What U.S. newspapers are saying

Oct. 3, 2001 at 12:28 PM
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New York Times

It is important to demonstrate to the world that America stands for justice in its response to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. By sharing some of its evidence linking Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network Al Qaida to those attacks with foreign leaders this week, the Bush administration has honored fundamental American values. A portion of this material should be made public as well. Secretary of State Colin Powell was right to promise such a presentation of evidence last month. It would help build stronger international support for the campaign against terrorism.

The information that the Bush administration has begun circulating to top officials of NATO, the United Nations and selected foreign governments can allay concerns -- widely held in the Islamic world -- that the United States will indiscriminately select targets for military attack. Washington's goal should be to persuade fair-minded people that whatever retaliation President Bush eventually orders is aimed at appropriate targets. Yesterday NATO's secretary-general, Lord Robertson, described the evidence he had seen linking Mr. bin Laden to the attacks as "clear and compelling."

Sensitive American intelligence and investigative information on the bin Laden network and the protection and support it has received from Afghanistan's ruling Taliban movement need not be made public. Maintaining secrecy about operatives still in the field and covert monitoring systems used to track Al Qaida activities is vital to protecting Americans from future attacks and should not be compromised. But it may be possible to declassify some relevant intelligence information and combine it with evidence that is already public to make a credible case against the bin Laden group and the Taliban. ...

Demonstrating such connections would help shaky allies like Pakistan's leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, contain whatever domestic political backlash might result from opening Pakistani military bases to American troops and warplanes. It would also make it easier for Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan to participate actively in the anti-terror coalition. Most important, it would advertise America's continuing commitment to justice, even in the face of a murderous terrorist attack on its own soil.

Chicago Tribune

What began as an overreaching anti-terrorist plan by the Bush administration that encroached on constitutional guarantees, is gradually--and properly--being trimmed by Congress into a bill that allows decisive action while protecting civil liberties.

Give equal credit to the American system of checks and balances--and the new spirit of bipartisan cooperation in Washington after last month's terrorist nightmare.

Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft is vigorously lobbying Congress for sweeping new powers to conduct electronic surveillance and detain non-citizens suspected of terrorist activities. He would like to exercise some of these broad powers without judicial review.

The terrorist crisis rules out business as usual, but many of Ashcroft's proposals go too far. So much so that they have drawn sharp criticism from the political left and the right.

Ashcroft's plan to detain any legal or illegal immigrant--indefinitely and merely on suspicion of involvement with terrorism or terrorist organizations--clearly violates basic constitutional guarantees of due process. Granting the attorney general carte blanche to write his own definitions of "terrorist" and "terrorist organization" would vest excessive power on the Justice Department.

Elements of this plan, though, make sense. Ashcroft's proposal to allow "roving wiretaps" on people rather than telephone numbers reflects the reality of the age of cellular phones. Lifting the statute of limitations on terrorist crimes also appears justified. ...

Ashcroft is growing increasingly frustrated with the pace of negotiations--and the prospect of his proposals being whittled down in Congress. He wants them to pass quickly.

The United States indeed needs to mobilize--and stay mobilized--to fight terrorists. But Congress seems to be moving with good speed toward legislation that will give the Justice Department the powers it needs without forever eroding the rights of individuals.

Dallas Morning News

Long before terrorists attacked New York and Northern Virginia, their sympathizers waged a psychological war for the minds of Muslims in the Middle East and South and Central Asia. They shrewdly used radio to spread hatred of the United States, democracy, secularism, Israel, Muslim moderates and other perceived enemies.

The United States has not adequately addressed the challenge. It has not done enough to correct the untruths and malicious rhetoric. If the United States is to win the twilight war against global terrorism, it must, and fast. Every day that it fails to respond, more vulnerable minds fall prey to people who twist Islam to justify mass and indiscriminate murder.

One of the best weapons in the U.S. government's informational arsenal is Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which serves as a surrogate domestic radio for countries that lack a free press. During the Cold War, it helped to counter the Soviet Union's anti-Western propaganda; it helped to preserve the morale of the captive peoples of Central and Eastern Europe. (Voice of America is a good resource, too. However, its mission is different: to be a reliable source of news and to explain in editorials U.S. policies.)

But Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, at Congress' behest, stopped broadcasting to Afghanistan in the country's two principal languages -- Pashto and Dari -- in 1992, three years after the Soviet Union's occupation ended. Some northern Afghans can hear and understand the radio's broadcasts in Tajik, Kazakh, Uzbek, Turkmen and Kyrgyz. But Afghan speakers of those Central Asian languages are a minority; moreover, they generally already oppose Afghanistan's Taliban government. Congress should waste no time in restoring funding for a Radio Free Afghanistan in Pashto and Dari. ...

Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban leader, recently said that Afghanistan must continue to harbor Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the attacks, out of respect for "Afghan tradition." He accused the United States of preventing Muslims from practicing their faith and suggested that suicide attacks could be acceptable behavior for good Muslims. The Voice of America condemned those lies in an editorial. But that is not response enough. For Afghans who are inclined to dispute such rantings, the United States -- in the apt words of Nathan Kingsley, a former Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty vice president -- needs to "give them the intellectual weapons they need to debate with their friends and neighbors and cohorts."

It must be said: In the psychological war against terrorism, the United States is losing. But the final outcome is far from settled. The onslaught of lies, no less than the attacks on U.S. soil, must not stand.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The evidence that Osama bin Laden and his al Qaida terrorist network were involved in, if not directly responsible for, the murderous attacks of Sept. 11 is growing daily, according to Attorney General John Ashcroft and other law enforcement authorities. On Tuesday in Brussels, U.S. officials briefed NATO's ruling council on the case against the Saudi fugitive, who is believed to be hiding in the mountain caves of Afghanistan. Lord Robertson, NATO's secretary-general, found the evidence convincing: "All roads lead to al Qaida and pinpoint Osama bin Laden as having been involved in it," he said.

Robertson's briefing was eyes-only, as it should be, and the Bush administration has backed away from a Sept. 24 pledge by Secretary of State Colin Powell to release a "white paper" with evidence linking bin Laden and his group to the attacks. The problem, administration officials maintain, is that most of the dossier against bin Laden is classified; disclosing it, they say, might very well reveal information on how investigators assembled their evidence and provide valuable guidance to the terrorists on how to frustrate future efforts.

No one in his right mind would argue for full disclosure by the U.S. government. Nothing should be revealed that either tips terrorists to investigative methods or puts American military personnel and espionage operatives in harm's way or jeopardizes their effectiveness.

But a carefully sanitized, point-by-point detailing of the case against these killers might prove useful as the administration moves closer to visible military action. The target audience for this is not the Taliban, the ruling fanatics in Afghanistan who have regularly demanded that the United States produce evidence against bin Laden -- and who would reject smoking-gun proof even if it were hand-delivered. In fact, bin Laden already is under indictment in America for his involvement in the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.

So forget the Taliban: As Pakistan's president has said, its days are numbered. No, the bigger audience for U.S. evidence are the hundreds of millions of Muslims who practice their great religion in peace and who are appalled at how terrorists have perverted it to their own ends. President Bush has said early and often that the United States is waging a campaign against terrorism, not an assault on Islam. Presenting screened evidence in advance of America's military response, even if much must go unsaid, would help to underscore the point.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

It appears the waiting is ending. The conflict draws near as the United States, with help from many friends, undertakes the hard and dangerous work of rooting out those who wage a war of terror. It begins but will not end with Osama bin Laden, his associates and the Taliban of Afghanistan that gives him sanctuary.

Do not expect a replay of the Bernard-Shaw-narrated attacks on Baghdad during the Gulf War. Afghanistan is not Iraq. This conflict is likely to be sporadic, narrowly targeted and mostly invisible to all but the combatants. British Prime Minister Tony Blair sounded the clarion call Tuesday in a final warning to the Taliban. "Surrender the terrorists," he said, "or surrender power."

Blair reiterated that the goal isn't revenge, but the "destruction of the machinery of terrorism wherever it is found." Attacks on the Taliban, he said, would be "proportionate, targeted" and would seek hard to avoid civilian casualties. Blair has it just right.

The United States has a powerful obligation to strike. A national government's paramount responsibility, its fundamental reason for existence, is to defend its territory against attack. The term "national defense" can be grossly misapplied to many situations, but this is not one of them. Following the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, national defense begins with eliminating the "machinery of terrorism" that wrought such destruction. It includes, too, efforts to prevent further attacks. ...

The final preparatory pieces in the military drama came with the Taliban acknowledgment that Osama bin Laden remains in some sense under Taliban protection and will not be given up, and with acceptance by NATO that the United States had presented compelling evidence of Bin Laden's role in the attacks, the way was cleared for military action.

However, there is a wider need for discussion of the evidence against bin Laden. With due regard for the importance of protecting intelligence sources and methods, the Bush administration still must find a way to present a public indictment of bin Laden and his organization. The American people need it, and the people of the world need it.

Not since the Civil War have American civilians truly shared with the armed forces the risks inherent in combat. We have no doubt all will acquit themselves well.

Washington Post

Though the Bush administration is rightly focusing almost all its attention abroad on preparing a war against terrorism, it was good to see the reappearance this week of a veteran State Department diplomat, James Pardew, in Macedonia, the latest Balkan country to be afflicted by ethnic battles. A rare diplomatic success story has been somewhat bumpily but steadily taking shape in that southeast corner of Europe -- one that offers a good model of European-American cooperation in the post-Sept. 11 world.

Macedonia, like neighboring Kosovo, is divided between ethnic Slavs and ethnic Albanians, though in Macedonia the Slavs are a majority. As in Kosovo an ethnic Albanian insurgent force appeared, prompting a heavy-handed response by the Slav-controlled military and government. But Macedonia is a democracy, and Albanians have their own political parties; thanks to that and an aggressive diplomatic intervention by Western governments, a peace accord was signed in August. NATO troops, including some Americans, deployed to oversee an arms collection from the Albanian rebels, and last month the program was concluded after the insurgents surrendered more than 3,400 weapons and announced the disbanding of their forces. ...

So far, at least, Macedonia is demonstrating how a close European-American partnership can yield real results in a part of the world that has bedeviled the West for a decade. Now policymakers need to begin thinking about answers for the larger questions of the Balkans, such as how the political aspirations of Kosovo's Albanians will be addressed, and how stable governments and borders can be created in the former Yugoslav republics of Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro. After Sept. 11, solving such festering regional problems has become more rather than less important; Muslim extremists have tried for some time to establish footholds in the Balkans. Europeans may need to take on still more responsibility as operations against terrorism are undertaken in Central Asia. But as in Macedonia, U.S. participation will remain essential.

Washington Times

Back in August 1998, as he prepared to inform the nation that he'd lied when he said he'd never had sex with Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton was suddenly faced with a much more serious crisis. Terrorists had just killed more than 300 people in bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. So, Mr. Clinton took time out from his meetings with lawyers and spin-control specialists and declared that he was really -- really -- mad about terrorism. "No matter how long it takes . . . or where it takes us, we will pursue terrorists until the cases are solved and justice is done," Mr. Clinton declared.

Several weeks later, Mr. Clinton decided to take action -- sort of -- getting the military to fire 75 cruise missiles at suspected terrorist training camps run by Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan (bin Laden escaped unharmed) and destroying the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, which the Clinton administration said was really a nerve gas factory. "But it turns out somebody goofed," William Safire of The New York Times subsequently wrote. "The plant really was making medicine, and we are now quietly paying the Sudanese compensation."

Today, more than three years and 6,000 deaths later, Americans are paying dearly for Mr. Clinton's Clouseau-like war on terrorism. And, now, in the wake of the horrific events of Sept. 11, even Clinton administration officials who were supposedly in charge of this campaign against terrorism have come out of the closet to admit they did a pretty lousy job. ...

"In hindsight, (the administration's effort) wasn't enough, and anyone involved in policy would have to admit that," acknowledged Nancy Soderberg, a senior National Security Council aide.

Sen. John Kerry, a staunch ally of the administration, says that "it is entirely possible" that the Lewinsky scandal was "a distraction" for Mr. Clinton, which may have undermined U.S. efforts to target bin Laden's terror network. The terrifying events of Sept. 11 might have happened regardless of Mr. Clinton's legal and personal problems. But it is undoubtedly true that much of the time Mr. Clinton spent fighting to save his own political hide would have been far better spent fighting the bin Ladens of the world.

Salt Lake Deseret News

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America, the 2002 Winter Games take on added significance as a symbol of world peace and a testament to the mettle of the host nation.

While security has always been at the forefront of Games organizers' concerns, the recent attacks on New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania and subplots revealed in the ongoing investigations suggest that Games organizers and the federal government alike must guard against every conceivable vulnerability. That, plainly stated, will require a much larger financial commitment on the part of the federal government.

Under recently revised security plans, it is proposed that the Salt Lake City-County Building be designated as an Olympic venue. As a non-sports venue, the city office building and Washington Square would be surrounded by a chain-link fence and another interior fence with magnetometer and bag checks for everyone. City employees would likely require special credentials to enter the City-County Building.

With 5,000 people expected to be on Washington Square at any particular time and some 15,000 expected each day, it is prudent to boost security as much as possible. Whether that will require designating the City-County Building and square as a non-sports venue, is an issue that deserves careful consideration. A venue designation would ensure a greater level of security, which, in light of recent events, would be a prudent investment.

But we are also aware that the Salt Lake Organizing Committee must balance its books. Greater security will increase the costs of staging the 2002 Games. We hope federal officials appreciate the now greater pressures SLOC officials are under, both in terms of public safety and global politics, to host successful Games. More substantial federal participation in the Games should accompany that greater understanding.

As the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command, bipartisan congressional leaders, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Secret Service consider the city's request for venue status this week, we trust that this appeal, as well as others for additional federal support, will be met with a clear understanding of the job at hand.

Because this page concurs with International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge who says the Salt Lake Games must proceed because the Olympics are "an answer to the present violence and should not be a victim of violence," we implore members of Congress and other federal officials to provide adequate resources to help ensure that the Games are safe and successful.

Miami Herald

Haiti's government should show that it is open to democracy.

While its political parties continue to bicker, Haiti's prospects for future stability continue to slide inexorably toward the abyss. The Organization of American States' attempts to broker an end to the downward spiral is the best hope of reversing the decline.

Yet there is little chance for improvement without the engagement of and assistance from the U.S. government. The United States can help create opportunities for Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to make improvements and rebuild trust, including repairing Haiti's dismal human-rights record.

Sanctions alone won't help lift Haiti from poverty and misery. As it is, Mr. Aristide's government remains paralyzed. It desperately needs the hundreds of millions in international aid that has been frozen. The Haitian government must show that it is opening itself to democratic processes if it hopes to get help from the international community.

There were good reasons for the withdrawal from Haiti of a U.N. mission this year, of U.S. training programs for Haitian police and its justice system in 2000 and of OAS monitors in 1999. But in the void left behind, Haiti's human-rights situation has only worsened.

A report last week by Amnesty International describes the dangers now posed by a dysfunctional justice system, politically motivated abuses and attacks on freedom of speech. While the repression hasn't sunk to the brutal low that followed the 1991 military coup, there are "extremely worrying trends that, if not reversed, will lead to even graver violations of human rights," the report says. According to Amnesty, the improvements that followed Haiti's return to constitutional rule in 1994 have been eroded. ...

Meanwhile, irregularities in last year's Senate elections continue to cripple Haiti's political fortunes. OAS efforts have come close, but haven't yet produced a solution. Mr. Aristide's government must accept that the opposition has a legitimate voice in the political system. The opposition, too, must accept that Mr. Aristide is their democratically elected president -- by a big margin.

Yesterday's announcement that the OAS has created a new Group of Friends on Haiti, which includes the United States, is a hopeful sign. Better for all to stay engaged in order to avert what could become human catastrophe.

Los Angeles Times

The war on terrorism is showing similarities to the Cold War, with anti-terrorism replacing anti-communism. After a decade-long hiatus, the United States is back in the business of supporting rebel groups and making use of authoritarian regimes such as those of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. This time, there's a chance to reach a better balance between means and ends.

A U.S.-brokered accord has already brought together a fragile anti-Taliban force. It includes the Northern Alliance rebels and the former monarch, 86-year-old Mohammed Zahir Shah, in European exile for 28 years. His supporters cannot be of military help. The apparent aim of the Bush administration is to let the rebels carry the load of ousting a weakened Taliban and tracking down Osama bin Laden and his followers inside Afghanistan.

The Northern Alliance has its price: It has asked for $50 million a month in aid. Its representatives state that the United States will not be able to track down Bin Laden without rebel assistance, which may be true. They also state that Afghanistan would be a much more tolerant country under alliance leadership, which is more questionable. The Bush administration has little choice for now but to back the once-marginal Northern Alliance. For the long term, the administration must not walk away and let rebel factions battle it out, as happened in Afghanistan after 1989, with dire results. The alliance, which was dislodged from power by the Taliban in 1996, is distrusted by many Afghans and is composed of minority ethnic groups, predominantly Uzbeks and Tajiks. Supporters of the elderly king are politically weak, but they offer representation of the dominant Pushtuns and are respected. ...

The Northern Alliance and the former monarch have agreed to convene a 120-member Supreme Council for National Unity in Rome this month in order to create a transitional government. A U.N.-sponsored conference could take place once the Taliban has been ousted, with the aim of preventing further outside aid to any single faction.

There is no guarantee that Afghanistan would be more peaceful or better governed with the Taliban gone. However, attempts to bring together disparate opposition groups are the right alternative to reckless long-term arming of rebel forces.

Kansas City Star

U.S. House members have made a good start this week on the job of approving reasonable anti-terrorism legislation that won't trample American civil liberties.

Today the House Judiciary Committee could vote on its package of anti-terrorist proposals. A Senate committee is expected to bring its own bill up for a vote next week. Both panels are making significant changes in the proposals that the administration recommended shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee gave initial support to expanded wiretapping powers for law-enforcement authorities, who could get permission to wiretap all phones used by a particular terrorism suspect, including cell phones. This is a reasonable change. Currently, law enforcement authorities can get permission to wiretap only specific telephone numbers.

The House panel placed two-year sunset provisions on parts of its anti-terrorism package rather than making the changes permanent, as had been requested by the Bush administration. The sunset provisions are a good idea because they will encourage Congress and the country to review how well these laws are actually working out.

In another important change, the House committee proposed that non-citizens suspected of terrorist acts could be held for up to seven days without being charged with a crime, up from the current limit of two days. This could make it easier for authorities to derail terrorist plots.

Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft, however, went too far in suggesting that the government should be able to detain non-citizens indefinitely. Even visitors to this country should not be tossed in jail for months on end without ever being charged. That smacks of how oppressive, undemocratic governments operate. ...

Some lawmakers have also added important context to this work by pointing out that federal agencies in many cases have failed to use existing laws well enough to battle terrorism.

Prosecutors do need new tools to protect the country from more terrorist attacks, some potentially even worse than what happened on Sept. 11. But Americans also need protection from unnecessary infringements on their privacy and legal protections. Congress must continue to carefully balance these competing goals.

(Compiled by United Press International)

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