The United States has a long and calamitous history of toppling unfriendly foreign governments. The damaging repercussions of cold-war coups in Iran and Guatemala haunt Washington to this day. As President Bush draws up plans to deal with Afghanistan, apparently the first target in the war against terrorism, he must do a better job than some of his predecessors in thinking through the potential consequences of American intervention. There are a lot of tripwires on the road to Kabul.
Mr. Bush has begun suggesting that the Taliban should be overthrown. But engineering the ouster of the Taliban, which have let Osama bin Laden hide out in Afghanistan for years, could engulf Afghanistan in civil war, aggravate a growing refugee crisis on Afghanistan's borders and even destabilize Pakistan. Any of these developments would embolden terrorists and undercut American interests.
The Taliban's contorted interpretations of Islam, venomous rhetoric and sheltering of the bin Laden network make the regime a tempting target for Mr. Bush. Many Afghans have suffered under the harsh rule of the Taliban. But Washington should not expect American soldiers to be greeted as liberators if they move into Afghanistan. An effort to depose the Taliban, if it comes to that, has to be designed with great care. ...
Afghanistan is a feudal society organized around many tribes and clans with a long history of mutual alliances, betrayal and strife. The one force uniting them over the centuries has been a common outside enemy - in modern times the British and more recently the Soviet Union. The United States could easily find itself next in line. Any American effort to intervene in Afghanistan that comes with open Russian assistance, as now seems likely, is bound to backfire. Iranian assistance, were it to materialize, would also infuriate the Pushtuns, who are Sunni Muslims deeply distrustful of the Shiite leadership in Tehran.
American action in Afghanistan also risks igniting an upheaval in Pakistan. Though now aligned with the United States, Pakistan fears that an effort to overthrow the Taliban would provoke a rebellion by Pushtuns in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier province. It would not take much to turn that political tinder into a firestorm that consumes the government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
In the presidential campaign last year, and again this week, Mr. Bush warned against the arrogance of outsiders engaging in "nation-building" in the developing world. While pondering his next move in the fight against terrorism, he should factor that caution into the military and political strategy for dealing with Afghanistan.
Vladimir Putin's announcement of Russian support for U.S. military operations against Afghanistan this week represented a significant step by his government toward cooperation with the West -- larger, even, than it might appear at first to many Americans. To make that pledge, the Russian president had to override strong objections from his generals to the establishment of a U.S. military presence in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, which are still regarded by Moscow as part of its rightful sphere of influence. It could be argued that Mr. Putin had little choice -- U.S. forces would have deployed around Afghanistan with or without his agreement. Still, the Russian leader moved farther than he ever has before toward accepting what, in Moscow, is still a controversial notion: that Russia's best future lies in integrating with the liberal democracies and open economies of the West, and sharing in their wealth and security cooperation rather than trying to establish a competing center of power.
At the same time, Mr. Putin's speeches this week in Moscow and in Berlin show that his vision of a Russian-Western partnership is still far from what the United States could consider acceptable. While denouncing the attack on the United States and international terrorism, he blamed the failure to prevent it on the world's dependence on the "old security structures" of the Cold War -- such as NATO. He called for a "comprehensive, purposeful and well-coordinated struggle against terrorism," but insisted it could only take place if it were conducted under an international security system restructured to give Russia more influence. While Europe's relations with the United States had "great value," Mr. Putin told the German Bundestag on Tuesday, Europe would be better off as "a powerful and truly independent center of international politics if it combines its own possibilities with Russia's."
In short, Mr. Putin would like to move his country toward the West, but do so in a way that constrains or rolls back U.S. leadership. He also hopes that his initiative will win the West's acceptance -- or at least stifle its criticism -- of his steps to limit Russian press freedom and democracy and his brutal military campaign in Chechnya. So far he seems to be succeeding; German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder could barely contain his enthusiasm, telling reporters that the West needed to "reevaluate" Chechnya and hinting that Russian membership in NATO should be considered.
The Bush administration cannot afford to yield to Mr. Putin so easily. Instead, it should push him toward a further change in Russian policy. On Monday, Mr. Putin gave Chechnya's rebels a 72-hour deadline to begin talks on disarmament with his envoy in the region, and he demanded that they "halt all contacts with terrorists and their international organizations." The statement suggested the possible onset of a major new Russian offensive against the Chechens, which Mr. Putin would insist be accepted on the grounds that some allies of Osama bin Laden allegedly have joined the Chechen resistance. But it also could be read as an acknowledgment that there is a difference between international terrorist organizations and Chechen rebels fighting for independence, and as an offer of negotiations with the latter -- a step Mr. Putin has previously rejected.
Yesterday the administration responded by supporting both the idea of negotiations and the isolation of the terrorists. President Bush said that he thought members of Osama bin Laden's organization in Chechnya should be "brought to justice"; but he also said Mr. Putin should respect "minority rights" and "human rights" in Chechnya. In the coming days Mr. Bush must hold Mr. Putin to the promise of peace talks. The Chechen leader, Aslan Maskhadov, responded to Mr. Putin's statement by appointing a negotiator. The United States should make clear that if Mr. Putin really desires partnership with the West, he must talk to that Chechen leadership.
Declaring that the United States has "launched a strike on the financial foundation of the global terror network," President George W. Bush opened a new anti-terrorism front on Monday. Mr. Bush issued an executive order requiring U.S. financial institutions to freeze any assets of Osama bin Laden, 11 other individuals and 15 organizations, including three Muslim charities, all of which are suspected of funding terrorist operations.
While nine of the 27 individuals and groups had already been covered by previous executive orders issued by Bill Clinton in 1998 and 1999, which have yielded extremely small results, Mr. Bush added a new, important variable to U.S. efforts to "starve the terrorists of funding." Echoing the ultimatum he issued to "every nation in every region" in his speech before a joint session of Congress last week - "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists" - this week Mr. Bush put foreign banks, other foreign financial institutions and their host countries on notice. Unlike the Clinton administration, Mr. Bush openly threatened to enforce "draconian" sanctions not only against foreign banks that fail to cooperate but also against their governments. "We will work with [the banks´] governments, ask them to freeze or block terrorists' ability to access funds in foreign accounts," Mr. Bush announced. "If [these governments] fail to help us by sharing information or freezing accounts, the Treasury Department now has the authority to freeze their banks' assets and transactions in the United States."
Given the utter futility of efforts so far to limit bin Laden's access to financing of the terrorist operations of his wide-ranging al-Qaeda network, threatening to apply sanctions against foreign banks and governments was long past due. Nevertheless, merely ratcheting up the sanctions is no panacea. In the first place, al Qaeda's U.S.-based cells that have carried out Mr. bin Laden's terrorist attacks on American soil run bare-bones operations. These cells depend far more on courier-delivered cash, credit-card fraud and other petty crimes than they do on the $10,000 wire transfers that bank regulators can monitor. Secondly, compared to the once-incomprehensible destruction such operations can produce, the cost of carrying them out is infinitesimal. Indeed, the FBI estimates that the 1993 World Trade Center bombing cost $20,000, while the spectacular destruction of those buildings and the attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11 cost as little as $200,000.
Thirdly, looking in the mirror is always a good way to start any investigation. To this end, Hendrik Hertzberg reported in the Sept. 24 issue of the New Yorker that this year the U.S. government gave the Taliban-run Afghanistan government, which has been harboring bin Laden since 1996, a $43 million grant to ban opium production. That grant was given a mere four months ago, or fully five years after bin Laden was implicated in the truck bomb that killed 19 U.S. troops in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and three years after his operatives destroyed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. What's more, as reported by Jerry Seper of The Washington Times today, the Taliban has reversed its position on opium production and is now actively encouraging its farmers to plant poppies - not a reverberating policy success, one would say.
Moreover, there's another "delicate" issue confronting Mr. Bush. In threatening to apply sanctions against foreign governments and their banks, Mr. Bush surely knows that the governments most likely to be affected by the stricter policy will be Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab states in the Persian Gulf region. The new policy will also affect Pakistan's Islamic government, which has been the Taliban's strongest ally. In other words, the most precarious - and, arguably, the most indispensable - members of the international coalition Mr. Bush is assembling are also the very states that have been the source of much of bin Laden's funding.
Indeed, in an attempt to appease fundamentalists, the Saudi government alone contributes an estimated $10 billion annually to Islamic organizations. A portion of those funds surely finds its way to the bin Laden network. Moreover, millions of additional dollars flood into bin Laden's coffers each year from wealthy Saudi businessmen, who gladly donate their money knowing full well that it amounts to "protection" money. Meanwhile, a sizable amount of the donations made each Friday by congregations in Saudi Arabia's mosques finances extremist Islamic groups, including al Qaeda. The Saudi government has also been a financier of Afghanistan's Taliban regime, which offered bin Laden a safe haven after he was expelled by Sudan in 1996. Even disgruntled members of the Saudi royal family reportedly contribute directly to bin Laden's network. And, of course, other wealthy Islamic donors and "charities" from other "moderate" allies also willingly underwrite the terror operations of al-Qaeda.
All of which goes a long way toward explaining why Mr. Bush's list of organizations specifically excluded Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the two Palestinian terrorist groups that have dispatched suicide bombers throughout Israel during the current intifada. ... Mr. Bush's list also excluded Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization financed by Iran and Syria. Terrorist experts assert that all three groups -- Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah -- have links to bin Laden's terrorist network. Including them on Mr. Bush's list, however, would have upset Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other "moderate" Islamic regimes, to say nothing of Iran and Syria -- all of whom the Bush administration seeks to enroll as good-standing members of the international coalition he is assembling.
As distasteful as it is, excluding such murderous groups as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah from Mr. Bush's executive order may be explained by overriding geopolitical considerations. But in doing so, the president diminishes the moral cause he so eloquently expressed in his speech before Congress last week. "Our war on terror," the president declared, "will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated." Surely, he did not mean to give the likes of Hamas a free pass in perpetuity, especially given their professed determination to obliterate Israel, regardless of whatever peace treaty Yasser Arafat, the grandfather of all Middle East terrorism, might one day sign with Israel. The international coalition is essential for the task ahead. But if it is fragile at the outset of the lengthy war Mr. Bush envisions, how well and how long will it hold up when the bombs start falling?
Atlanta Journal Constitution
Assuming military victory in Afghanistan, what comes next?
As the Bush administration and allies thrash out a strategy for rooting out the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, it is every bit as important that they devise a plan for what happens afterward. The U.S. failure to do so in the past is at least partly responsible for the current state of affairs.
Throughout the 1980s, the United States sided with Osama bin Laden in support of the mujahedin rebels --- Islamist freedom fighters who ultimately succeeded in toppling the Soviet puppet government of Afghanistan. Our support for the rebels made strategic sense at that point, arguably helping to contribute to the Soviet Union's retrenchment and dissolution.
But having achieved our Cold War aims, the United States packed up and went home. Left behind was a shattered Afghanistan awash in refugees and land mines, warring factions and stunning poverty. Before long our freedom fighters had morphed into the Taliban, and now we face the prospect of encountering our own donated Stinger missiles in the coming days.
That is in no way to argue that this country brought Sept. 11 upon itself. No act by any government can justify the deliberate mass slaughter of its innocent citizens. But history would seem to instruct us that our long-term best interests are served not merely by halting the spread of infection, but by healing the festering wounds that are its source.
What will that mean in the case of Afghanistan? The Bush administration said Tuesday that toppling the Taliban was not among the objectives of the coming assault. But there is a very strong likelihood that could be the result given the mounting chaos in that country --- with border nations supporting insurrection and warlords mounting free-lance attacks, to say nothing of the damage the allies may wreak. Whether or not replacing the Taliban is the goal, then, the allies must begin laying the groundwork for a governing coalition to rule Afghanistan in the Taliban's wake.
Whoever is chosen would have to be acceptable both to Afghanistan's Pashtun as well as to other ethnic groups and must be seen as indigenous rather than imposed from outside --- no small order. It is not clear that the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance --- valuable as its small fighting force will be in dividing and conquering the Taliban's troops --- has the political wherewithal to govern the fractious nation alone.
Whoever rules, it's a given that international forces, including a sizable American contingent, will have to remain until relative stability is assured. That may be tough for President Bush to swallow, given his vociferous opposition during the campaign to committing our troops to "nation-building." That position, however, may be softening given current realities.
The United States and allies also must commit to rebuilding Afghanistan, resettling its refugees and integrating it into the community of civilized nations. With its razed infrastructure and drought-ravaged farm economy, Afghanistan will need something on the order of a Marshall Plan. To do less is to guarantee a breeding ground for terror for years to come.
Meanwhile, the United States must be careful about those regimes and groups we would befriend and empower in our current war. Take Pakistan, for instance. That military dictatorship has harbored terrorists in the past even as it bolstered the Taliban.
At the moment, Pakistan's government is a critically important ally. But how much future support can we pledge in return for that help? Can we turn a blind eye to a Pakistan that continues to enable Islamist terrorism in India or Kashmir?
As we enter Afghanistan, we can't be sure what awaits us on the other side of the Khyber Pass. But in picking our way through, we would be wise to let history be our guide.
Heartless terrorists are not the sole export of the Taliban government in Afghanistan. The United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention estimates that Afghanistan supplies roughly 80 percent of the world's opium used to make heroin.
Last year's promise by Taliban officials to prohibit farmers from growing poppies now appears to be a ruse.
"They warehoused enormous amounts of opium and drove the prices up," says Asa Hutchinson, the new chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration. But that strategy has now been reversed: The drugs are being rapidly sold off in anticipation of a U.S. attack. Taliban officials this week gave the signal to farmers to resume opium cultivation.
With one hand, the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, thumps the Koran and declares opium production "un-Islamic." With the other, he and his fellow hypocrites collect taxes on both poppy farmers and heroin production labs. The Taliban leaders obviously don't care if their drugs pollute the bloodstreams of "infidels." Nearly 90 percent of Europe's heroin originates in Afghanistan. But how do they justify distribution in Pakistan, Iran, and other Muslim countries?
In an interview Tuesday, Hutchinson cited a "symbiotic relationship" between opium producers and terrorists in Afghanistan. In 1999, a Newsweek article quoted US authorities as saying that bin Laden's followers were active in shipping drugs across Iran to Turkey.
Criminal and fanatic masterminds have become one in this rogue country where Osama bin Laden, the man wanted for planning the Sept. 11 carnage at the World Trade Center, finds comfort.
This week, President Bush issued an executive order to freeze the financial assets of individual and organizational fronts for bin Laden. But as long as poppy fields capable of producing 4,000 tons annually remain, there will be a ready supply of cash for the terrorists and their Taliban sponsors. A strike at the financial heart of terrorism requires both the destruction of opium at its source and disruption of the trade routes that bring the warehoused drugs to market.
The United States has some experience in the aerial fumigation of coca and poppy fields in Colombia, where most of the heroin sold in the United States originates. The task can be accomplished in remote areas of Afghanistan with herbicides that pose little risk to human health. As military and federal law enforcement officials ponder strategic targets, surely the poppy fields of Afghanistan should rank high. And if the destruction of the crop creates civil unrest that weakens the Taliban, so much the better.
The growing season for opium begins shortly. America and its allies should uproot this poison of global reach.
Of all the nations America needs to join its global coalition against terrorism, none may prove more important strategically to the success of this new war than Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered support for military operations by the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov vowed Wednesday to work with NATO defense ministers to fight terrorism.
Russia has signaled that the U.S. may get to use military facilities in Tajikistan to launch strikes. Tajikistan is one of five Central Asian republics once part of the Soviet Union and still under Russia's sphere of influence. This comes amid reports U.S. planes may have already landed in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Imagine that. The U.S. and Russia are on the verge of collaborating in a military alliance. Together with other nations, they are preparing a counterstrike against the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The U.S. and Russia are realizing common interests that could redefine their relationship.
Allies once in World War II, fierce foes through decades of Cold War, the U.S. and Russia have been struggling for several years to sort out what kind of relationship they will have now. A common enemy helps clear the mind. All the divisive issues that President Bush and Putin were debating up to now--ballistic missile defense, scrapping the ABM treaty, NATO enlargement, Russian accession to the World Trade Organization--are temporarily on the back burner.
Doubtless, this is not just altruism. Nations act in self-interest. The irony is that Osama bin Laden and his "host," the Taliban regime, have given Moscow and Washington a common cause in a land, Afghanistan, where the superpowers waged one of the last proxy fights of the Cold War. In the 1980s the CIA funded Islamic rebels to oust Soviet occupiers. Some of those rebels, such as bin Laden, are now our common enemy.
For Russia, whose cities have been targets of terrorist strikes, one motivation for cooperation seems to be its long war against separatist rebels in Chechnya. Moscow views them as radical Islamic fundamentalist terrorists--and would like the rest of the world to share that view. Europe and the U.S. have seen them as, if not freedom fighters, victims of Russian repression.
Now the United States. has a terrorist enemy that has committed horrific crimes against humanity on U.S. soil. America needs Russia's help. The Bush administration will be under pressure to tone down its criticism of Moscow's abuses against Chechen fighters.
Russia is strategically important in this battle for another reason. The attacks on the U.S. were a grim reminder that determined terrorists could have done even more damage if they had had weapons of mass destruction instead of suicide airplanes. Russia has a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons, which the U.S. has been helping dismantle since the Soviet Union broke up. Despite Bush's misgivings on some of that spending, Sept. 11 has proved it is a vital investment.
Putin has to walk a fine line. If Russia takes too direct a role in a military attack on Muslims, it may stir radical unrest against Moscow. For this reason, Russia may stick to providing intelligence and logistical support. Russia and the U.S. are stepping up support of the Northern Alliance, the opposition rebels in Afghanistan fighting the ruling Taliban.
The U.S. and Russia, allies again. More evidence of the adage that there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, only permanent interests.
A quarter-century ago, President Gerald Ford issued an executive order forbidding assassinations abroad. Now, the Bush administration is reconsidering the long-standing ban.
Ford acted at a time when Washington was gripped by a now-unimaginable paranoia that was rendered even more toxic by Byzantine power plays. The Central Intelligence Agency was out of control, the Vietnam War had divided the country and public confidence in the institutions of government was almost drowned in the sleaze of the Watergate scandal.
Hearings led by Sen. Frank Church of Idaho cast the CIA as a shadowy cabal that had become a law unto itself, deeply embroiled in misadventures that were often antithetical to long-term American interests. In short, our "spooks" appeared to owe their first loyalty to "The Company."
Yet now, with Osama bin Laden the chief suspect in the devastating terror attacks on the East Coast, U.S. leaders are revisiting the issue of assassination as an instrument of policy.
Bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization and its worldwide affiliates already were wanted in connection with the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and in the attack on the USS Cole in Aden. The Saudi exile is a radical Islamist whose stated goal is to topple the Saudi royal government and even non-Muslim democracies. He is an implacable foe of the United States because American troops used Saudi Arabia as a staging area during the Persian Gulf War. That his movement has established cells in Western democracies by exploiting the openness of free societies also underscores glaring deficiencies in U.S. intelligence capabilities, which apparently were exacerbated by a Clinton-era order that banned gathering intelligence from unsavory characters.
Current CIA Director George Tenet has been justly criticized for acquiescing in a ridiculous restriction on the character of contacts. (Undercover cops will tell you that few confidential informants qualify for sainthood.)
Assassination is another matter. If Bush rescinds the ban, he should implement proper oversight to preclude abuse. Other Western countries haven't banned assassination, but don't treat it as a photo op when it's carried out.
Sen. Wayne Allard of Colorado opposes rescission of the Ford executive order. But in situations where the only alternative is a full-scale war with horrendous casualties, assassination - carried out with stealth and finesse - may be a useful weapon the U.S. should consider. Osama bin Laden and a few cohorts dead would be preferable to another black granite wall full of names on the Washington Mall.
Through the many difficult ups and downs of the developing fight against terrorism, there will be an awful lot of political rhetoric filling the air with questions and assertions about the United States' motives and rationale.
One of the bits of anti-U.S. invective seeing fresh light is that somehow the United States is the enemy of the Afghan people and wants to dominate them.
It seems a laughable assertion to us, but in many quarters it is taken as gospel. It is not an innocent difference of opinion, but a dangerous false impression repeated often and earnestly by haters of America.
An honest analysis of the facts, however, will show a very different reality, starting from American support for Afghanistan during the Cold War. Of course, there was U.S. self-interest involved, and the repressive Taliban rulers and the likes of wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden are, in part, results of past U.S. policies in the region, but that doesn't make a case for U.S. ill will toward Afghans.
More recent history is even more telling.
As the Chronicle pointed out in an editorial last spring, the frequent accusation that America ignores and abuses Pakistan and Afghanistan is counter to the massive U.S. relief effort launched to the countries suffering from years of drought, starvation and factional violence.
The U.S. Agency for International Development in February airlifted thousands of tents, blankets and jugs of safe drinking water, as well as cooking, sanitation and medical supplies.
It has been a long-term, multiyear effort. The United States is the largest single donor of assistance to Afghanistan. In the year 2000 alone the U.S. government contributed about $115 million to Afghans.
Now the Bush administration is shipping 100,000 metric tons of wheat to feed Afghanistan's refugees, fulfilling a pledge made mere days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. This wheat will feed 2 million people for a year, according to the World Food Program. The United States supplies about 80 percent of the food donated to Afghanistan, according to an Associated Press report. U.S. donations in the 12 months ending last Sunday totaled 240,000 metric tons, up from 135,000 last year.
In his speech to Congress last week, President Bush said the "United States respects the people of Afghanistan -- after all, we are currently its largest source of humanitarian aid -- but we condemn the Taliban regime."
The Taliban rulers and others who would have the world believe we are the enemies of the Afghan people are either grossly mistaken or egregious liars.
Los Angeles Times
The nations of Central Asia that now find themselves on the front lines in the war against terrorism have experienced a traumatic decade of independence that dashed many hopes for greater economic, political and religious freedom. The assistance of these countries in the U.S.-led coalition against Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda organization is welcome, but the dictators and autocrats in power must not treat their new status on the world stage as endorsement of corruption and repression.
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are both on Afghanistan's northern border and have populations that are largely Muslim. Tajikistan, still struggling to recover from a civil war that occurred in the early 1990s, also is home to about 25,000 Russian troops, 10,000 of them along the Afghanistan border.
The Tajiks and Russians have extensive links with the Northern Alliance soldiers who are battling the Taliban, the political ruler of Afghanistan and host to Bin Laden. The United States has identified Bin Laden as the prime suspect in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and has vowed to dismantle his network. Uzbekistan has done the most to distance itself from Russia since the Central Asian republics of the Soviet Union became independent in 1990 and 1991. A carry-over from Soviet days has been central economic planning, a disaster that has demoralized the citizenry. Nearly as bad has been the crackdown on legitimate voices of dissent, including the banning of Muslim opposition parties. The sorry shape of Uzbekistan has fueled fundamentalist Islamic movements, one of which is now based in Afghanistan and has conducted guerrilla raids into Uzbekistan.
If the United States uses either or both countries as military staging areas, it should cough up economic assistance. The longer and larger a U.S. presence in the countries, the bigger an aid package is called for.
That's not to say Washington should write a blank check. Getting economic reforms in place would help improve the standard of living, which can go far to reduce opposition to the governments. People with a stake in the future are less likely to resort to violence. Political reform also is needed. Allowing opposition groups to become legal political parties can channel dissent into productive channels, rather than letting it prompt opponents to take up arms.
Economic ties should last as long as the fight against terrorism, meaning a very long time. Assistance should not be a quick, one-time offering. Undoing the mistakes made in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will not be quick or easy for their regimes. But there still is time for the nations of Central Asia to enact reforms that can stop the region from becoming a maelstrom of violence. Political and economic liberalization, and letting people practice their religions openly, will benefit the countries and the region.
The trial that began this week in Buenos Aires offers chilling lessons on international terrorism. After seven years of investigation, 20 Argentines are charged in a car bombing that leveled a Jewish community center. Yet those who actually planted the explosives and plotted the heinous crime remain at large.
Such are the difficulties of tracking terrorists sheltered by compliant governments, especially when there aren't enough mechanisms in place for globally coordinated anti-terrorist efforts.
Fittingly, the trial is in recess today for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement that is Judaism's holiest day of the year.
The 1994 bombing at the trial's center is one of the worst instances of anti-Semitic violence since World War II. The attack left 85 people dead, injured 300 others and destroyed 35,000 priceless books saved from Nazi pyres. Aimed at the heart of South America's largest Jewish community -- 300,000 Argentine Jews -- the bombing ignited examination of that country's role as a haven for Nazis after World War II.
Even after years of investigation and a worldwide hunt for suspects, only five of the accused face serious charges: four former police officers and an accomplice who allegedly provided the truck used to explode the building. Another 15 Argentines are charged as accessories.
Missing from the trial is Imad Mugniyah, a Hezbollah chief and prime suspect.
U.S. authorities have accused him of directing a string of terrorist attacks: a 1985 TWA hijacking in Beirut that killed a Navy diver; the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut that killed 63 people; and kidnappings of U.S. hostages in Lebanon in the 1980s. Reportedly he also is a key suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington.
Argentina has indicted Mugniyah in the 1994 Jewish center attack as well as in the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 23 people. He is believed to be in Iran, however, which long has provided Hezbollah with funding, arms and refuge.
Other suspects have absconded. Among them are a cultural attaché then at the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires and others linked to Hezbollah -- the militant Islamic group.
Today we can only wonder what terror might have been prevented had investigations into the Buenos Aires bombings had full support, both in Argentina and internationally. Certainly the trial could shed light on how the terrorist masterminds operated and recruited local accomplices.
More important, we can see how terrorism, unstopped and unpunished, flourished. The terrorists who acted with impunity in Argentina may well have had roles in attacking the United States. Any nation can be targeted. That's why it's in each nation's interest to join in a united global effort to stop the terrorists and the states that back them.
After several days of coaxing by Secretary of State Colin Powell, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators finally met in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. They agreed on steps to end what is now a year of bloody unrest. It is only the tiniest step forward for two wary parties, but the Bush administration deserves congratulations for having the instincts to promote it and the skills to achieve it.
As with any Middle East breakthrough, this one must be greeted with the greatest caution. Both sides need to deliver on the confidence-building steps they have promised, and there have been plenty of failures in the past. Even if they do, there is every risk of violent response by other parties; two extremist Palestinian groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, already have rejected the truce.
But after a year of riots, shootings, bombings and quasi-military strikes that have killed at least 700 Palestinians and Israelis -- most of them civilians -- even a tentative cease-fire is welcome. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres of Israel and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat agreed to resume their lapsed cooperation on security measures and to reduce Israeli military blockades in Palestinian communities in the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank. To have kept postponing these talks until all violence had ceased for 48 hours, as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon proposed, would have given veto power to any renegade with a sniper's rifle or a Molotov cocktail.
More broadly, Wednesday's meeting sends the right signal to a skeptical Muslim world about American policy in the Middle East. This message is that, while the United States is a loyal ally of Israel, it is not anti-Islam or anti-Arab. It is determined to seek a just settlement that accommodates Palestinian aspirations for statehood as well as Israeli needs for survival and security.
It is likely to be weeks or months before Israelis and Palestinians get back to negotiating those broader questions -- the definition of a Palestinian state, the fate of Palestinian refugees, security provisions along Israel's eastern front and other "final status" issues. Those negotiations cannot resume until both sides make good on the basics of the new cease-fire. But without Wednesday's agreement those broader talks were hopeless, and so were the daily lives of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis.
As we have all learned to our infinite sorrow this month, you don't need to ford a river, walk through a desert or bushwhack through underbrush to be in the United States illegally.
You can cruise in on a tourist, business or student visa. After it expires, you can stay on illegally without anyone from the U.S. government ever bothering to check up on you.
That's apparently how three of the 19 terrorists who carried off the Sept. 11 hijackings managed to stay in the country. In addition, dozens of foreigners picked up for questioning after the attacks are here on expired visas.
This problem is now a matter of national security, but it badly needed fixing even before Sept. 11. As The Oregonian's Julie Sullivan and Richard Read reported this week, 125,000 foreign nationals disappear into our population each year on expired visas.
In all, 4 million people -- or about 40 percent of the illegal residents in the United States -- arrived here originally on a visa, and overstayed their official welcome. That's a shocker.
What can we do?
Make sure the computers of the U.S. State Department, the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service are on speaking terms.
This will take a large infusion of resources, but it's vital. Although a terrorism watch list is theoretically in use across agencies, human error and antiquated and incompatible computer systems leave holes for would-be terrorists -- and others.
In 1999, Angel Maturino Resendiz, a Mexican national wanted for murder by the FBI, was released by the INS, which couldn't check his fingerprints against the FBI data base. He was recaptured, but only after he'd killed again.
For now, issue fewer visas.
The United States issues 30 million temporary visas a year. That's probably too many to keep an eye on. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wants a six-month moratorium on all new visas, which may be an overreaction. But cuts are needed, at least until new tracking measures are in place.
Tighten screening of applicants here and abroad.
Visa-granters in U.S. consulates around the world, and visa-enforcers at the INS, are both overwhelmed by long lines and pressure for fast decisions. They need extensive reinforcements. And the INS needs more agents who can keep tabs on foreign visitors, and track them down when their visas run out. In addition, a computerized tracking system for the nation's 500,000 foreign students -- originally opposed by higher education officials -- must be put into place as quickly as possible.
Fingerprint visa holders, just as permanent legal residents in the United States are fingerprinted.
Yes, it's come to this. The identities of some of the hijackers remain unclear, and investigators are trying to sort out who may have entered this country on stolen papers. The potential for forgery is huge, and can be cut only if identification documents involve a unique or biomedical marker.
Ultimately, foreign visitors, workers, students and others will benefit, as well, from the heightened security measures. They will be able to quickly document their legal status in this country, and ward off any challenges.
The vast majority of students are not involved in terrorism, of course. Like other international visitors, they strengthen us and help to make our nation a more cosmopolitan place. The estimated 8,000 international students in Oregon alone contribute an estimated $140 million to the state's economy.
The welcome mat still needs to be out for the world. But we need to know who's crossed it -- and who's crossed American law.
We need to know that badly.
Raleigh News Observer
Several nations are signaling their intent to join America's broad-gauged effort to strike back at terrorism, a reward no doubt for the Bush administration's careful, deliberate response to the violence of Sept. 11. Support, and advice, from an array of nations is vital in a long campaign against the shadowy forces of terror.
This international assistance of course builds on our long-standing alliances with the countries of Western Europe. But some less-predictable ties are being strengthened as well. For example, Russia's Vladimir Putin has forcefully sided with the U.S.-led coalition. The New York Times quotes Putin as saying that "stereotypes of East-West confrontation lingering from the Cold War had allowed terrorism to flourish in the shadows." If the terrible fires of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks help bring about a further thaw in relations between the former Cold War rivals, then that will be one positive outcome salvaged from the tragedy.
Iran, at odds with this country for the last two decades, hasn't flown into the allies' embrace -- yesterday it called the United States "disgusting" -- but its Muslim leaders courageously remained on record as opposing the attacks in talks with the British.
U.S. officials still point to Saudi exile Osama bin Laden as author of the suicide hijacking assaults on New York and Washington. So it was significant when the government of Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Afghanistan, whose extremist Taliban government harbors bin Laden and hosts his terrorist schools. Pakistan now is the only nation that recognizes the Afghan government -- even though its ruling military figures also have offered tactical and moral support to the anti-terrorism cause, angering some Islamic fundamentalists among its citizens.
Pacifist Japan is not inclined to take part in any retaliation by force. Still, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has pledged significant support for the U.S. initiative in the financial and diplomatic spheres. Japan's position points out that other countries have many avenues by which they can help -- not the least, by contributing their ideas for novel means to oppose the terrorism threat.
Some of the nations siding with the United States could stand to mend their own ways. Iran, for example, is on the State Department's list of terrorism supporters. China quickly denounced the attacks and said it will join a war on global terrorism, but its human rights abuses draw justified world scorn. Still, President Bush's formulation stands that nations must choose either to help stamp out terrorism or be regarded as supporting its use. There's room to hope that within an alliance, democratic ideals will be a healthy influence on repressive regimes.
As the United States prepares for whatever military action that may prove necessary, it would also do well to underscore the full extent of its global humanitarianism and consider ways in which further investment of that sort will help achieve our anti-terrorism goals. Our provision of $435 million in debt relief for some of the world's poorest countries, for example, should work to improve people's lives in those places. Leading other countries toward more effectively addressing the causes of misery and discontent in so many parts of the world is a fitting role for a superpower, and will help combat terrorism by attacking conditions in which it breeds.