What U.S. newspapers are saying

Oct. 5, 2001 at 11:55 AM
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New York Times

With bloodshed between Israelis and Palestinians now seen as an obstacle to enlisting Arab states in an antiterrorism coalition, the Bush administration's interest in settling the Mideast conflict seems suddenly more urgent. That is a promising turn. But the administration must be careful that, in its eagerness to reach a settlement, it does not tilt unfairly toward the Palestinians simply to facilitate its coalition-building.

President Bush's reference this week to the possibility of a future Palestinian state could prove constructive -- provided his words are part of an evenhanded American effort to damp down the violence and encourage renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The administration must not get pushed into leaning too heavily on Israel without maintaining corresponding pressure on the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, to enforce an effective cease-fire. But if Mr. Bush maintains a balanced approach, greater American involvement could lead the way back to the negotiating table.

There is nothing wrong, or even novel, about an American president holding out a long-term vision of Palestinian statehood in the context of an eventual peace agreement that guarantees Israel's security. In doing so Tuesday, President Bush went no further than Bill Clinton did near the end of his term or than Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, did as recently as last month.

Palestinian statehood is still a sensitive subject in Israel, but the taboos against openly discussing it have loosened considerably since the Oslo peace negotiations began eight years ago. The ultimate aim of those negotiations has always been the establishment of a sovereign and independent Palestinian political entity, whether or not it is officially referred to as a Palestinian state.

But those negotiations, suspended since early this year, are unlikely to resume while armed Palestinians continue to attack and kill Israelis on an almost daily basis. Despite the cease-fire declared by Mr. Arafat last month, a Palestinian terrorist killed three Israelis at a bus station yesterday, just one day after a fatal attack by Palestinian gunmen on a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip.

Perhaps Mr. Arafat cannot impose his will on every would-be terrorist. But he and his police must do a better job of preventing attacks launched from Palestinian-ruled areas like Gaza and must arrest and detain those responsible for anti-Israeli violence. Israel must also exercise restraint. Despite cease-fires declared on both sides, more than 25 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops over the past nine days.

With neither side apparently able to break the cycle of violence on its own, Washington has a duty to become more actively involved. Invoking distant visions of Palestinian statehood can be part of that effort. But the more urgent need is to find ways to help make the latest cease-fire effective and lasting.

Christian Science Monitor

The US call for all nations to join in battling global terrorism was like switching on a giant magnet. Iron needles are lining up quickly, either for or against.

In Israel, the needle is spinning. Just last year, Israel was trying to upgrade itself as a closer US ally. But since the Sept. 11 attacks - which were not unlike what Israelis live with almost every week - some of Israel's actions appear to many as if it doesn't fully support the US campaign. (See story, page 2.)

Unlike European allies of the US in NATO, Israel cannot offer military help. That would scare away Arab nations to this global cause. But the US does hope the hard-line government of Ariel Sharon will switch from its hawkish stance toward Palestinians to something more dovish. It also doesn't seem to want to submit to Israel's wish to add the militant Islamic groups that regularly attack Israel to the US list of global terrorists.

Perhaps that's why President Bush restated the US conditional support for a Palestinian state a few days ago. His timing hinted that the US might be more evenhanded in the Mideast. Unfortunately, by so starkly outlining an expected outcome for peace, Mr. Bush undercuts the long US role of being only a mediator, not a director, in the peace process.

Perhaps because Israel now is more aware of its current odd alignment with the US, Israel's foreign minister met with Palestinian officials yesterday to talk about patching up a shattered cease-fire. The US may take that as a sign that Israel really does want to act more like an ally.

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Objectivity is an important tool when there's news to be covered.

Using it tends to make stories more balanced, more fair and more accurate. Using it means allowing the facts to speak for themselves.

That may sound easy enough, but it isn't. Every reporter of the news is a human being who brings unique, personal experiences to every news event. To a great extent, the good ones can detach from that personal vantage point enough to produce a credible, accurate accounting of the facts.

But sometimes, a reporter strives so hard for objectivity that he ends up ignoring or denying essential truths. That error becomes far more grave when such confusion arises in the mind of the chief of a global wire service.

Stephen Jukes of Reuters sent an edict to his minions last week, barring them from describing the World Trade Center's attackers as terrorists.

"We all know that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter," he admonished them.

We would argue, though, that there seems to be less about this world that "we all know" with every passing day. And in any case, the timid relativism Jukes applies to the cold-blooded slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians is beyond stunning.

If accuracy in reporting matters at all, any Reuters copy that finds its way into this newspaper should undergo a little editing: Those who perpetrated the monstrous acts of Sept. 11 most certainly were terrorists, as were those who sheltered them, funded them, plotted with them or aided them in any other way. And they should be called terrorists.

Those who died in their attacks most certainly were innocent victims. They should be called victims.

Excusers, apologists and appeasers have been working ceaselessly to make the evildoers appear innocent and the innocent appear evil. But even objectivity can't stretch that far. Such a leap requires a willful blindness to the facts.

Jukes' refusal to face the truth and allow his service to report it dishonors our profession, even as he insults your intelligence.

Denver Post

As America still grieves for the thousands who perished in the Sept. 11 attacks, two countries - Russia and Israel - that mourned with us have been hit by a new tragedy with the crash of a chartered airliner in the Black Sea.

The Tupolev 154 airliner belonging to Sibir Airlines had 76 people aboard, including a crew of 12 and 64 mostly Israeli passengers who were headed to Novosibirsk in Siberia for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. All aboard are believed dead.

The cause of the explosion and crash yesterday that sent the chartered Russian jetliner plunging into the sea 120 miles from the Russian coastal resort of Sochi remains unknown.

Ukrainian and Russian armed forces were conducting military exercises in the Crimea area of Ukraine, including the live-firing of surface-to-air missiles at drone target aircraft.

A U.S. Defense Department source told The Associated Press that the airliner may have been hit accidentally by a stray missile, but the Ukrainian military reported that all the missiles fired in the Cape Onuk area of the Crimea, about 160 miles away from the crash, had been accounted for and none had come close to the airliner.

Russian President Valdimir Putin earlier yesterday had raised the specter that the plane was downed by terrorists.

The firing exercise involved several types of surface-to-air missiles, some of which lack the range to have hit the Sibir jetliner. However, at least one type of missile fired - the S-125 - reportedly has sufficient range.

Whether the crash was caused by a terrible accident or by terrorist action remains to be learned.

Nonetheless, this latest air tragedy underscores the need for greater international cooperation to combat the threat of terrorist attacks on global civil aviation.

International air travel has made possible people-to-people contacts among citizens of countries that once may have been sworn enemies and has helped build bridges of friendship around the globe, break down barriers and misconceptions, and foster peace and understanding.

And where there is understanding and respect, the shadowy practitioners of terrorism are less likely to spread their hatred and venom.

We extend our sympathy and condolences to Russia and Israel on the terrible human losses the two countries have suffered.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Ten days ago, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the government would "put before the world, the American people, a persuasive case" linking Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network to the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. Powell has since backed away from that promise, instead providing evidence supporting the case to officials of friendly nations but withholding it from the American public. That has resulted in questions about U.S. credibility.

No one expects a detailed explanation that could divulge sources of information and covert U.S. operations. But Americans -- and people throughout the world -- are anxiously awaiting a summary of why the government has concluded that the man President Bush described as "the prime suspect" is indeed the culprit. Patriotic fervor should not be interpreted as blind faith.

In an interview with The New York Times, Powell danced around the question of what information he conveyed in cables to American embassies for oral briefings to foreign officials. He described it variously as a "solid" case, "pretty good information" and "more than circumstantial" evidence that "leaves no doubt" that "all paths lead to al-Qaida and bin Laden."

Americans will have to weigh the undisclosed information by how foreign officials react. NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson called it "clear and compelling proof" that bin Laden was behind the attacks. An allied diplomat told the Times that the information "was descriptive and narrative" but not suitable for legal proceedings. A spokesman for the Pakistan Foreign Ministry, however, said the United States hadn't provided conclusive proof to Pakistani president Gen. Pervez Musharraf of bin Laden's connection.

Powell suggested that the public will learn about evidence "coming out in the press and other ways." News accounts so far about bin Laden's links to the attacks have been sketchy. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has said that at least one of the suspected hijackers was connected with al-Qaida, but he offered no evidence.

The information given to foreign officials reportedly includes intercepted communications and information about bin Laden's involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, last year's bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen and the 1998 attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa.

A summary of the evidence pointing to bin Laden's connection to the Sept. 11 attacks should be provided to the public without jeopardizing U.S. intelligence or military operations.

Houston Chronicle

The Voice of America brushed aside State Department objections and broadcast in several languages a report this past week that included an interview with Afghanistan's Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, who is accused of harboring terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden.

It was the right decision.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said last Monday that interviews with Omar should not be carried over the U.S. government-supported station. "We don't think that the head of the Taliban belongs on this radio station," he said

Rep. Edward Royce, R-Calif., a member of the House International Relations Committee, backed the State Department. The VOA, Royce said, "is the only means to communicate with the people of Afghanistan. We do this with taxpayer-financed broadcasts in order to explain to a people why we are fighting. We need to tell them what our position is, not amplify theirs."

That analysis is emotionally appealing, but somewhat simplistic.

Yes, the VOA is supposed to be, as its name indicates, the voice of this nation. But it also has a role to play in the struggle against terrorism.

Media can reach where bombs cannot, pointed out one former diplomat who has worked closely with the VOA. The informational/psychological reach of its broadcasts can be an effective tool for enlightening and persuading others to the U.S. point of view.

However, its credibility has to be intact in order to accomplish that. To the extent that the VOA is seen or believed to be colored or muzzled by political manipulation, its credibility is diminished.

Interviews with the likes of Omar are indeed distasteful. But as part of the VOA's charter-mandated task of disseminating the whole truth, it remains a more credible "weapon" in the American arsenal for this most unusual kind of war.

Los Angeles Times

At a time when most European nations are cracking down on terrorists, Italy is poised to let more potential mass murderers slip through the cracks. A bill the Italian Parliament passed to make it more difficult to use evidence from other countries against criminal defendants in Italy fails the smell test because it is clear that one of its beneficiaries would be the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. A closer look shows the legislation is even worse--another likely beneficiary would be the terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Berlusconi is prime minister for a second time, still one of the world's wealthiest men and still one of Italy's most investigated. Berlusconi and an associate have been charged with bribing judges in Rome to win a favorable ruling on a business transaction before he became prime minister. He has insisted he is innocent and that the charges are political. But the legislation passed this week would make it more difficult to use evidence from Swiss banks against him. The legislation, sponsored by allies of the prime minister, would also make it more difficult to use evidence already gathered from other nations in a case involving five North African terrorism suspects who are believed to have links to Bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist organization. Opponents of the legislation point out that while other U.S. allies in the fight against terror are promising increased cooperation, Italy is threatening to make it tougher to track financial transactions across borders.

The bill imposes requirements for seals of approval, authenticated translations and various procedures that would tax the ability of a legal genius but bring a smile to a terrorist or other criminal. It would be bad enough at any time, but it's especially odious now. Italy's presidents rarely decline to sign a measure passed by Parliament. This legislation should be a glaring exception, and the president shouldn't hesitate to reject it.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune

No doubt about it: America is playing host to some unwelcome guests. More than 1,000 people with terrorist ties are thought to be living in the United States. Tracking them down and crippling their murderous network is essential. U.S. law enforcers need new tools to be about the task. That means Congress must act -- and soon.

But soon shouldn't mean the day before yesterday, as Attorney General John Ashcroft seems to think. Though Ashcroft's bulky antiterrorism bill arrived on Capitol Hill barely a week ago, he's already "deeply concerned" that Congress hasn't yet passed it. Senate Republican leader Trent Lott has seconded the lament, hinting that Democrats who insist on deliberating before voting will be to blame if another attack occurs.

Those gratuitous remarks aren't likely to speed things up. They trifle with lawmakers' affirmative duty to think before they act -- a duty that looms especially large when they're asked to rewrite huge swatches of long-standing law. Ashcroft's bill is just that sort: It calls for loosening federal limits on wiretapping, surveillance and detention without trial. Its vast sweep has spurred bipartisan anxiety about snubbing civil liberties, and bipartisan work on a compromise bill.

The work can continue apace if Ashcroft and his fellow antagonists will back off. It's a tricky business to strike a balance between police power and personal freedom, but Congress is laboring to find the proper fulcrum: The alternative bill devised by the House Judiciary Committee, for instance, saves Ashcroft's plan to allow "roving wiretaps" for cell-phone-using terror suspects -- but requires rigorous judicial review. Leaders in the Senate are mulling other modifications -- including a nix on Ashcroft's plan to allow the government virtually limitless power to detain legal immigrants without trial. The counterproposals could be the saving of Ashcroft's antiterrorism package.

As Americans survey the wreckage of Sept. 11, they're plainly ready to make sacrifices for safety. Rooting out terrorism, they know, requires a boost in police power. But it doesn't require a police state or anything like it. And it doesn't require a rush job. Congress seems to be keeping these facts well in mind, wisely resisting White House pressure to leap before looking. It must persist in its admirable quest.

Washington Post

The rethinking of international relations following the terrorist attacks is already extending to foreign aid policy. The Bush administration has rescheduled $379 million of Pakistan's bilateral debt, partly to reward it for assistance in the effort against Osama bin Laden, and yesterday it announced $320 million in new humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan and its neighbors. Meanwhile the attacks of Sept. 11 have served as a reminder of the danger posed to a rich superpower by large regions of the world mired in resentful poverty. The link between foreign aid and the national interest has seldom been clearer.

This should prompt a welcome stock-taking of America's development aid budget, which has fallen from 0.45 percent of GDP in 1965 to just 0.11 percent now. A Congress newly focused on security ought to see expanded foreign assistance as a tool in the nation's arsenal. Humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, for example, has a strategic as well as moral function: It demonstrates that the United States is at war with terrorists rather than with Muslims, and reduces the danger that military strikes will produce a new groundswell of local sympathy for anti-American jihad. In the same way, debt relief helps Pakistan's cooperative government face down the Islamic radicals who despise the idea of siding with the United States against Osama bin Laden.

Quick financial assistance to U.S. allies is not the only priority, however. The Bush administration also needs to step up its support for the long-term fight against poverty. There is no simple link between this effort and the war against terrorism: Hatred of America flourishes in rich countries as well as poor ones. But by and large, growing economies are less likely to be breeding grounds for anti-American extremism. And American power is less likely to be resented if it is seen to promote poverty-reduction and other humanitarian causes.

The trouble is that the goal of fighting poverty may conflict with the urge to assist loyal allies, because money handed out for geopolitical reasons is often wasted. Pakistan, for example, became the third-largest recipient of development aid when it was a Cold War partner, yet its economy remains a mess. The dictator of Zaire, now the Congo, also received generous assistance, and his personal fortune was at one time said to equal his country's national debt. Aid succeeds in reducing poverty when it is handed out according to the quality of recipients' economic policies rather than their strategic usefulness.

The United States therefore needs to distinguish between two kinds of foreign aid. If it rewards allies with money, it must be clear that it is buying cooperation rather than poverty reduction. Meanwhile, if it is serious about fighting poverty, it must allow aid dollars to flow without geopolitical factors dictating their direction. A good way to insulate this second kind of aid from politics is to channel more of it through the World Bank, which lends according to technocratic criteria. Though the bank is not perfect, there is evidence that aid from its soft-loan window is about 50 percent more effective in lifting people out of poverty than government aid programs, and about 60 percent more effective than the bank's own programs were at the start of the 1990s.

Negotiations to replenish the bank's soft-loan window are underway. For every dollar the United States commits, other donors will contribute $4. The Bush administration should be ready to increase the $800 million a year the nation currently gives to the bank's soft-loan window. And it should not undermine the bank's poverty-fighting efforts by leaning on it to fund allies.

Washington Times

War planning proceeds in secrecy here and overseas. As the stress in the Taliban spokesmen's faces shows, military action draws nearer as each day passes. The "fronts" in this war -- financial, diplomatic and military -- will all be fought in unusual ways and places. The military front will take us into countries more used to war than peace. If this war is to be won, it has to be won on terms that change these nations' cultural acceptance of war as a way of life.

President Bush has many military tools at his disposal. So far, four U.S. Navy carrier battle groups, packing the punch of hundreds of fighter-bombers, battalions of Marines and other assets, are either there or on the way. Air Force B-52 "Buffs" have been positioned on the island of Diego Garcia, about 3,000 miles south of Iraq, about two pots of coffee in flying time from Kabul. Army airborne units and other forces will undoubtedly be committed later.

The decisions being made about where American forces can operate from will shape what comes next. Some allies in the Middle East -- Turkey among them -- are providing bases from which our military will operate. That our forces can operate from those places does not relieve the need for other, closer locations. Airborne troop assaults require closer basing, and shorter logistics chains make success on the ground more likely. Saudi Arabia -- high on Osama bin Laden's enemies list -- is ducking its responsibility by denying our use of the bases there that were built for the Saudis' defense. Courageous decisions such as those made by Turkey make the job easier and decrease the probable number of American casualties.

This war will be conducted in phases. First, reconnaissance is being done by satellite and by special forces on the ground in Afghanistan. Soon, aircraft and cruise missiles, along with surgical strikes by American and British special forces, will target the Taliban and try to capture or kill bin Laden. These strikes may not be conducted solely against targets in Afghanistan.

Later, there will be a concerted air and ground campaign against terrorist targets in other nations. Our weapons and people are 10 years smarter and more capable than those that dazzled the world in the Gulf War. The Taliban, remembering the Russians' defeat in the 1980s, are clearly underestimating what we can do, hill-by-hill and cave-by-cave.

One of the key decisions will be whether the president decides to finish what his father started in 1991. The air and ground campaigns will be long ones, focused on known military targets like the Iraqi weapons facilities given immunity by the United Nations and the Clinton administration. Ending the enemy's ability and will to conduct war against us is one of the measurable goals.

Any peace to be made must be based both on military victory and on the ultimate recognition by our enemies that they have lost. They must be made to understand in terms their religions and cultures can absorb. Without that realization, the war may not be the end of terrorism, but just another bloody episode in the fight against it.

New York Newsday

If Prime Minister Tony Blair can lay out a case to Britain's Parliament for Osama bin Laden's responsibility in the Sept. 11 terror attacks -- using U.S.-supplied information -- why can't President George W. Bush do the same?

It's past time for Bush to produce evidence in public to justify the impending attack on Afghanistan's Taliban regime and the al Qaida terror network it shelters. He has done that in private - convincingly - with key foreign leaders to help build a global coalition against terror. He must now do no less for the American public, Congress and the world at large.

It won't take much convincing. And Bush need not give out detailed information that would compromise secret sources and potentially damage further investigative inroads. But Bush must buttress his compelling argument for an all-out fight against terror at least with the broad outlines of the most damning evidence gathered against bin Laden.

It's clear that evidence has already been persuasive not only for Western allies but for Russia and Pakistan. Blair told Parliament the U.S. evidence he received was "overwhelming." He added details about bin Laden's intercepted conversations alerting associates of a "major operation" in the run-up to last month's attacks and warning others to return to Afghanistan because of action on Sept. 11.

At almost the same time Blair was addressing Parliament yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a public statement saying he accepted the U.S. case against bin Laden as convincing beyond doubt. And in Islamabad, a foreign ministry spokesman said there is now sufficient evidence against bin Laden to indict him for the Sept. 11 attacks.

But the evidence does not have to support a legal case against bin Laden. That's not the point now. It just needs to be convincing enough to allow Washington to mount an attack with a clear conscience. Will it ever convince all Muslims, especially Islamic radicals? No. Nothing probably ever will. It need only dispel some of the more egregious rumors circulating in the Arab street, such as the canard that the attacks were really a Zionist plot to provoke a global crusade against Islam.

That sort of nonsense could be put to rest by a few clear pieces of evidence on bin Laden's guilt.

Portland Oregonian

The 27 million people of Afghanistan are far less likely to die from bombs and bullets than from starvation and disease -- the true collateral damage of war and drought, exacerbated by the cruelty of the Taliban regime.

Thursday, President Bush offered $320 million in humanitarian aid to the Afghan people and to neighboring countries being deluged by refugees. This much-needed assistance cannot reverse the devastation from more than 20 years of invasion and oppression. It can, however, help prevent Afghanistan's crisis from becoming a destabilizing, multinational catastrophe.

Such aid from the United States and other nations is vital to maintain political stability in Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan and the region. Equally important, aid gives weight to the Bush Administration's vow that innocent people are not the enemy in the war on terrorism.

Getting international aid to needy children and families is difficult in any military conflict. Food and supplies are often intercepted by the ruling regime, as the United States has learned in Rwanda, Somalia and North Korea. Delivering aid to Afghans is even more challenging.

The Afghan population is already sickly from famine, and therefore more vulnerable to disease in the refugee camps. The Taliban has expelled foreign relief workers and threatened Afghan relief workers with execution.

And winter is coming.

The mountain passes are too narrow for trucks and too steep for all-terrain vehicles. In a month, even the donkeys -- now trudging over the Hindu Kush pass with food and clothing from the United Nations -- would be buried by snow and frozen by wind.

The United States has maintained a pipeline to the Afghan people. Last year alone, the United States gave Afghans a reported $170 million in humanitarian aid, or roughly two-thirds of the international contribution. But this latest infusion may be the best hope for keeping the war on terrorism from spreading misery or spawning jihad.

(Compiled by United Press International)

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