What U.S. newspapers are saying

Sept. 25, 2001 at 11:15 AM
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Compiled by United Press International

New York Times

The United States has few more important -- or skittish -- partners in its war against terrorism than the oil-saturated kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Even more than the Persian Gulf war, when Saudi Arabia was directly threatened by Iraqi forces on its border, this new campaign will test the political, economic and military ties that have long made America and Saudi Arabia uneasy allies.

As President Bush assembles and tries to hold together a coalition of disparate nations, he will have to be mindful of Saudi sensibilities - not only because of traditional Saudi anxieties about aligning itself too closely with the West, but because the kingdom has an unusual role in this conflict. Osama bin Laden comes from a prominent Saudi business family. A principal aim of his worldwide campaign of terror is to evict American troops from Saudi soil and end Washington's decades-long commitment to the defense of Saudi Arabia and its royal family.

Washington should not hold back in seeking Saudi assistance in dismantling the bin Laden terror network. Saudi Arabia possesses an array of assets that can be critical in the war against terrorism, including great influence in the Islamic world, longstanding relations with Afghanistan's Taliban leadership and modern air bases. The Saudi royal family must put its considerable strengths to work in the American-led campaign. ...

Saudi kings and princes have been worldly in their foreign policy and business dealings, sometimes ostentatiously corrupt in their personal lives and unyieldingly hostile to political debate and representative institutions.

Now they must rise to the challenge of navigating the kingdom's participation in a fight against terrorists who murder Americans in the name of a twisted interpretation of Islamic purity. Saudi Arabia is one of the few governments to have recognized the Taliban government of Afghanistan. Like the two other nations that did so, it needs to use what influence it has with the Taliban's leaders to insist that they hand over Mr. bin Laden.

If, as is likely, such calls go unheeded, Riyadh should give Washington the permission it seeks to use air bases on Saudi territory to launch and direct whatever military actions may be needed to destroy terrorist bases and training camps in Afghanistan. It should also cooperate with American intelligence agencies in rooting out terrorist cells and financial networks operating in Saudi Arabia itself. By its actions, it can demonstrate to other Muslim nations that Washington is leading an international campaign against terrorism, not, as some wrongly claim, a Western battle against the Islamic world. Saudi Arabia feels especially vulnerable to the strains of this crisis. But it is also particularly well placed to help build the broadest possible coalition against terror.

Boston Herald

In its campaign against terrorism, the international coalition now forming under U.S. leadership should not mince words that one goal is to overthrow the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in addition to capturing ``guest'' terrorist chief Osama bin Laden.

The barbaric nature of the Taliban, which does not permit women to be educated, has been clear for years. It became a little more clear yesterday. The Taliban said it would kill any United Nations relief workers found using computers, satellite phones or other equipment to communicate with the outside world. Operatives entered U.N. offices in several cities to seal equipment, and U.N. officials in New York said they had told the all-Afghani staff (foreigners have been withdrawn) to comply with the order rather than risk their lives.

The Taliban's record of execution of ordinary Afghanis for ordinary crimes is evidence enough that the regime would carry out the threat, even though the U.N. offices have been feeding a large share of the population.

The Taliban, whose members speak Pashtu, is one of seven groups that fought the Russian occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989 and then defeated its rivals.

But it does not control the entire country. The ``Northern Alliance'' of other language groups holds about 5 percent of the territory and is eager to get Western backing - which should be promptly given.

The Afghani people are close to despair. The Economist magazine reports complaints by ordinary citizens that bin Laden's armed Arab followers are the real rulers. More than a million refugees have fled to Pakistan, and many thousands to Iran, in part because of a four-year drought. More are slipping across ostensibly closed borders every day. Food shipments from the outside have been stopped.

Taking advantage of this unhappiness and holding out hope for a less brutal future - that is, separating the people from the regime - is essential to any campaign to bring down the terrorist network centering on bin Laden and the bloodthirsty fundamentalist regime that helps keep it in business.

Chicago Tribune

In the wake of a crisis that has shaken this nation to its soul, America has responded with a collective resolve and determination that has impressed the world.

In church pews, on street corners, in the stands at football games, people have dug deep to take care of the families of the victims of terrorism. People have rallied behind the nation's leaders and shown patience in the pursuit of justice. As a nation, we are confident and determined.

Now there's one more matter: Take care of yourself.

Americans, individually, are not quite so confident. In countless iterations, they are asking themselves the questions that go past matters of national policy and speak directly to their personal fears. The yearning for a return to what we cling to as normal is intense. So is the fear that it will never return.

When will I get my life back? When will my fears subside? When will my family feel safe?

These are the questions terrorists want to plant. No need to feel guilty about being human enough to repeat them. But at some point we must supplant them with an even more pressing question: Am I really going to give the terrorists what they want?

Those who plunge airliners into skyscrapers hope to drain our spirit. Terrorists have utterly no prospect of militarily defeating this nation or its people. Their more realistic hope is that, if they paralyze us emotionally, we will defeat ourselves in ways small and large.

And so it is time to say: Enough. We will not surrender the optimism that raised this country from the yoke of colonialism. One doesn't need the public heroism of a firefighter to achieve this. One needs the individual strength to work, to play, to practice one's faith, to move forward. ...

These have been difficult days, but great ones as well. Americans have shown more unity of purpose, more generosity, more consideration for one another. Most of us appreciate our loved ones and friends a little more than we did the night of Sept. 10.

Diving back into our routines while not forsaking those rediscovered joys won't bring back 6,000 lives. It will, though, confront the terrorists with the last thing they expected: a nation of thriving, resolute and bold Americans.

Dallas Morning News

The brutal new terrorist threat requires a new kind of Cold War. President Bush was well justified in freezing the assets of 27 suspected terrorist organizations and individuals. He also ordered U.S. companies and individuals not to do business with these groups. The targets span a variety of terrorist agendas around the world.

This isn't the first time the U.S. has taken aim at terrorism's purse strings, but this is the government's most vigorous crackdown.

In 1998, the Clinton administration froze the assets of Osama bin Laden and his known associates. The U.S. also barred American firms and individuals from doing business with those organizations. The Clinton administration similarly froze the assets of 12 alleged Middle East terrorist organizations and 18 individuals associated with those organizations.

Some of the organizations on Mr. Bush's list are groups whose assets President Clinton had frozen already. But the list is described as "fluid," so other groups that aid and abet terrorists may be added.

The most important part of Mr. Bush's executive order is his direct appeal to foreign governments and foreign financial institutions to crack down on terrorism. Simply put, if these countries and governments don't aggressively wage the financial battle against terrorism, then they will be denied access to U.S. financial markets.

The Bush administration is stepping up pressure in other ways. Nearly two years ago, the United Nations passed an international convention to criminalize terrorist fund raising, to allow for the seizure of terrorist funds, and to streamline extradition and prosecution of suspected terrorist financiers. The United States signed the measure last year, but the Senate hasn't ratified it. The same sort of foot dragging in other countries has hindered the international anti-terror campaign.

The Bush administration is not naive. It realizes that most terrorists' assets are likely to be overseas or conveyed through centuries-old Islamic financing methods using informal networks that aren't easily tracked.

But a united international effort is the best fortress against the free flow of terrorist funding. International banks, front charitable organizations and individuals who provide financial comfort to those who provide pain and misery must be brought to account.

Denver Post

President Bush should follow Colin Powell's advice about using diplomacy and international cooperation to destroy Osama bin Laden's complex terrorism network.

The United States doesn't have adequate ties or spy systems in the places that bin Laden hides and operates, so it needs help from nations that do. Some countries may be very willing to provide that assistance. While the United States is bin Laden's primary target, he and his associates consider many governments as enemies.

The problem isn't just bin Laden himself, but an intricate and secretive network of terrorist organizations that have wreaked havoc on four continents. Bin Laden, though, has masterminded many of the attacks. ...

Yet solo American attempts to fight back have been bungled, including the Clinton administration's bombing of a Sudan factory that was not, as Clinton claimed, making chemical weapons for bin Laden.

But bin Laden sometimes has been foiled when countries cooperated. In late 1999 and early 2000, bin Laden planned several massive attacks on U.S. soil to coincide with the millennium celebrations. U.S. law enforcement agencies stopped the attacks and captured some would-be terrorists - thanks to spy information and warnings from Jordan's government.

America does have friends in the world, including Arab and central Asian nations. Powell knows that - and Bush should make the most of it.

Indianapolis Star

America's first counterattack against terrorism turned out to involve bankers rather than soldiers.

In freezing the financial assets of 27 organizations and individuals, President Bush is attempting to shut down funding sources that have enabled terrorists to secretly live and train in the United States for years.

Although the 19 terrorists killed in the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center did not hold regular jobs, they did have enough money to pay $25,000 a person for flight training, to travel extensively and to live in expensive houses and condos. Federal investigators have been tracing the terrorists' money trail ever since the attacks. The president's executive order on Monday is an indication of the government's initial success in identifying the financiers of international terrorism.

But shutting down terrorists' financial networks could prove to be as challenging as the impending military strikes against their training camps.

Most of the terrorists' money is kept overseas and won't be directly affected by Monday's order. That's why Bush also warned foreign banks that they must either cooperate with investigators or risk having their own assets frozen in the United States. "If you do business with terrorists, if you support or sponsor them, you will not do business with the United States of America," Bush said.

Among those whose assets were frozen are Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, al Qaeda. Although neither has extensive holdings in the United States, al Qaeda has been linked to companies in Kenya, Turkey and Tajikistan. In addition, bin Laden has used his personal wealth, which runs into the millions of dollars, to set up companies in Sudan. Several large Islamic charities, which normally help poor Muslims, also are believed to have funneled money to bin Laden.

After receiving training from al Qaeda, young terrorists are given seed money and sent out around the world to form new cells. Those cells are often self-sustained through legitimate jobs or criminal activity. But when a large operation is planned, cells receive money through a shadowy string of transactions involving banks, credit cards and even suitcases filled with cash.

It's those large transactions that the Bush administration is now targeting. While perhaps not as satisfying as a military assault, attacking bank accounts may prove to be far more effective at stopping terrorists than our past pattern of hastily firing off a few cruise missiles.

Kansas City Star

Pakistan has nuclear weapons and an embattled government. That's a worrisome combination, especially as the U.S. military steps up its efforts to seek out terrorists in neighboring Afghanistan.

The situation in Pakistan, an important ally of the United States, is of far greater concern than many Americans realize.

The United States should provide the Pakistani government with whatever assistance it needs to ensure that Pakistan's nuclear weapons are not somehow seized by opponents of the government.

In addition, Washington should support Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf so his government is not overthrown and replaced by a radical regime that would then have control of the nation's military forces, including the nuclear weapons. ...

Last week, the Pakistani president said in a national address that his country would strongly support America in its new war on terrorism. Pakistan could become a critical staging area for U.S. incursions into Afghanistan.

President Musharraf struck a reasonable tone in his speech, firmly saying that he did not want Pakistan to be considered a pariah state in the region for siding with extremists. By joining international efforts against terrorism, Musharraf pointed out, Pakistan could establish itself as a "responsible and dignified" country. ...

In recent days, the Taliban regime and many of its supporters have claimed that Pakistan is nothing more than a pawn for U.S. officials who want to wage a war on Islam.

This argument is nonsense. We are not at war with Islam; we are trying to defend ourselves against terrorism. It's disconcerting, however, that many ordinary Pakistanis continue to believe their religion is under attack and to side with the Taliban rulers and their anti-American views. That could present serious problems for Musharraf and his government.

Bush and other U.S. authorities should continue to adopt a more conciliatory approach to Pakistan. The United States ought to be receptive to helping defuse Pakistan's economic and political problems, especially as we continue to pull together an international coalition to fight terrorists. A broad coalition should make it easier for the Pakistani government to cooperate with us.

America needs allies in that part of the world. Pakistan should be considered an extremely important member of the team.

Los Angeles Times

President Bush and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell are doing an extraordinarily able job of putting together an international anti-terror coalition. A viable and effective coalition is essential for a number of reasons. It would allow the administration to avoid the impression that the United States is conducting a lone crusade against Islam. It would also allow the U.S. and its allies to coordinate their efforts, from keeping tabs on suspected terrorists to tracking the movement of money.

But some important figures inside the Bush administration such as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz and others are challenging this policy. Restlessness is growing among those who want full support for the rebel Iraqi National Congress and an all-out assault on Iraq because they believe that Baghdad was tied to the Sept. 11 attacks and that Saddam Hussein poses a mortal danger to American interests.

For many American conservatives, Colin Powell is the enemy. He is viewed as excessively cautious in the use of military power and too deferential to European and Middle Eastern countries. As this thinking goes, the U.S. risks losing the battle by taking the time to construct a coalition and by refraining from an immediate effort to drive Saddam Hussein out of power; allies can only impede the United States. This counterproductive, go-it-alone notion is the one that initially animated George W. Bush's foreign policy. The experienced soldier is most likely to avoid the quick leap to military solutions. Powell may have gone too far in the first Bush administration with his reservations, but this time caution is necessary. ...

Until the terrorist attacks, Powell was largely relegated to the sidelines. Now Washington has been forced to rely upon the allies it once disdained, and Powell has made a comeback.

Nevertheless, the coalition is not an end in itself. The U.S. will need to lead the coalition, not be led by it. Powell's habitual caution about intervention abroad, rooted in a fear of repeating Vietnam, might allow his reluctance to intervene in Iraq to extend to attacking the Taliban directly. As the Taliban continues to shield Osama bin Laden, it becomes increasingly difficult to argue that the two can be separated. Smashing the Bin Laden network will require toppling the Taliban. But intervening now in Iraq would crack up the international coalition before it has been built. Immediate intervention there wouldn't isolate terrorists. It would isolate the United States.

Miami Herald

Even in the face of terrorism, there is no excuse for bias. A number of times, on different airlines going to various destinations, Middle Eastern men have been singled out and asked by flight crews to leave the planes.

While the suspicions may be understandable, certainly they shouldn't overwhelm good sense. In one case, three Arab-American men were taken off their connecting flight from Minneapolis to Salt Lake City, although police had questioned them about their nationalities and flight plans and even escorted them to the gate. They also had been questioned by the FBI and cleared for their originating flight.

Airlines' management appear sensitive to such behavior. As Donald Carty, chairman of American Airlines' parent company, wrote in an e-mail to employees after the attacks: ``My fear is that it will be all too easy to direct our collective grief, anger and shock in ways that treat our Arab, Muslim and other Middle-Eastern employees and customers with less than the absolute courtesy and respect that they deserve. . . . We simply cannot do that.''

It's tough to go against human nature when so many nerves are on edge, but this is the time to examine and control those biases that our better selves know aren't true.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Another unconventional weapon in the war on terrorism will be the use of public information - well-aimed and well-timed information meant either for one constituent or multiple constituencies. It was with a view to throwing this weapon into the struggle that the Bush administration decided to supply the evidence linking Osama bin Laden to the attacks in New York City and Washington.

The information bomb being put together also may include more of the factual basis for bin Laden's indictment in the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 as well as intelligence linking the Afghanistan-based terrorist to the attack on the U.S. destroyer Cole in Yemen last October.

The White House won't tell everything it knows, and some governments and people will be told more than others. Simply opening up the dossiers would disclose the sources of incriminating information and how it was acquired. This desire to protect intelligence sources and methods is entirely legitimate; nevertheless, the value of these assets to the United States is eroded whenever the information they produce cannot be fully exploited in the nation's behalf.

Consistent with the need to protect its intelligence base, the U.S. needs to be as candid as possible. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan won't be convinced of bin Laden's guilt, no matter how compelling the facts. But then, the Taliban regime isn't really the target audience, despite its honking that all it seeks is the evidence against its infamous guest.

The real target of a compelling factual case against bin Laden would be those Muslim countries whose support for the U.S. in the war on terrorism is being challenged by powerful dissidents. Two of these countries are Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, but there are others.

The leaders of those nations would be in a much stronger position, politically as well as morally, if they could present a package of facts proving that bin Laden is a hypocrite and a murderer, not a hero.

If bin Laden is ever captured and brought to trial in the U.S., a lot of the evidence against him is going to have to be publicized anyhow. Making as much as possible available sooner may increase the likelihood that he will be tracked down a little earlier, perhaps before he has a chance to kill any more people.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

On Friday, the United States had aircraft carriers deploying, troops in flight, bombers and fighter planes making the long trip to the Middle East. It was all muddling because no one could explain how or where they would be used. Over the weekend, however, the effort against Osama bin Laden's organization and those in league with it appeared to take coherent and encouraging shape.

Renewed fighting between the Northern Alliance, which controls a narrow strip of Afghanistan on the Tajikistan border, and the Taliban suggest the alliance -- in coalition with other Afghan opposition groups -- will be an important force in the U.S. effort. This has great benefit, for the Northern Alliance and its political leader, Burhanuddin Rabbani, are the legitimate government of Afghanistan, recognized by most nations of the world and in possession of Afghanistan's seat in the United Nations. Working with the Northern Alliance, an indigenous Muslim force, gives added legitimacy to U.S. efforts.

The alliance is small and relatively weak. But it has managed to hold out against the Taliban for years, and it has a great deal of information about the Taliban that Washington now needs. The United States, in turn, is able to provide the equipment, arms, training and support the Northern Alliance needs. Russia joined the effort Monday with an announcement that it, too, would provide additional equipment and weapons to the alliance.

The Northern Alliance could help explain how U.S. firepower amassing in the region would be put to use. If the alliance can take the war to the Taliban and force a concentration of Taliban men and equipment, that would provide targets for effective U.S. air attacks on Taliban military targets away from civilian populations. ...

The question now is what Bush hopes to do in Afghanistan. Does he seek only to pressure the Taliban into acceding to the demands he listed in his speech last Thursday -- hand over Bin Laden and his associates, close the training bases, allow the United States to inspect them? Or will the United States and others -- including Russia -- join the Northern Alliance in a sustained campaign to defeat the Taliban? A case can be made for either course. Whichever they choose, Bush and his advisers must be sensitive to the dangers of arming, training, then abandoning the Northern Alliance short of its clear goal of returning to power in Kabul.

Moreover, if the United States fully commits to the Northern Alliance, it would necessarily take on a significant burden for stabilizing, repairing and rebuilding Afghanistan -- and tending the needs of its people -- should the alliance succeed. Once before the United States turned its back on victorious Afghan forces -- after the defeat of Soviet invaders. That mistake contributed significantly to the situation confronting the United States in Afghanistan today.

This is a serious geopolitical chess match. So far the Bush administration deserves high marks for its skill and prudence as it plots its strategy for that match. But the effort is still in its early stages, and the adversaries are formidable.

Washington Post

For decades, this country has sought to separate domestic law enforcement from the world of intelligence. The reason is as sound today as it ever was: Government should not be spying on Americans. The results, when it has done so, have been terrible. But the simple and profound notion that spies should not be cops and cops should not be spies depended on the state-to-state nature of international relations during the Cold War. Gathering intelligence against the Soviet Union had little to do -- except in espionage cases -- with enforcing the law at home.

International terrorism, however, sorely tests this premise. The American government must gather intelligence on terrorist groups. But it also seeks to arrest and try terrorist operatives in this country. And when an individual comes under suspicion, it often isn't clear which interest predominates -- whether the goal of the investigation is ultimately a criminal prosecution or learning where to bomb in Afghanistan. Too dogmatic an insistence on separating intelligence and law enforcement can hinder both by keeping information too isolated within the government.

The Justice Department's request for expanded surveillance powers contains numerous provisions, but one of its core effects would be to significantly lower the wall separating the two communities. It would allow grand jury information and the fruits of criminal wiretaps to be given to intelligence agencies, for example. It would also enable the laxer standards under which intelligence surveillance is conducted to be used in more law enforcement probes with national security dimensions. In the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, such ideas should neither be hastily enacted nor reflexively opposed.

Legal barriers should be loosened where they prevent important exchanges of information between intelligence and law enforcement -- a matter that the prior administration worked hard to address. Any reforms, however, must minimize the possibility of intrusive domestic surveillance. ...

At the same time, civil liberties advocates need to be open to altering the relationship between spies and cops. The goal should be to craft legislation that both preserves the principle that the government does not spy on Americans and facilitates the war we are now fighting.

Orlando Sentinel

President Bush's step to dry up terrorists' money flow is necessary.

The war is on. Make no mistake.

President George W. Bush on Monday froze the U.S. assets of 27 individuals and organizations thought to have funded global terrorist violence and urged other nations to follow suit quickly. A symbolic gesture?

Perhaps. Terrorist groups, after all, don't have much of an economic presence in the United States.

But Mr. Bush went a step further, pledging that if foreign banks refused to freeze terrorist assets in a similar fashion, their own assets and transactions would be frozen in the United States. Already, allies such as Switzerland and Britain have shown their commitment by responding favorably.

Without money to finance their secretive wars, terrorist organizations and their zealous leaders lose a lot of strength. It takes enormous sums of money to coordinate, plan and execute attacks the likes of which demolished the World Trade Center and crippled the Pentagon.

Tracking that money, however, is a formidable challenge.

Terrorism is a shadowy, ill-defined practice that transcends geographic and political boundaries. While authorities think much of the activity that resulted in the Sept. 11 attack on America was planned by multimillionaire Osama bin Laden, few details are known about the nature and extent of his assets. ...

The individuals and organizations targeted by the United States for supporting terrorist activities are just the beginning of what, no doubt, will be a long and arduous effort to untangle and stanch the free-flow of cash that now supports global terrorism.

The president acknowledged as much this week with the creation of a multiagency task force to track additional terrorist assets and their funding conduits.

Mr. Bush also properly authorized the secretary of state and the secretary of the treasury to add to the list of frozen assets as information warrants.

Those actions may appear small, but they add up to significant steps in the nation's complex, open-ended mission to eradicate terrorism worldwide.

New York Newsday

It's significant that the first actions taken in the war against terrorism were not with a gun but a pen. Presi

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