What U.S. newspapers are saying

Oct. 2, 2001 at 11:17 AM
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What U.S. newspapers are saying

New York Times

Just as the desire for international collaboration against Communism drew America into unseemly alliances with dictators during the cold war, the new campaign against terrorism is pulling Washington ever closer to tyrants and satraps in Central Asia. Three of the least appealing leaders -- in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan -- have now become American allies against their southern neighbor Afghanistan. Access to airfields and military bases may require some short-term cooperation, but Washington should not give these dictators license to pursue their abusive policies against Muslim citizens.

The three nations are among the world's worst violators of human rights. Turkmenistan's president, Saparmurat Niyazov, has turned his nation into a shrine to his rule and permits no dissent of any kind. Uzbekistan under President Islam Karimov is only marginally more free. Tajikistan, emerging from a five-year civil war, is ruled by President Emomali Rahmonov, who has rigged elections and allowed abuses by security forces.

Mistreatment of Muslims is especially brutal in these countries. Tajikistan has arrested hundreds of members of a radical but nonviolent Islamic group. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan do not tolerate expressions of Islam that are not state-sponsored. In Uzbekistan, Mr. Karimov has used the excuse of an Islamic guerrilla movement to repress his opponents. He has also arrested thousands of pious Muslims not accused of violent acts. ...

There is little question that Washington needs to use bases and airspace in the three Central Asian states. But Washington should not be rewarding these nations in ways that encourage further repression. America's battle against terrorism is best served in Central Asia by encouraging governments there to arrest those genuinely involved in violent acts and leaving others free to worship and think as they please.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The terrorist attacks on America provide what educators call a "teachable moment." Along with geography and geopolitics, teachers should use the tragedy to teach tolerance.

Because it was essentially intolerance at its extreme -- hatred -- that led to the deaths of more than 6,000 innocent people on Sept. 11. Even though millions of Americans have seen countless replays of that mass murder on television, the lesson of tolerance does not seem to have taken hold. ...

Quite recently a country that Americans could barely pronounce, never mind pinpoint on a map, Afghanistan has become a part of our post-terrorist vocabulary.

Yet, probably not one child out of 100,000 has any notion what Afghanistan is like, that it's a landlocked country isolated for centuries, that its value to generations of invaders has been its access to India, that many of its citizens are fierce mountain folk and that it has been under siege from Britain, the Soviet Union and, most recently, from a bloody civil war that led to the ascension of the extremist and brutal Taliban group in 1996.

Among the Taliban's edicts: Spreading Christianity is a crime punishable by death. Girls cannot attend school. Hindus in the country must wear yellow cloth on their shirt pockets.

As Afghan-American writer Tamim Ansary wrote in an e-mail that now has become an Internet legend: "When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think 'the people of Afghanistan' think 'the Jews in the concentration camps.' "

In teaching children tolerance, schools can also reflect upon the United States' own lapses of intolerance, of forcing black children to attend separate schools, of ordering Japanese-Americans into detention camps during World War II and, now, of stereotyping Americans of Arab or Middle Eastern nationality or ancestry as terrorists or terrorist supporters.

Finally, schools must encourage internationalism by teaching kids that events that happen clear on the other side of the globe have bearing on their lives, that it's vital the United States maintain good relations with other nations so we can root out terrorists and prevent similar attacks here and abroad.

Washington Post

When the Cold War reached Central America in the 1970s, the United States found itself in a dilemma that was to haunt it for 15 years: Communist insurgent movements threatened to take power in several countries, but the only available U.S. allies were corrupt dictatorships whose brutal tactics in fighting the rebels only worsened the situation. Now, as a new global struggle against terrorism gets underway, the Bush administration is basing some of its military operations in a part of the world where a similar collection of presidents-for-life and torture squads holds sway. The former Soviet republics bordering Afghanistan, like Anastasio Somoza's Nicaragua, are ready to join the United States in fighting a common foe: extreme Islamic insurgents. But as before, there is a risk the dictators' help may do more harm than good.

The three former Soviet republics bordering on northern Afghanistan -- Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan -- are all authoritarian states. Turkmenistan's president-for-life, Saparmurad Niazov, has established a florid cult of personality and hinted that he deserves billing with Biblical prophets. But Uzbekistan's strongman, Islam Karimov, ranks highest for cruelty, having imprisoned thousands of innocent Muslims in his country for attending mosques that lacked state sanction, or for reading religious literature not approved by the state. Mr. Karimov has wrecked his country's economy with statist management, driven away the IMF and wasted or stolen much of the economic aid money supplied by the West.

Yet Mr. Karimov's Uzbekistan seems to be emerging as the strongest U.S. ally in Central Asia. It has allowed U.S. planes and troops to deploy on its territory and may serve as a staging base for military operations in Afghanistan. The reason is fairly simple: Mr. Karimov also is threatened by an Islamic extremist movement that allegedly is supported in part by Osama bin Laden. President Bush named the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan as one of Osama bin Laden's allies in his recent address to Congress, underlining that the United States and Uzbekistan have a common enemy. ...

Now that Central Asia is a focus of U.S. security interests, the administration should work to curb abuses of human rights by allied regimes in the region and promote steps toward democracy. The hard lesson of the Cold War was that only democratic regimes that respected human rights proved reliable American allies -- and only they were able, in the end, to defeat insurgencies by extremists promising to remake the world.

Washington Times

So, after denying any knowledge of Osama bin Laden's whereabouts, the Taliban now admits holding him in a secret location and says that it wants to negotiate with the United States the conditions of his release. The Taliban's game of lies proves that negotiations are not a viable option in the Bush administration's war on terrorism.

Despite the Taliban's continued refusal to hand over bin Laden after his suspected involvement in the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, there is a schism within the administration on how to handle the Taliban. Secretary of State Colin Powell has advocated giving the Taliban incentives and allowing it to remain in power if it gives the United States what it wants ? bin Laden and al-Qaeda. President Bush has put special forces on the ground in Afghanistan and has said demands are not open to discussion. He is right. The Taliban is not only unwilling to work toward ending terrorism, it is sponsoring continued aggression. ...

If the United States is serious about getting rid of the Taliban, it must support groups such as the Northern Alliance -- the main opposition within Afghanistan -- which has the determination to ensure that the Taliban is removed from power. Also, while Mr. Bush has argued against nation-building, the United States must consider the long-term implications of removing a terrorist sponsor from power. Terrorists do not sleep where there is a governmental void. The United States must learn from history and ensure that the Northern Alliance does not become the Taliban of the future.

The war against terrorism will not be successful if the administration politely asks the Taliban to step aside. It will not be successful by pleading through a third party for the Taliban to hand over one terrorist or, for that matter, several terrorists. The first step in the fight must be a concerted effort to get rid of the Taliban once and for all.

St. Louis Post Dispatch

More than 1 million refugees are surging toward Afghanistan's borders, eager to escape what they fear will be America's apocalyptic answer to terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Their flight -- following two decades of war and years of drought and crop failure -- is creating what U.N. officials are describing as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Winter will soon arrive and the suffering will be magnified.

Bodies are still being pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center. American anguish and rage are palpable. Yet even in the aftermath of our own national tragedy, the United States has not ignored that distant tide of human misery.

On Friday, President George W. Bush pledged $25 million to help feed destitute Afghan refugees. The United States may add another $75 million, according to some reports. Some of the aid is already being delivered. It is a gesture of extraordinary generosity. Some might say that the U.S. merely is acting out of self interest. The refugees threaten to swamp Pakistan, with its strategically vital bases.

U.S. aid will surely help Mr. Bush demonstrate the sincerity of his statements that our war is with terrorists, not destitute widows and children. For years, millions of Muslims have been fed a corrosive diet of anti-Americanism. Our efforts to prevent what could be an epic catastrophe are a powerful antidote to those lies.

Sooner or later, there will be a U.S. military strike in Central Asia. It will doubtless demonstrate American bravery, skill and resolve.

But at least an equal measure of American bravery, skill and resolve will be found in the refugee camps with a thousand daily victories over starvation, suffering and death.

Seattle Times

The seizure of Ahmed Ressam and his 113 pounds of bomb materials at Port Angeles on Dec. 14, 1999, an act that saved hundreds of American lives, happened only because of the sharp instincts of one Customs agent. At the time, Americans congratulated themselves on their smart Customs agent and thought no more. Now we begin to take seriously the problem of border security with Canada.

Sen. Maria Cantwell has sent a letter to President Bush, signed by nearly all of the border-state senators, asking for a tripling of the Customs, Immigration and Border Patrol personnel with Canada. If that seems excessive, consider: The border, 3,100 miles long from Washington to Maine, plus an immense stretch in Alaska, is patrolled by only 300 to 500 agents. The much shorter frontier with Mexico is patrolled by 8,000 to 9,000 agents.

With the new stress on security, says John Bates, deputy chief of the Border Patrol in Blaine, the agency is spending big money on overtime. "We need more people," he says. It is the same with the Customs and Immigration inspectors who handle the airports, seaports and road crossings: A higher level of security requires more people.

There are other things. The United States keeps a list of foreigners who may be inadmissible to the United States. Ressam was not on our list. But he was on Canada's, because he was wanted there for immigration violations.

Had the two countries shared their lists, Ressam could have been snared routinely instead of being nailed on a hunch.

Cargo is also a security problem: A very large bomb can be fit into a 40-foot shipping container, becoming the poor man's ICBM. Shipping containers are already inspected and sealed with tamper-proof stickers.

Bruce Agnew, director of the Cascadia Project for Seattle's Discovery Institute, says U.S. inspectors could do this overseas, and could expand their program to less-than-truckload loads here.

In the long run, part of the answer may be to harmonize U.S. and Canadian external security, so that their internal border is not as crucial.

But that involves sovereign decisions, and cannot be done quickly. What can be done, and should be done, is to hire and train more border personnel so that security may be improved without making Americans and Canadians wait in interminably long line

San Diego Union

The noose tightens around the Taliban, and Afghanistan's leaders clearly feel it.

Some 30,000 U.S. forces are closing in on Afghanistan, prepared to strike at terrorist bases. In addition, the Bush administration has begun supplying military aid to Taliban opponents and sending relief aid to the millions of Afghan refugees who have fled the Taliban.

America is leading the offensive, but the war has become international. The Taliban is facing a world, including many Muslim nations, outraged at the acts committed by terrorist groups freely operating inside Afghanistan.

NATO's historic invoking of its mutual defense clause has involved 18 U.S. allies in the struggle. Europe was the favorite target of Muslim terrorists before they discovered America.

Russia and China, with their own Muslim-centered terrorist worries, have offered support.

At the United Nations, the Security Council has passed unanimously a U.S. resolution requiring all 189 members to crack down on terrorism and authorizing the council to use force if needed. Some anti-Taliban nations, such as Iran, have indicated they would only cooperate in an offensive against terrorism if it is U.N.-led.

The United Nations has an important role to play in this struggle. ...

This international offensive on many fronts has the best chance of success. Military force, even if it destroys the terrorist camps, cannot by itself bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.

If the Afghan opposition leaders can unite in their common hatred of the Taliban, they have a decent chance of defeating a regime robbed of credibility and deprived of allies and resources. This opposition, drawing support from the millions of Pashtun refugees in the camps who support the exiled Afghan king and from the Northern Alliance of non-Pashtuns, deserves the support of all Taliban opponents.

The Bush administration is proceeding slowly and methodically, which is the right course of action. It recognizes that this is not a classic war, one that depends on military power alone. Were that the case, Afghanistan would have no chance.

This is a politico-military battle. The goal is not just to defeat the forces that attacked us, but to show all those who have shown sympathy for the attackers that they are on the wrong side.

The goal is justice for Americans and justice for Afghans. A successful outcome to the war against terrorism requires both.

Boston Globe

Without acknowledging that they are maneuvering to have the Taliban removed from power in Afghanistan, President Bush and his advisers are plainly preparing to do just that. Their reasons for not being candid about the goal of a regime change in Afghanistan may be compelling, but the need to get rid of the Taliban is more compelling still.

Although Bush and his team came to office denouncing what they called the ''nation-building'' efforts of the Clinton administration in Haiti and the Balkans, they have no choice but to topple the Taliban if they are to win the war they have declared against Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.

Bin Laden and the Taliban have been inseparable from the beginning. His money was crucial to the Taliban's seizure of power in 1996. At a time when their offensive was stalled, bin Laden gave the Taliban $3 million in cash, used to buy the loyalty of commanders and local warlords who had been opposing them. The gift was crucial to their march on Kabul that fall.

Since then, thousands of bin Laden's imported, well-trained fighters have served as the Taliban's most effective defenders against their enemies in the Northern Alliance. Indeed, the suicidal assassins who murdered the Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud on Sept. 9 are generally thought to be operatives from bin Laden's network.

Even if a precision-guided missile were to kill bin Laden in one of his hideouts, the threat from his terrorist network would not be greatly diminished if his successors were able to continue using their camps and bunkers in Afghanistan as staging areas for operations like those that ended with airliners exploding into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Bin Laden is not merely a guest of the Taliban benefiting from traditional Afghan ''hospitality'' but rather a comrade-in-arms. There is no way to take the viper's nest away from the viper without ending the Taliban's reign of terror in Afghanistan.

That process has already begun. If it is carried out shrewdly and with concern for the people of Afghanistan, the removal of the Taliban may be easier than some might fear and a great blessing for nearly all Afghans. ...

To bolster the chances of deposing the Taliban, the international community, with the United States in the lead, should make a commitment to fund long-term development for a population that has suffered a brutal Soviet invasion, a savage civil war among warlords and bandits, and the misogynous madness of the Taliban's rule.

Chicago Tribune

Japan's banks -- finally -- are confronting the mountains of bad loans that have paralyzed lending in that nation for a decade.

By itself, this painful reckoning will not lift Japan out of its doldrums; reversing those now-ingrained negative trends won't be easy. But without the reckoning, the world's second largest economy doesn't stand a chance of healing. As a shocked U.S. teeters economically, the world needs Japan to heal.

Its economic stagnation is hardly the only matter of controversy in Japan. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has come under fire for promising strong support for a U.S.-led war on terrorism. Even raising the possibility that Japan's military could transport supplies or otherwise be used in the war against terrorism has ignited controversy in Japan.

The country's 1947 constitution, enacted in the wake of World War II and the atomic bombs that struck Hiroshima and Nagasaki, rejects the use of force as a means of settling international disputes. That provision resonates deeply in Japan.

Koizumi's support of the U.S. anti-terrorism campaign is most welcome. Just how and when Japan allows its military to contribute to this coming war is a debate for the Japanese. The more significant contribution Koizumi could make to global political and economic stability, however, is to force economic reality on his nation and lay the groundwork for a prosperous Japan.

Pressing the banking sector to put a realistic value on loans made during the height of the 1980s bubble economy when real estate prices soared is critical to that process.

Many of those loans have been all but worthless for years. Everyone has known that privately, but the nation and its banks have been unable to confront it publicly.

The loans have remained on the books at fantasy values. Banks burdened with loans that never will be repaid have been skittish about risking their capital in new lending, even though that could help revitalize the economy.

It is an immense problem -- involving hundreds of billions of yen -- that has been a drag on the Japanese economy for years.

That is now changing. Koizumi has pledged to force the banks to face facts and they are posting big losses, evidence that they are revaluing their portfolios. That will create some short-term pain, but it will eventually help Japan back to health.

Dallas Morning News

Stephen Flynn, an analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, has identified a central paradox of our times: The United States derives its prosperity from the same thing that makes it vulnerable to terrorist infiltration -- the free movement of goods, people and ideas. The country's great challenge is learning how to thwart the latter without surrendering the former.

The United States need not seal its borders against the world to prevent attacks as or more gruesome than those that occurred on Sept. 11. Mr. Flynn argues -- correctly, we think -- that the United States can both remain the world's pre-eminent trading nation and better insulate itself against terrorists who might try to smuggle weapons of mass destruction onto U.S. soil.

But to do that, the United States must manage its border more wisely. A new paradigm is needed, one that enlists technology and traders' cooperation to track cargoes from departure to arrival and to inspect and seal cargoes before they arrive at U.S. ports of entry. The current system presents the worst of both worlds: It is both slow and inefficient -- massive truck backups are not uncommon at the borders with Mexico and Canada -- and it offers abundant smuggling opportunities for potential terrorists.

Mr. Flynn's nightmare scenario involves a terrorist-controlled front company, which loads a nuclear bomb onto a container in Karachi, Pakistan. Destination: Newark, N.J., via Hong Kong. The container arrives in the United States at Long Beach, Calif., and is immediately loaded onto a railcar for the transcontinental trip. The bomb is detonated in a Chicago switching yard. ...

Nearly 500 million people, 127 million automobiles and 21 million import shipments entered the United States last year at 301 ports of entry. Unless the United States better manages the flow of people, vehicles and goods, catastrophe could strike again and the national consensus for the open trade and movement could disappear.

But the cure doesn't have to be worse than the disease. Better border management, along the lines suggested by Mr. Flynn, could help to preserve the country's prosperity while enhancing its security.

Des Moines Register

It appears the first bombing of Afghanistan might be with food, not explosives. The U.S. government is considering air-drops to avert what the United Nations calls a "humanitarian crisis of stunning proportions."

With millions on the edge of starvation, the poor people of Afghanistan are, in some respects, also victims of extremism, along with those who died in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

They have endured a 10-year Soviet invasion and endless civil war followed by drought and the bloody rule of the Taliban militia. ...

The human suffering in Afghanistan underscores the wisdom of President Bush's restraint in his approach to the Taliban, the ruling faction that is believed to be harboring Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization.

A massive air strike against Afghanistan in the heat of anger after Sept. 11 would have been the worst possible response. The terrorists' goal apparently is to rally the whole Islamic world against the United States. Massive bombing of Afghanistan, killing many innocent Afghans, would play into the terrorists' hands.

By making it clear that America is in a war against terrorists, not against the Islamic faith or the people of Muslim nations, President Bush has avoided the terrorists' trap. Still, the president has declared that regimes that harbor terrorists must suffer the same fate as terrorists themselves.

But how can the Taliban regime be punished without inflicting more misery on the Afghan people? As the war on terrorism is pursued beyond Afghanistan, the problem of distinguishing between terrorist-friendly regimes and innocent populace may occur in other places, too.

Secretary of State Colin Powell holds out hope that the Taliban eventually will comply with demands to eject the terrorists. If that doesn't happen, it's possible that rebel groups within Afghanistan could topple the Taliban - although there's no assurance the rebel groups would be a big improvement for the people of Afghanistan.

In the meantime, generous food and medical aid to refugee camps in neighboring countries and, as much as possible, within Afghanistan itself is not only morally right, it in the long run might be the best way to fight the war against terrorism.

Terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11 atrocities must be hunted down, but others who hate America will take their places. Ultimately, the war against terrorism can't be won with bombs. The decisive weapons will be food and other assistance that alleviate the conditions in which hatred arises.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin

The Sept. 11 terrorist attack on America did not send Hawaii officials scurrying to provide security where none existed. Instead, they say they shored up the security measures that were already in place. Their confidence that terrorists cannot easily make war on Hawaii is reassuring.

Ed Teixeira, the state's vice director of civil defense, says Hawaii has been preparing for a possible terrorist strike for more than two years. Without being specific -- for good reason -- he says protection of the state's infrastructure of transportation, water supply, electricity and other essential services is being increased. State agencies and public utilities have been working to lessen the state's vulnerability.

Officials downplay the potential of chemical or biological warfare through Hawaii's water supply, but they nevertheless have taken measures to protect reservoirs. Richard Spertzel, a microbiologist who led U.N. inspections teams in Iraq, calls threats to water supplies "mostly science fiction."

Hawaiian Electric has been security-conscious for many years, says company vice president Chuck Freedman, but has taken extra precautions in various ways since the East Coast attack. Likewise, Verizon has been "tightening what we already had in place" before the attacks, says spokeswoman Ann Nishida.

Perhaps the weakest security link not only in Hawaii but across the country has been at airports, where minimum-wage employees of low-bid companies hired by airline consortiums have been in charge of screening passengers. At President Bush's request, the nation's governors have called up the National Guard to bolster that security while the government prepares to oversee the security system if not take it over entirely.

"Right now, we're taking a look at strengthening our response at all levels of government and in many cases with the private sector," Teixeira told the Star-Bulletin's Diana Leone. "It's a challenge and I take it very seriously."

The public is asked to join in the effort by being observant and reporting suspicious behavior to law-enforcement authorities. Employees at utility companies and government offices are encouraged to report anything out of the ordinary.

Los Angeles Times

The recent contradictory accounts by Taliban officials about their dealings with Osama bin Laden are best viewed as tactics to delay a U.S.-led campaign to disrupt or destroy networks of terror. Washington rightly shows no sign of falling for the ruse.

On Sunday the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan said Bin Laden was under Afghan government control. That was a reversal from the envoy's previous statements that the regime did not know the whereabouts of the prime suspect in the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Or that Bin Laden might have left the country. Or that maybe the regime didn't know where he was but could reach him by messenger.

The latest version from the ambassador, Abdul Salam Zaeef, was that the Taliban had been guarding and protecting Bin Laden for more than two years, since the United Nations called for him to be surrendered for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Though the Taliban periodically claims only to be protecting a "guest," as required by Afghan hospitality, in reality it knows what it is sheltering. The U.S. government produced enough evidence in the embassy bombings that a federal jury in New York convicted four followers of Bin Laden last May. There are also ample grounds to doubt the truth of Zaeef's latest statement. In light of the financial support Bin Laden has given the Taliban since moving to Afghanistan in 1996, when he was expelled from Sudan, it's more likely he controls the Taliban than it controls him.

It is not surprising that the Taliban should try to delay U.S. retaliation for the Sept. 11 terror and offer negotiations perhaps, maybe, sometime in the future, about considering a handover of Bin Laden, though just as often it insists he will never be handed over. The regime should certainly be worried that many of its supporters would defect rather than fight both the United States and the Taliban's enemies within Afghanistan.

The Taliban also seems determined to keep the focus on Bin Laden and the U.S. alone, but the campaign against terror is about much more. The Al Qaeda network, which extends to an estimated 60 countries, needs to be crippled as well. The campaign may start in Afghanistan, but it cannot end there.

Miami Herald

Colombian President Andrés Pastrana must decide this week whether to continue failed peace talks with the FARC, his nation's largest leftist insurgency. Retreating from the peace platform that he long has advocated would not be easy. But he must seriously consider the message the FARC has sent in nearly three years of fruitless talks and increasingly ruthless guerrilla attacks on civilians.

If the FARC truly desires peace, it has a peculiar way of showing it. The FARC's proclivity for violence was shown most recently in incidents last weekend. They booby-trapped roads to block an aspiring presidential candidate from entering a demilitarized zone created for peace talks. And FARC guerrillas are believed responsible for the murder of Colombia's former minister of culture.

Mr. Pastrana ceded the demilitarized zone to the FARC in 1998 as an incentive for peace talks. Authorization for this sanctuary, which is about one-third the size of Florida, has been extended repeatedly since. Without another extension, the FARC zone will officially expire Oct. 7. Government troops would then be free to reenter the area and pursue FARC guerrillas.

The pressure never has been greater on Mr. Pastrana to dismantle what Colombians call ``Farclandia,'' and there is good reason. Using the lawless zone as a safe haven, the FARC has increased its recruits and profits from narco-trafficking and kidnapping. From here, the group stages attacks on civilians, trains new guerrillas, hides kidnap victims and cultivates coca. Its leaders, meanwhile, consistently have blocked the peace process.

As if the FARC's lack of good faith weren't evident enough, three reputed members of the Irish Republican Army were arrested after leaving the FARC zone in August. The three are suspected of training FARC guerrillas in urban-terrorism tactics. One IRA operative lived in Cuba, another safe haven for terrorists.

Now the murder of Consuelo Araújo, a popular former culture minister and the wife of Colombia's inspector general, could end the peace talks for good. Kidnapped last week by the FARC, she was found in a mountainous area with two bullets in her head on Saturday.

Describing her killing as a ``vile and cowardly act,'' President Pastrana vowed to reevaluate the peace process. ``The nation is tired of the kidnappings, the systematic attacks on civilians,'' he said.

Goodwill clearly isn't motivating the FARC. The group will wage dirty war as long as it can continue to finance itself through lawlessness and violence. U.S. military aid fortunately has bolstered the capabilities of Colombia's armed forces. Whatever Mr. Pastrana decides, U.S. aid improves the odds that the FARC and other insurgents will be forced to lay down arms -- whether at a negotiating table or in defeat.

New York Newsday

What's next? That's what Americans have been asking themselves at kitchen tables, water coolers and bus stops as they await developments in the fight against terrorism. Now President George W. Bush has just given us the answers, and they are good ones.

He has approved plans for covert operations and U.S. military aid to help Afghan opposition groups defeat the Taliban's forces and oust that repressive regime. At the same time, Bush has authorized $100 million in new relief aid to help tens of thousands of Afghan refugees ward off death by starvation or cold .

Both moves are critical in waging war against the terrorists sheltered by the Taliban, whose leaders now admit they not only know where Osama bin Laden is hiding but say they are actually "controlling," or perhaps protecting, him with their own security forces.

With this admission, the Taliban has made itself a transparent and unambiguous target for a military strike, whether it is carried out covertly by U.S. operatives or as part of an overt offensive by rebels of the Northern Alliance. It's best, in fact, if the assaults on the Taliban are done through, or with, Afghan rebels. This must not be seen as a U.S. campaign against Afghans but as a broader-based attack on a regime that has imposed a reign of terror on its own people and has given haven to international terrorists.

The new relief aid Bush wisely approved should reinforce the point that Washington is concerned about the effects of military moves on Afghan civilians and is doing all it can to alleviate their impact. The aid should also ease the burden on neighboring nations, such as Pakistan, where refugees have fled.

These moves may not satisfy American hunger for a big, soul-stirring strike against terror. They promise no tank battles or nighttime missile strikes lighting up the skies above Kabul and TV screens across the United States. Aside from smashing the (very likely empty) headquarters of the Ministry of Vice and Virtue, Taliban's secret police, bombing Kabul will do little more than break rubble into smaller piles. Kabul is already in ruins from 20 years of war. The Taliban has few military targets of any value. Eliminating key Taliban or terror leaders will be the quiet job of commandos or assassins.

Americans are an impatient, results-oriented lot. We like action and we don't want to wait too long for it. This time, though, we'll have to learn patience.

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