The war keeps expanding. Some 800,000 postal employees entrusted with 680 million pieces of mail daily now find themselves on the front lines in the struggle against terror. Two of their colleagues who worked in Washington's central processing facility have died of what is believed to have been anthrax inhalation. Two other workers at the facility, where the contaminated letter sent to Sen. Tom Daschle's office was processed, have been hospitalized with anthrax in their lungs.
These new developments raise disturbing questions about the potency and transmissibility of the anthrax being sent through the mail. It should also trigger a comprehensive and determined response on the part of the Postal Service and Congress to ensure the safety of employees and the continued reliability of America's 226-year-old mail service.
Terrorists have taken aim at the vitality of our famously restless nation. First they commandeered commercial aviation to serve as an instrument of terror. Now someone is attempting to do the same with the nation's mail system. These crucial economic lifelines are as much targets as weapons. Paralyzing America's travel and communication networks would amount to a terrorist triumph.
This need not happen. Air traffic has picked up considerably since the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, under a new set of stringent security measures. Likewise, public resources must also be marshaled to safeguard the nation's stream of mail, and Americans' trust in it.
The Postal Service is sending cards this week to 147 million addresses advising people on how to recognize and deal with suspicious mail. It is now clear that it must go further and assume primary responsibility for guarding against harmful parcels and letters. It must also investigate a range of measures to protect its own employees.
At their afternoon press conference yesterday, Tom Ridge and John Potter, the postmaster general, said they would seek to deploy systems capable of sanitizing the mail with sufficient doses of radiation to disable anthrax spores. The best choice would be a system that can disable anthrax not just on the surface of envelopes but contained within the envelopes as well. Some potential technologies that will be explored are widely used to protect the nation's food supplies and to sterilize medical equipment, but it may take years to design, produce and install systems at major mail-sorting facilities. Postal authorities might also consider flooding the workplace with enough ultraviolet radiation to disable any anthrax floating in the air without harming workers. That would protect the workers, but not affect anthrax within an envelope.
Current anxieties may increase people's use of electronic communications, but the country will still have to pay more for a reliable physical mail system, however shrunken. Even before the need for heightened security became apparent, the postmaster general had proposed a three-cent increase in the price of a first class stamp and had projected an alarming $1.6 billion operating deficit for 2001. Few people noticed; the announcement was made early on Sept. 11. The Postal Service will now have to set aside cost-cutting programs and Congress must provide the resources for a new long-term security overhaul, as it must also do in the aviation arena.
In the immediate future, postal employees can be protected by masks already on the market that are capable of screening out particles less than a micron in size. That makes them able to screen out any anthrax spores in the range deemed most dangerous for causing inhalational anthrax.
The Postal Service must also carry out spot tests of facilities and employees across the country, to boost both security and confidence. If necessary, the mail system may have to shut down for a few days to take a security inventory, much as the nation's commercial aviation system did. This would not be a surrender to terror but an opportunity to shore up the nation's defenses for the long struggle that lies ahead.
Gerry Adams would not have called publicly yesterday for the disarmament of the Irish Republican Army if he did not think there was a chance his proposal would be favorably received. All friends of Ireland hope and pray that the final removal of the gun from Irish politics is at hand.
Something similar has happened before. Adams, who heads the legal political party Sinn Fein, an IRA affiliate, called for a cease-fire in 1997 and the IRA proclaimed one the next day. A repetition would not surprise British intelligence officials who believe that despite his denials, Adams is a member of the IRA's ruling council.
The IRA has said it intended to put its arms ``beyond use,'' and has stored them in clandestine dumps of which it has permitted inspection by outsiders. The Protestant parties with whom Sinn Fein shares the government of Northern Ireland (when the ruling British haven't suspended it) have insisted on a start of disarmament before going further with the government. The IRA has insisted on further reforms of the Protestant-dominated police and reduction of the British Army's presence. Something to satisfy Adams may be coming out of London soon.
Adams' big problem will be IRA dissidents, some of whom have murderously violated the cease-fire. Yesterday he appealed to IRA supporters to ``keep building our political strength'' and working toward ``ultimate goals,'' which include the unity of Ireland.
This appeal is a veiled admission that retention of arsenals, in a world newly aroused by the sickening destructiveness of mass terrorism, subtracts greatly from political strength. It is a tragedy for all Ireland that this lesson could not have been learned sooner.
Los Angeles Times
Last weekend's summit of leaders from nearly two dozen Asian and Pacific Rim nations provided a good test of the strength of the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism. The outcome was a qualified success for Washington. The most jarring note was President Bush's continued strong support for his costly, contentious missile shield program, a project that should go to the back burner.
The final declaration of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Shanghai condemned the "murderous deeds" of Sept. 11 but not suspected mastermind Osama bin Laden or his l Qaida network. That's not a problem. The rest of the world knows the U.S. views on Bin Laden and al Qaida; there's no need to exacerbate tensions in nations with large fundamentalist Muslim populations, such as Indonesia and Malaysia. Bush's presence at the summit was a deliberate show of business as usual, but it also allowed him some private time with Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, both of them crucial to preserving the coalition outside the U.S.-European core. Jiang pledged cooperation in the fight against terrorism but also urged that military planners try to "avoid innocent casualties" in strikes against Afghanistan. Malaysia's prime minister echoed that plea. Bush too said he was concerned about the deaths of innocents but unsurprisingly made no promises. As the bombing enters a third week in a land where U.S. military officials said there were few "high-value" targets to begin with, it will become more important to avoid undercutting U.S. assertions that this is a war against terror, not against Muslims or the Afghan people.
Putin repeated his strong support for the anti-terror campaign. His language also indicated a little softening in Russian support for the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty, which Bush wants to scrap in order to establish a national missile shield. Bush and his missile shield allies persist in this even though there is no indication that such a scheme would work and every sign it would cost billions even to find out. Putin rightly expressed skepticism that terrorists could capture -- and then figure out how to use -- intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Ramming through the missile shield program would upset the strategic balance not only with Russia but with China. Washington needs all the help a coalition can provide in freezing terrorist funds and supplying intelligence information. There's no sense in pushing away potential allies to advance an unworkable concept with a prohibitive price tag.
Yes, law enforcement should use every legal means to investigate the Sept. 11 attacks and possible future terrorism. No, we shouldn't resort to torture and inhumane treatment.
The issue arises in connection with four key suspects held in New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center. The FBI reportedly is convinced that these four men have information critical to the investigation.
Zacarias Moussaoui, Mohammed Jaweed Azmath, Ayub Ali Khan and Nabil Almarabh are suspected of having ties to al Qaida, the Osama bin Laden terrorist group. But after more than a month in jail, none of the four has talked -- despite offers of lighter sentences, new identities and relocation. Now some advocate using torture and other unsavory inducements.
With the threat of more terror attempts looming, the frustration is understandable. To beat information out of suspects, however, is illegal under U.S. and international law. Beyond the legal implications are moral ones. Torture degrades both victim and torturer. Those who use torture lose their humanity and become what they fight against.
Not only is it immoral and illegal, but torture also is likely to yield bad information. That's because people will say whatever the torturer wants to hear -- true or not.
To suspend civil protections, even for these four men, would be to risk the same for all of us. If a belief in a suspect's guilt and the presumed value of information sought become standards for suspending the laws against torture, then many innocent people will suffer punishment before even getting to trial.
The issue extends beyond these four suspects and raises civil-liberty concerns. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft gives assurances that "we will respect the constitutional rights and we will respect the dignity of individuals'' in the investigation. But that's not enough. Of more than 700 people rounded up after the attacks, some 150 remain in custody. Many claim that they were denied phone calls, some denied access to attorneys. Others say they were attacked in cells and denied medical care.
Torture and abuse go against all that America stands for. It's the way of terrorists, not of those who cherish liberty.
It is not too early to begin asking the critical question in the long-term campaign against terror: What's next? President Bush, in his call to arms before the Congress on Sept. 20, laid down the ultimate objective of the anti-terrorist campaign: "The disruption and defeat of the global terror network."
Much will depend, of course, on how well the battle in Afghanistan goes, when Osama bin Laden is captured or killed, the al Qaida terrorist network destroyed, and the Taliban regime driven from power. Beyond that will be the government that accedes to power in Kabul and how much help it needs to get that stricken country up and running.
The next target might well be the Abu Sayyaf and other terrorists in the southern Philippines, Abu Sayyaf being a band of thugs believed to have received training and other help from al Qaida. They have kidnapped Americans, Filipinos, and Europeans in the last few years, holding them for ransom and using the proceeds to buy more guns, high speed boats, and communications gear to seize even more innocent people.
President Bush, having asserted that "any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime," could extend that to include a government that would like to be rid of terrorists but lacks the means to defeat them. Americans and Filipinos fought each other at the end of the 19th century but have long since been allies and presumably Manila would welcome U.S. help in thrashing the Abu Sayyaf.
Digging out terrorists in Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Libya would be more complicated because the terrorists often have close ties with those governments and a good bit of popular support. The Bush administration would be put to the test as the United States sought to call the marker laid down by the president: "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists."
The message from Washington to Middle Eastern capitals, which should be delivered mostly out of the public eye to be effective, would be: "The United States would like you to drive the terrorists out of your country and is prepared to help you in any way that you deem necessary -- money, intelligence, training, air and ground forces. You lead and we will reinforce."
The unspoken but unequivocal alternative: "And if you don't destroy them, we will."
Two weeks after the beginning of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan, the United Nations and Bush administration officials charged with the daunting task of shaping a new political order in that devastated country are still sorting through the invariably difficult options. The U.N. special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, began in-depth conversations with U.S. officials only last week; later this week he will begin talking with the Afghan exile groups spread across the world, from Rome and Cypress to Iran, Pakistan and beyond. Secretary of State Colin Powell and his staff are further ahead, but they, too, have yet to answer such questions as when and how a new government could be established for Afghanistan, and whether an international force will be needed to restore order. A lot depends on what happens in the few weeks remaining before the onset of winter, and on whether U.S. and opposition Afghan forces can defeat -- as opposed to merely disperse -- the leadership and troops of the Taliban regime. That's why one official uses the phrase "navigation by sight" to describe this latest international exercise in nation-building.
These complicated prospects are worrying some governments in Europe and Central Asia, and with reason. As opposition to the Afghan campaign rises, Pakistan is eager for the United States to end the bombing as quickly as possible. Humanitarian groups are growing more and more worried about their ability to deliver food to up to 6 million needy people inside Afghanistan this winter. The longer the war lasts, the harder it will be for the United States to maintain its coalition against al Qaeda and be effective in the war for public opinion in Muslim countries. But the United States probably cannot drive the Taliban from Kabul with air power and special forces alone, and the only alternative inside the country, the Northern Alliance, so far is struggling in an offensive against the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Even if it were to succeed in taking Kabul and other southern cities, the alliance might only provoke another round of fighting with the ethnic groups it excludes.
At best, Mr. Brahimi and other brokers may be able to cobble together an interim political coalition in the coming weeks that, with heavy support from the United Nations and a hastily assembled Afghan or international security force, might take power in Kabul and other key areas before winter. If Taliban resistance crumbles or there are defections of forces in the south, the Northern Alliance might succeed in taking over military control of most of the country, with political arrangements coming afterward. But it is entirely possible that creating an administration and clearing the Taliban out of the way for it will take considerably longer.
If that is the case, the United States will have to be prepared to stay the course, continuing military operations through the winter and resisting appeals for a "pause" that would allow the Taliban and al Qaida to regroup. Suspending or slowing the military campaign will only postpone the day when the Taliban regime can be unseated, while the steady destruction of its forces should encourage agreement on a replacement. Though the course is not yet clear, the easiest and quickest way to resolve the Afghan political problem surely lies in continuing the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda, relentlessly.
In a speech to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Shanghai over the weekend, President Bush issued a clarion call for Asian countries to join the war against international terrorism. "Our global enemies are murderers with global reach," Mr. Bush stated. "Every nation now must oppose this enemy, or be, in turn, its target."
Mr. Bush emphasized that, while the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks "took place in my country," they "were really an attack on all civilized countries." One of the major goals of the terrorists was to severely damage the world economy, Mr. Bush stated: "Terrorists want to turn the openness of the global economy against itself. We must not let them." The president noted that "pursuing both openness and security is difficult, but it is necessary."
The 21-member APEC issued an unprecedented joint declaration against terrorism, including a condemnation of the "murderous deeds" that occurred on Sept. 11, "as well as terrorist acts in all forms and manifestations." Participants added that "terrorism is a direct challenge to APEC's vision of free, open and prosperous economies, and to the fundamental values that APEC members hold."
Unfortunately, in order to appease large Muslim nations like Indonesia and Malaysia, the declaration apparently failed to support the U.S. military campaign against Afghanistan's murderous Taliban regime and failed to insist that the Taliban turn Osama bin Laden over for trial. The summit also illustrated why the United States needs to be wary of "supporters" of the international coalition against terrorism like China. This newspaper's Joseph Curl reported Sunday from Shanghai that, at the APEC meeting, Chinese President Jiang Zemin "expressed no remorse" over the Sept. 11 attacks against the United States and gave only a "lukewarm" endorsement to the U.S. war against terrorism. This would appear to constitute a step backward for China, which earlier had denounced those terrorist strikes against America. (China also undercut APEC's unity against terror by imposing conditions that forced democratic Taiwan, an APEC member in good standing, to stay away from the summit.)
The Bush administration must also be mindful of the reality that an even more forceful condemnation would ring hollow if not accompanied by an end to Beijing's destabilizing arms sales and military assistance to terrorist-supporting states like Iran and Iraq -- and, very possibly, even to the Taliban. As veteran China analyst Richard Fisher noted in Sunday's Commentary section, Beijing has sold nuclear reactor and nuclear fuel-reprocessing components equipment to Iran, as well as cruise missiles that could possibly carry a small nuclear device. China has also helped Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's efforts to build new fiber optic communications networks that could aid Baghdad's efforts to shoot down U.S. aircraft. Some reports indicate that the Taliban have been receiving economic and military aid from China.
On the positive side, the United States can rightly take some encouragement from Moscow's increasingly cooperative tone. Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, said Sunday that the military campaign against the Taliban needed to continue, adding that "otherwise, terrorists will feel invincible." Mr. Putin provides us with a salient reminder, that, for now, the only way to end Taliban thuggery toward the Afghan people and create a new regime in Kabul that is not a menace to international peace is to press forward with the current U.S.-British-led military campaign.
Raleigh News Observer
News from the many fronts of the war on terror gathers in intensity. Elite U.S. Army forces now have raided airfields and compounds associated with Afghanistan's Taliban regime. Air strikes have opened the siege of Kabul, the Afghan capital. Two Army soldiers have died in a helicopter accident in Pakistan -- the kind of accident that almost inevitably accompanies combat operations. Concerns about anthrax mounted yesterday with new cases confirmed and two deaths suspected. And the nation braces for another strike.
A series of benefit concerts in New York, Washington and Nashville over the weekend were venues for public grief as much as fund-raisers for families hurt by the fateful Sept. 11 attacks. Even as tears were shed for them, the dying, disease and dread gained momentum. They are the price America must pay to rip apart the terrorists' global network and restore the peace. And the support of ordinary Americans grows more crucial every day.
As the country stopped to watch the unfolding horror six weeks ago, the danger seemed greatest to symbols of America's wealth and power. Since then, Americans have come to understand that it is their whole way of life that the fanatical al-Qaeda network despises. Osama bin Laden's interpretation of Islam leaves room for no other views of religion, culture or government. He and his ilk have proved themselves willing and able to commit unspeakable acts of evil to punish the tolerant.
Yet tolerance has a considerable following among modern nations. And those nations have coalesced quickly with support and assistance. Even some recent foes of tolerance, such as Russia and China, today stand behind the mission America has articulated as erasing international terrorism. And the objective is clear, even if the path and the finish line remain obscure.
The military strategy employed so far in bin Laden's backyard seems worthy of the international support offered to this country. Bombs and missiles have been aimed at targets playing a role in the terrorist state's ability to fight. Army Rangers operating as airborne commandos and helicopter-borne Special Forces troops have joined the assault on those targets and left when their specific work was completed.
In the absence of a workable governing plan, the coalition forces have resisted pressure from the northern rebels against the Taliban rulers to clear a path to the capital. Now, reports The New York Times, the rebels have agreed to a balance of power among Afghanistan's factions supervised by the United Nations. Teaching the Afghans how to live in peace makes more sense than forcing a new order on them.
The war will not end in Kabul, though. President Bush has made no secret of that. During the dark days still ahead, Americans need to keep waving those flags and keep caring for the thousands of families whose loved ones never came home from work on Sept. 11. Their suffering, and the freedom of future generations, are a fitting foundation for national unity.
Rocky Mountain News
One of the most encouraging developments to come out of the Shanghai summit is Russian President Vladimir Putin's openness to revising the 1972 ABM Treaty.
Flat opposition to revising the treaty has been a cornerstone of Russian foreign policy. The treaty greatly restricts testing of anti-missile missiles and limits deployment to a single shield around each nation's capital. The Bush administration is determined to develop and deploy a system that will protect both the United States and its allies.
The U.S. government should push ahead with full-scale research into a missile defense system, but a decision on deployment should wait until the United States is certain that it has a system that works.
However, it would be best if that testing was done within the context of a renegotiated ABM Treaty, and now that seems possible since Putin emerged from a meeting with President Bush to say, "I believe we do have an understanding that we can reach agreements."
The alternative would be for the United States to unilaterally abrogate the treaty. That would undercut Putin with his military hardliners back home and halt a new and positive momentum in U.S.-Russian relations. Putin's strong support for U.S. military action in Afghanistan was both surprising and welcome. He has relaxed his objections to NATO expansion, and Russia is being newly cooperative in developing its Caspian oil and gas resources with the West.
The outlines of a deal are expected to be developed when the Russian leader visits Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch Nov. 12-14. The United States would get leeway to test and perhaps to deploy in exchange for a mutual reduction in nuclear arsenals, perhaps not to the 1,500 warheads the Russians want but maybe to the 2,500-3,500 level. The arsenals currently stand at Cold War levels of 6,000 for Russia and 7,000 for the United States.
We snickered when Bush, after his first meeting with the Russian leader, said he had looked deep into Putin's soul and liked what he had seen. Maybe there was something to it, because this odd couple -- the affable, easygoing Bush and the stolid former KGB spy -- seem to have developed a unique bond.
San Diego Union
As the bombing of Afghanistan proceeds and ground forces widen their scope of operations, the role of the United Nations in the war and in its eventual settlement looms ever larger.
Already, U.N. agencies are caring for some 3 million refugees in Pakistani camps and for thousands more arriving every day. Despite Pakistan's efforts to keep people from crossing, the border between the two countries is too porous for effective policing.
With U.S. airstrikes around the southern city of Kandahar, thousands of war refugees have been trapped in a no-man's land between the two countries, waiting for Pakistan to open its borders.
The U.N.'s World Food Program said yesterday that 90 tons of food was en route to Chaman, the Pakistani town closest to Kandahar, with more ready to go -- including 38 tons of energy biscuits used to feed starving people.
It's a dangerous job. Four U.N. workers already have been killed by U.S. bombs gone astray. U.N. employees have been harassed, robbed and beaten by Taliban forces. "We have difficulties getting trucks and drivers in," said U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. "Not many drivers want to go in there."
U.N. offices in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and in Kandahar have been looted and occupied by the Taliban. Last week, U.N. officials reported that the Taliban stole 7,000 metric tons of wheat sent into southern Afghanistan for feeding refugees.
So much for fundamentalist Taliban virtue.
The U.N. job is more than just humanitarian. Lakhdar Brahimi, Annan's special envoy to Afghanistan, is charged with finding a political solution for the worn-torn nation when the bombing stops. Zahir Shah, the exiled king who is seen as the rallying point for anti-Taliban opposition, has formally asked Annan to establish a U.N. peacekeeping force once the Taliban is gone.
President Bush, heeding the pleas of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, now speaks of a U.N. role in a post-Taliban Afghanistan. It looks clear that the United Nations will be called on, as it was in the Balkans, once the fighting has stopped. Its forces are the best trained and prepared for post-combat nation-building.
Republicans in Congress, led by former Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, have had their sport with the United Nations for years. But as America's need for help has grown, first in the Balkans and now in Afghanistan, the sporting has stopped.
The Senate has lifted its restrictions on paying $582 million in back U.N. dues. The House, which had blocked the payment over an unrelated amendment, dropped the amendment on Sept. 14, three days after the attack.
It's time to pay for services rendered.
San Francisco Chronicle
As recently as last April, the United States threatened to scrap the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, despite strong protestations from European nations and Russia. Then, in May, the United States tried to win Russia's cooperation by offering President Vladimir V. Putin a broad range of arms, including a defensive shield over Europe and Russia, coupled by the promise of joint anti-missile exercises.
Russia still wasn't buying. That, however, was before Sept. 11.
Now, President Putin has apparently agreed, however reluctantly, to alter the 1972 ABM Treaty, which, in the view of most defense analysts, helped slow the nuclear arms race during the Cold War.
What Putin will receive in return has yet to be disclosed.
This new spirit of cooperation between the United States and Russia is extremely desirable, especially when it reduces the number of missiles and tightens security around nuclear stockpiles and waste.
But now, more than ever, an anti-missile defense system mocks the actual dangers that threaten Americans -- as well as the rest of the world. It won't defend against terrorist weapons that, so far, have included box-cutters, planes and anthrax spores. Nor will it protect us from plastic explosives, cyberterrorism, or chemical warfare.
A long-range missile system is hard to build and almost impossible to conceal. For now, Pakistan can hurl a nuclear weapon only as far as India. North Korea, which has stopped its testing, shows no signs of committing mutually assured destruction.
A more productive path to a safer world would be through nonproliferation -- keeping nuclear materials out of the wrong hands -- so that terrorists or rogue nations cannot make such weapons in any form.
Before Sept. 11, this was the road not taken by President Bush. Now it is vital that he reconsider his course.
It wasn't so long ago that women could walk down the dusty streets and roads of Afghanistan unencumbered by those ubiquitous blue body tents, or burqas, seen in so many television and newspaper images today. Their cheeks were free to soak up the midday sun and their minds were allowed to fill with university learning.
Then came the Taliban.
And with this 5-year-old regime's extremist interpretation of Islamic law, Afghan women now are restricted from working, attending school, leaving their homes unaccompanied by a close male relative or uncovered by a heavy veil. They are forbidden to laugh in public or to make noise as they walk.
They take the rules seriously. Breaking them invites anything from floggings, to death by stoning, to a single, unceremonious shot to the head.
And yet in the face of this, a group of courageous Afghan women has managed to forge advantage from oppression. Called the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (rawa.org), a small band of female rebels has mustered the will to document some of the most hideous forms of oppression against women, hiding camera equipment beneath the same veils used to subjugate them.
Tens of thousands of women were said to be widowed by Afghanistan's long-running battle against Soviet occupation in the 1980s. Many have had to turn to begging or prostitution.
The group has captured atrocities such as the haunting, 61-second video of a woman being shot to death in the middle of a soccer stadium to cheering crowds. Forced to kneel, the anonymous woman strains to look at her accusers through the mesh of her burqa, twisting first right and then left, before the end of a rifle splatters her head onto the dusty field.
We never know her crime.
Other video clips on the group's international Web site show public hangings, throat-slittings and mass graves of more than 600 people. The group also has recorded hundreds of instances of abuse against women by the Northern Alliance and non-Taliban warlords.
At tremendous personal risk, RAWA members have established secret schools for girls, both in Afghanistan and in refugee camps in Pakistan. They conduct underground political awareness classes. They help mothers and widows make handicrafts to generate income.
Up to three-quarters of women who live under Taliban rule suffer major depression, according to a report published this year by the group Physicians for Human Rights. As many as 16 percent of those surveyed have already attempted suicide.
So it is all the more remarkable amid such hardship to find resilience. It is yet another example that the human spirit can be easily covered, but not so easily repressed.
How quickly would Osama bin Laden fire a missile at us, if he had one? How about Saddam Hussein?
The answer, of course, is very quickly, and it is to our government's credit that it has been steadily working on missile defense, even as critics complain that it is physically impossible (as was manned flight, many claimed, and landing on the moon).
The notion that our safety from attack should be based entirely on our enemies' inability to acquire long-range missiles is among the many attitudes shaken by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. One day somebody somewhere will press the button. The only question is: Will we be ready?
We took a major step toward readiness over the weekend as Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated he is willing to join President Bush in setting aside the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty and allow missile defense testing, which the treaty bans.
For years the Soviets, then the Russians, were against missile defense, fearing it would lead to a nuclear arms race as nations scrambled to develop new weapons that could pierce a protective space shield.
The United States maintained that, rather than increase the world's growing nuclear stockpile, a defensive system would allow for reductions. To demonstrate goodwill, we announced our willingness to share the technology with nations that would benefit from it. Just as we do not want to be attacked by nuclear weapons, so we do not want to sit behind our screen of safety and watch our friends annihilated.
Putin took a major step toward being on the safe side on Sunday in Shanghai when, while paying lip service to the ABM Treaty, also said it was time "We should think about the future.''
Indeed we must. That future will be spelled out more clearly when Putin visits Bush at his Texas ranch next month. Expect an announcement combining a reduction in nuclear arsenals--something the cash-strapped Russians want dearly--with U.S. testing of missile defense, something the Pentagon would like to do this spring.
Putin's reassessment comes from the knowledge that we intend to proceed--with or without an accord. There is also the realization that we are living in a far more dangerous world than we thought prior to Sept. 11, and the old certainties--that the World Trade Center could not be demolished by a squad of hijackers with box cutters, that North Korea would not fire a missile at us--cannot be depended on.
We are in a race to see if we can develop these defenses before those who would harm us find the capacity to do so at long range. Having the Russians on board is an important step, and we will make progress more quickly with them than without them.
Dallas Morning News
The man featured on wanted posters in the United States has popped up on T-shirts elsewhere.
President Bush has released a list of 22 individuals whom the United States considers the most wanted terrorists in the world. To no one's surprise, listed prominently among the bad actors is the war criminal Osama bin Laden.
In a chilling revelation, it turns out one country's cold-blooded murderer is another country's cult hero. A hero -- a "world hero" to be exact -- is what Osama bin Laden is called on tasteless T-shirts that have become hot sellers at open markets in Pakistan, a country whose president claims to be allied with the United States in the war on terrorism. Pakistani shoppers also can pick up fake souvenir $50 bills bearing Osama bin Laden's picture and the slogan "In Osama We Trust."
The oblique reference to Osama bin Laden as godlike is not accidental. A demonic figure who has, over the last several years, grown in popularity in the Islamic world has been elevated to nearly deified status in places as far away as Asia and Latin America.
Around the world, angry mobs retaliated for America's airstrikes of Afghanistan by rioting and burning American flags. Suddenly, it seems anywhere one finds poor and oppressed people or undemocratic rulers who deflect criticism of their regimes to the United States -- and that covers a lot of territory -- there are misguided individuals who are now expressing satisfaction at the deaths of over 5,000 innocent people.
It is likely that, in many places, what we are hearing from is a vocal fringe minority and that the vast majority of global inhabitants have no taste for either Osama bin Laden or his bloodthirsty tactics.
Even so, if World War II taught us anything, it was the danger of totally discounting the appeal of a madman. One doesn't wind up on a $50 bill, even a phony one, by accident. With his romantic saber-rattling and his David and Goliath rhetoric against Israel, the United States, and the West, Osama bin Laden taps into something -- something that is dark and sinister but that resonates nonetheless with too many people in too many places.
Once Osama bin Laden is brought to justice, the next chore for the United States and the coalition will be to engage the globe in a massive re-education project in order to set the record straight about who he is and who he isn't.
The T-shirts are wrong; Osama bin Laden is no hero. He is a cold-blooded killer who slaughters innocents and a coward who sends others to die in his place. He is also someone whose reign of terror is about to end. Part of the challenge to the U.S. is getting that point across without adding to his myth.
The U.S. Constitution, federal law, numerous court rulings and international treaties clearly forbid what the FBI suggests. The public's panic and the FBI's past failures and current frustration cannot excuse a descent into barbarism.
Four key suspects in the Sept. 11 attacks aren't talking to U.S. investigators.
The enticements prosecutors usually offer - a lighter sentence, money, jobs, or a new identity and life in the United States - so far have no attraction for zealots who are prepared to die for their cause, and who disdain our way of life.
The Washington Post reports that some FBI agents thus want to employ inhumane methods for which the United States has, over the years, rightly criticized the Nazis, KGB, Saddam Hussein, communist China, and several Latin American dictators.
As a way of pretending to avoid culpability, duplicitous investigators suggest that the United States extradite the suspects to other countries where torture is routine. But shuttling the suspects off to some foreign land's chamber of horrors would still burden the FBI with the ultimate moral responsibility.
One goal of Osama bin Laden and other terrorists is to make us into something we don't want to be: a nation so unnerved by Sept. 11 that we will do anything to protect ourselves -- even trash the foundations of democracy. We should not condone conduct by our government for which we've condemned thugs like Slobodan Milosevic.
The possibility that other terrorists may be plotting future attacks is truly frightening, but it's by no means certain that suspects now in custody know details of the new plans. Most terrorist groups operate in distinct, small circles, or cells, who know little or nothing of each others' missions. And any smart military commander would change plans if he knew some of his operatives were captured - and bin Laden is a clever, dangerous foe.
Information revealed under torture is notoriously unreliable, so torture really isn't about extracting data, it's a way of punishing suspects before they've had a trial. Letting the FBI inflict such a penalty would shred the U.S. justice system and leave all Americans vulnerable to the same brutal treatment.
Moreover, matters might be complicated by President Bush's repeated statements that the fight against terrorism is a war. Under international law, prisoners of war must be treated humanely, required only to give their name, rank and serial number. Any pressure to reveal more, including the use of mind-bending drugs, is explicitly illegal.
The United States strongly championed the treaties that impose these restrictions. The last thing the United States wants is for FBI agents to become defendants in a future war crimes trial.
Des Moines Register
People are thinking about smallpox. Though the disease was declared eradicated in 1980, the recent bioterrorism scares have the U.S. government directing physicians to watch for signs of it in patients. And people are asking their doctors about vaccinations for themselves and their children. The curiosity is understandable.
Over the last century, smallpox has killed more than 500 million people. It's highly contagious and can result in a grisly death. Though symptoms are initially flu-like, eventually a rash develops and then pustules that look like chicken pox appear on the skin. The blisters can actually disfigure the infected. Those who were inoculated 30 or more years ago are no longer considered protected, and because it's caused by a virus there's no treatment. The disease has a 50 percent mortality rate. Smallpox is scary.
And to compound the worry, terrorists are scary. If there are those willing to commit suicide by flying airplanes into buildings, there are those willing to infect themselves with smallpox and wander about public areas exposing others. One individual breathing in the subway, coughing in a restaurant and spending the day at the mall could result in the transmission of the disease to countless, unknowing people.
The possibility is disturbing, but remote. And consider New York in 1947 when smallpox resurfaced after a businessman who had been traveling out of the country contracted the disease and exposed other New Yorkers. It took the city more than a month to detect the outbreak, but within three weeks more than 6 million residents were inoculated. In the end, only the businessman and one other person died from the disease.
That story should ease some fears. Also, the U.S. government currently has 15 million doses of the vaccine and there are plans to stockpile 300 million more. Though it will probably never be necessary, the means exist to respond to an outbreak.
So smallpox is hardly something to be greatly concerned about.
In fact, of all the immunizations to discuss with a doctor, it's ironic that anyone would bring up smallpox. American adults don't even go to the trouble to immunize themselves against established killers. The majority of vaccine-preventable disease deaths occur in adults, but few ask for the shots.
Pneumonia, hepatitis, tetanus and Lyme's disease can be prevented. About 20,000 Americans die from influenza complications each year, a number that would be greatly reduced if more people simply got the flu shot.
New York Post
President Bush is pulling no punches in his effort to get Osama bin Laden.
After last month's attacks on New York and Washington, Bush unleashed the CIA to "do whatever is necessary" to capture or kill the terrorist chieftain, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
"The gloves are off," a senior official told the paper. "Lethal operations that were unthinkable pre-Sept. 11 are now underway."
If true, it's none too soon.
Indeed, the most heartbreaking news is that U.S. agents had located bin Laden last spring, but neither the CIA nor the military was equipped to take action. If they had, well . . . Sept. 11 might be just a date on the calendar.
By now, it's no secret that squeamishness from the left led the nation, in effect, to handcuff America's intelligence forces - from President Ford's ban on political assassinations to rules against using "dirty" sources to woefully inadequate funding. All to disastrous effect.
The mood changed on Sept. 11.
Although the ban on assassinations never applied to terrorists or to wartime situations, Bush's order makes it crystal clear that the CIA is not only allowed to conduct covert action to kill or capture bin Laden, but that it must give such efforts the highest priority.
Plus, under the Bush directive, the agency will get $1 billion in new funding and the help of the military and other U.S. security forces to get the job done.
And, Bush has reportedly said, the CIA shouldn't be deterred by the risk of failure - even if it hurts the agency (and Bush) in the polls.
Call that leadership.
Bush knows quite well that some countries won't like America's new aggressive approach.
That's just too bad.
To his credit, he couldn't give a fig about the inevitable foreign carping.
America will do what it has to do.
Bravo for that, Mr. President.
This, after all, is a war that - alas - must be fought on the terrorists' terms: sneak attacks, covert action, deceit (where necessary) and, of course, assassination.
It's the only way to fight terrorists.
And the battle must be fought on the terrorists' soil: America can't win through defensive actions, such as tightening security at home, alone -- important as such measures are.
It can only prevail through an aggressive offensive campaign. With 5,000 Americans dead, hundreds of billions of dollars in damage and an ongoing bioterror attack, what sane person could deny that bin Laden - and his network and his supporters - must be eliminated?
Bush, thankfully, understands that.
And, we suspect, so does the rest of America.
To paraphrase Vice President Cheney, the doves have all flown away now.
(Compiled by United Press International.)