Efforts to resolve the dispute over Iraq are proceeding on parallel tracks that appear contradictory but could be complementary. United Nations officials are meeting with Iraqis in Vienna this week to plan for the return of weapons investigators under existing United Nations resolutions. Meanwhile, Washington is calling for a tough new resolution with deadlines and enforcement provisions.
Washington can only gain by demonstrating its willingness to exhaust peaceful approaches before advocating war. The existing inspection system is flawed, as years of successful Iraqi defiance have demonstrated. But the Bush administration should use it to explore Iraq's real intentions. If Saddam Hussein means to allow the inspectors to have immediate and unfettered access to all suspect sites, well and good. If he does not, Washington can make a much stronger case to other members of the Security Council that many of the elements of its proposed resolution are necessary. Whether the Vienna talks lead to rigorous new inspections is up to Iraq. If the inspectors go back in, we will learn soon enough what barriers are placed in their way. ...
If a new resolution is needed, we favor one with a deadline and a clear warning that military force is likely to follow if Baghdad fails to comply. But only if and when full-scale inspections fail should the Security Council give final consent to the use of force. That is why the Vienna negotiations over the conditions for a return of weapons inspectors are valuable. They hold out an alternative path for either a return of inspectors or a clearer demonstration of the need for a resolution that explicitly threatens military intervention.
Now that the Senate has voted overwhelmingly for an independent probe of the intelligence lapses that left us defenseless against al Qaida, it seems a safe conclusion that by the second or third anniversary of the September 11 attacks we will have a blue-ribbon report proposing intelligence reforms. That is all well and good, but some urgent steps to enhance our national security can and must be made now. After eight years of budget and personnel cuts, the Central Intelligence Agency is belatedly recruiting the largest class of new spymasters since the Vietnam era. These are the future case officers whose task is to recruit and handle the spies who will give us inside knowledge of foreign governments and terrorist groups. Make no mistake: Today's recruits are not the same caliber that the CIA employed in its pre-Church Committee and pre-Pike Report heyday. To meet politically correct recruitment quotas, the CIA's written tests to qualify for the Career Training Program have been, like the State Department's Foreign Service Exam, dumbed-down. Gone is the CIA foreign language aptitude test. Less knowledge of world history is now required to pass. As a result, CIA instructors say the current crop of case officer trainees lack the requisite "worldliness" and leadership qualities to inspire potential spies to place their lives in the hands of the CIA. ...
To improve America's intelligence, we need the best spymasters the nation can produce. That starts at the top. The current deputy director of operations, John Plavitch, lacks the depth of knowledge and imagination to steer the revitalized clandestine services. If he cannot be replaced by a deputy director of operations "street man" familiar with field operations, a talented outsider like former Lockheed Martin President Norm Augustine might do. None of these reforms should wait until the blue-ribbon, independent commission issues its findings.
What with the push to invade Iraq, the Bush administration's move to break a 20-month standoff with another part of the president's "axis of evil" -- by resuming talks later this week with North Korea -- hasn't drawn much fanfare. Nonetheless, it's a positive step for the United States, one that contrasts with the administration's much more aggressive stance toward Iraq.
Both North Korea and Iraq are pariah states given to brinkmanship while building nuclear and chemical threats. The North may be even more dangerous than Iraq right now in that, unlike Iraq, it is believed to possess enough nuclear matter to make two weapons.
A critical difference arguing for engaging the North is its failed Stalinist economy. Unlike Iraq, the North survives not on oil sales but on a mountain of foreign aid. It desperately needs food.
Also unlike Iraq, the North has been sending signals that it wants to negotiate -- signals that even Bush administration hawks couldn't ignore.
There are lots of reasons for skepticism, starting with the contemptible Kim Jong Il, the North's maximum leader, who has a long history of taking one step forward and two back to maintain his grip on power. But even if this renewed effort to talk with the North fails -- leading to more pre-emptive steps -- negotiating is absolutely necessary. ...
Ironically, the United States' pre-emptive stance toward Iraq may be prodding North Korea to the negotiating table. Talks may no longer be an option with Iraq, but they remain so with the North. And despite much cause for skepticism -- and particularly because of the millions of South Koreans in harm's way -- negotiations should be aggressively pursued.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has ended his siege of Yasser Arafat's home, an operation he should never have undertaken. By making Arafat into a victim, the siege restored much of Arafat's lost prestige among Palestinians.
Pressure from the Bush administration was said to have helped Sharon make up his mind to call it off. But opposition within Israel probably would have produced the same result before long.
Sharon moved against Arafat's complex on Sept. 19 after a resumption of suicide bombings killed seven people in Israel. Army bulldozers knocked down several buildings, forcing scores of people living in them to move into Arafat's building.
Sharon said he just wanted custody of people in that group who helped organize the bombings. But he could have achieved that goal without making Arafat into an object of pity at just the wrong time. The Israeli secret services have a long record of targeting killers and the 41 wanted men, if not given a reason to hole up, could have been dealt with individually in the course of their daily activities. ...
In an unprecedented act of independence, the Palestinian legislature a short time before had forced the resignation of Arafat's cabinet, a gaggle of incompetent thieves. With the two-year-old intifada getting nowhere, Palestinians were coming to realize that Arafat bore some responsibility for their plight. The sooner that assessment takes hold again, the sooner Arafat will become the true irrelevancy that Sharon wants.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Isn't free speech wonderful? It allows, among other embarrassments, three U.S. congressmen to stand in the heart of Baghdad and tell the world that they think President George W. Bush is willing to mislead the American people just to gin up a war with Saddam Hussein.
With PR tools like these at his disposal, Hussein doesn't really need his master mouthpiece, Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.
"They said they would allow us to go look anywhere we wanted," said Rep. Jim McDermott, a Seattle-area Democrat unfettered by a re-election campaign. He faces only token, third-party opposition in a liberal district that elected him with a 76 percent vote last time.
With him on this peace tour was another urban Democrat with no particular place to go. Rep. John Bonior of Detroit is soon to be a private citizen, having lost the race for Michigan governor. "We've got to move forward in a way that's fair and impartial," Bonior said of the joint U.S.-British push to put unfettered inspectors back in Iraq.
At least Rep. Mike Thompson, a Northern California Democrat, didn't sound completely duped: "I don't know if I believe them," he admitted, speaking of the latest round of promises made by Iraq to allow open inspections. ...
In speaking as they did where they did, the trio demonstrated only an eagerness to discount recent history and a willingness to be used as window ornaments in the facade that is the Hussein regime. The debate that matters is not being held in Baghdad, but here at home -- where it should be kept.
Dallas Morning News
How do you say panic in Portuguese?
People may learn on Sunday when Brazil elects a new president. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of the leftist Workers' Party is consolidating his surprising lead, and the country's bond and currency markets are reacting with predictable jitteriness. He is the favorite of 43 percent of Brazilian voters, according to a weekend poll.
Four months ago, Mr. da Silva was the favorite of approximately 31 percent. In past presidential campaigns, he peaked early and fell as the election neared. This time, it looks as if he may win -- perhaps with the 50 percent that would enable him to avoid a second round on Oct. 27.
If the notion of a da Silva presidency makes investors nervous, there is good reason. Mark Falcoff of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., aptly calls him "every radical sociology graduate student's fantasy come to life." Mr. da Silva, or Lula as he is popularly known, is a socialist, a Marxist, a trade unionist, a high school dropout, an admirer of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and an opponent of Pan American free trade who once spoke approvingly of repudiating Brazil's debts. ...
Brazil is no small concern of the United States'. It is Latin America's most populous and richest country. It has the world's 10th-largest economy. Its decline would send shock waves throughout the Americas and the world. Whether Mr. da Silva ends up making it another Argentina will be decided soon enough, but there are ample reasons to hope that he would govern responsibly.
Los Angeles Times
Saddam Hussein and the White House are moving at diplomatic warp speed, each maneuvering for advantage with the U.N. Security Council. Even the resolution the White House has submitted to Congress formally authorizing U.S. action against Iraq is aimed in large part at forcing the U.N.'s hand. If the Bush administration is willing to compromise on its timetable, and if the U.N. is willing to demand unhindered weapons inspections inside Iraq, war can still be avoided -- or if undertaken, attract the support of key U.S. allies.
Baghdad is pursuing its own two-track policy of threats and accommodation. After warning the U.S. of bloody consequences last week if it launches a war, Iraq is now moving to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors in talks at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. ...
The U.S. and its allies should ignore Iraqi sleight of hand and get an inspection resolution passed. Nothing else would do as much to test Hussein's own willingness to save his nation from war.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Top administration officials recently have sought to bolster their case against Iraq's Saddam Hussein by saying he supports al-Qaida terrorist leaders. This argument has been challenged in the past, and the divergent goals of al-Qaida and Hussein make an alliance between them extremely unlikely. But if there is evidence of such a partnership, it needs to be made public as soon as possible, especially if it becomes one of the reasons America goes to war again in the Persian Gulf. ...
Congress is embarking on a debate over the text of an Iraqi war resolution, and the administration is correctly pushing for a tough new U.N. declaration on intrusive inspections aimed at unearthing Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. Given that context, the chatter about a connection between al Qaida and Hussein is a distraction -- unless, of course, Rice, Rumsfeld and other administration hands can make public some solid evidence of its existence.
Rocky Mountain News
British Prime Minister Tony Blair says the best way to avoid war in Iraq is to "maintain maximum pressure" on Saddam Hussein.
So what were some U.S. congressmen doing this past week? They were reducing the pressure, making conflict more likely and undercutting the credibility of their own country.
As its officials have repeatedly said, all Iraq will allow by way of inspections is resumption of the old cat-and-mouse game: You may look wherever you want, as long as you don't look in any of the places the weapons may be, such as the oversized presidential palaces. To Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., and Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich., that's enough.
"You don't start out by putting a gun to their head and say we're going to shoot you if you blink," says McDermott.
"They want to be treated with dignity and respect," says Bonior.
Of course, it is only by our putting a gun to Iraq's head that it has agreed to even a pretense of inspections. By treating the Iraqi leadership with "dignity," Bonior presumably means allowing them to keep some areas off-limits. These two congressmen did not make their remarks while in Washington. They were in Baghdad, along with Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and acting very much as if a whirlwind, controlled visit gave them special knowledge otherwise unavailable. It seems to have escaped them that making their observations from that spot and in that manner might play into the hands of Saddam Hussein and that it might further persuade him that there would be no need for further concessions. ...
Debate about whether the United States should engage in a war with Iraq is not just acceptable and inevitable; in a democracy, it is a positive good. What is beyond the pale, what is shameful, is to attack the administration from the camp of a clear enemy of this country and to compare the president's truthfulness unfavorably with that of a murdering dictator.
St. Petersburg Times
Congress and the administration rushed to protect the airports in the days immediately following the terrorist attacks. But almost 13 months later, a similar package of defenses for America's seaports is stalled, for a reason never applied to airport security. Though both chambers passed a seaport security bill, some House Republicans object to a proposed fee to finance the security improvements. This is the wrong priority, the Republicans should drop it.
Congress and the administration rushed to protect the airports in the days immediately following the terrorist attacks. But almost 13 months later, a similar package of defenses for America's seaports is stalled, for a reason never applied to airport security. Though both chambers passed a seaport security bill, some House Republicans object to a proposed fee to finance the security improvements. This is the wrong priority, the Republicans should drop it. ...
House Republicans who are holding up the measure because of their aversion to fees miss the urgency of securing our seaports. Air passengers have already shown their willingness to pay for added security, and to suffer some inconvenience as the price of modern life. It is not unreasonable to ask that the shipping interests bear their share of the burden. The conferees need to come together and send this overdue bill to the president.
Chattanooga Times Free Press
President George W. Bush should stand firm on the travel embargo against Communist Cuba. The U.S. House recently voted to ease the ban, though House members from this part of Tennessee correctly opposed the bill. It's before the Senate now. The president has vowed to veto the measure if it reaches his desk.
Lawmakers who want to end the ban say it hasn't led to freedom in Communist Cuba, where dictator Fidel Castro maintains a brutal grip on power. They say interaction between Americans and ordinary Cubans would spawn liberty.
But Stephen Johnson, an expert on Latin America for The Heritage Foundation, refutes these arguments.
Tourism to the island from other nations has dropped fast since Sept. 11. Lifting the ban would prop up the island's crumbling economy, Mr. Johnson notes.
What's more, even though Castro covets the money American travelers would bring, he likely would grant visas mostly to those bound for isolated resorts, where they can't hobnob with ordinary Cubans or, heaven forbid, political dissidents.
Additionally, Mr. Johnson points out, Europeans and Canadians visiting Communist Cuba in droves during the past decade have failed to make the island any freer than it was before they came. How would American tourists magically turn that tide? And why should democratic Caribbean tourist spots suffer by having to compete with a dictatorship?
Easing the travel ban would do little for most Cubans and would lend legitimacy to Castro. That's no path for America to take.
(Compiled by United Press International)