muslim shopkeeper in Beijing. And from Alexei Barenov, 24, an interior designer in Moscow: "The Americans don't listen to anyone."
As citizens fueled by instantaneous information debated and questioned, governments lined up much as they have for months. Britain and Japan, staunch U.S. allies, expressed immediate solidarity, with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi saying Iraq "has not acted sincerely." Australia, Italy, Denmark, Poland and Albania also said they supported the United States.
"The war in Iraq is a reality that we expected," said Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a U.S. ally. "The Philippines is part of the coalition of the willing."
Despite her support, about 300 protesters tried to march on the U.S. Embassy in the Philippine capital, Manila. They were beaten back by riot police with truncheons.
Thousands also staged a rush-hour protest in Australia's most populous city, Sydney, after Prime Minister John Howard said that some of the 2,000 troops he deployed to the Gulf took part in Thursday's action with U.S. and British forces.
Muslim nations condemned the start of hostilities.
Iran, Iraq's neighbor and longtime enemy, issued immediate condemnation, calling the U.S. action "unjustifiable and illegitimate."
In Pakistan, already brimming with anger against America, one religious-political coalition called the attack "barbaric," and others demanded immediate intervention.
"It is open tyranny," said Mohammed Asghar, his hand trembling with anger as he prepared tea in his ramshackle stall. "Every Pakistani Muslim should go to help the Iraqi people."
In Afghanistan, so recently the subject of American military action, street talk ran squarely against Washington. "Today is a dark day for Muslims," said Sher Aga, 50, who teaches aviation at Kabul's Air Force Academy. "The United Nations is nothing anymore."
The legislature in Jammu-Kashmir, India's only Muslim majority state, adjourned Thursday in protest. "This is a war of self interest launched by the sole superpower," said the state's law and parliamentary affairs minister, Muzaffar Beig.
In the Palestinian areas, a group of 700 — mostly schoolchildren — waved Iraqi flags and posters of Saddam Hussein, and burned American flags. Demonstrators in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun shouted: "We will sacrifice our soul and our blood for Saddam."
"American soldiers, whenever they step on Iraqi soil, they will be defeated," said Kamal Abou Ayta, an Egyptian political activist.
Security was tightened around the world, especially in embassy districts.
In Beijing, paramilitary officers checked the IDs of Chinese passing the Iraqi Embassy, and already-stringent procedures outside the U.S. Embassy were tightened. In the Pakistani capital, soldiers with assault rifles hunkered down in sandbag bunkers outside embassies.