What U.S. newspapers are saying

Oct. 11, 2001 at 9:48 AM
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New York Times

The antiterrorism packages that are moving swiftly toward a vote in the House and Senate represent a more thoughtful attempt to balance civil liberties and national security than the measure hastily assembled by Attorney General John Ashcroft less than a month ago. But certain provisions still need refining, especially those governing surveillance and the detention of aliens.

At this stage Congress should be slowing down, not speeding up the pace. Its mission is to ensure that whatever bill emerges from negotiations between the two chambers, and is eventually signed by the president, enhances the government's effort against terrorism without unduly infringing on traditional American rights.

Senator Russell Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, refused on Tuesday to go along with a plan to pass the bill with only very limited opportunities for amendment and debate. This annoyed some of his colleagues, a number of whom fear that opening the fragile compromise to changes would end up making the bill worse, not better. But Senator Feingold has valid concerns about how far the bill goes in giving new powers to law enforcement to wiretap or investigate law-abiding United States citizens and the adequacy of oversight provisions. On the floor today, Mr. Feingold plans to offer four amendments that would limit the opportunities for abuse without impeding the fight against terrorism. These deserve to be included in the final version of the bill.

There will be pressure on the House to adopt the Senate version in the interest of speed. In certain respects, however, the House bill is superior, and its good provisions should be preserved. For example, the House proposal includes a sunset clause that would force Congress to review after two years how the far-reaching changes in surveillance laws work in practice.

Ideally, the version that goes to the president's desk will contain the best of both bills, as well as changes to more carefully circumscribe the government's power to engage in open-ended detention of aliens, and to ensure adequate judicial review in all areas. The country would be well served if Attorney General Ashcroft and others stopped viewing this difficult exercise as some kind of race.

Los Angeles Times

The United States will have to launch propaganda along with missiles and bombs in the war against terrorism. The false portrayals of Osama bin Laden and his acolytes as defenders of Islam must be rebutted. But this should not come at the expense of the Voice of America's editorial independence.

The VOA has spent decades building a worldwide reputation for objective reporting. It was invented to bring reliable news to countries ravaged by World War II and later to those behind the Iron Curtain. Treating it now as a mouthpiece for U.S. policy, as some in Washington seem to desire, would squander a precious asset.

The Voice of America charter, written into law in 1976, is to provide news that is "accurate, objective and comprehensive." Let the frank advocacy of other U.S. broadcasting outlets, such as Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, tell the story Washington's way. The VOA broadcasts in 52 languages in addition to English. Among those are Pushtu and Dari, the main languages of Afghanistan. It should step up these broadcasts, plus others aimed at Uzbekistan, where U.S. troops are now positioned.

Listeners around the world can detect lies or one-sided tales. The VOA charter says the agency will "present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies."

Soon after Sept. 11, the VOA obtained an interview with Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban leader. The State Department tried to block its broadcast. Parts of it were used in a news report that included a speech by President Bush and remarks by foes of the Taliban, but the interview inflamed critics.

The Bush administration's choice to head the organization, longtime VOA executive Robert R. Reilly, promises that the integrity of the news operation will not be compromised.

The agency does broadcast editorials, which are properly billed as the views of the U.S. government and which Reilly oversaw for 10 years. The flavor of some recent editorials can be seen in their headlines: "Bin Laden's Lies" and "Taliban, Perversion of Islam."

Part of Washington's campaign in Afghanistan is dropping leaflets and broadcasting announcements repeating Washington's message that the war is against terror, not a nation or its people. The Voice of America, by carrying on with unbiased news broadcasts, can continue to present another face of democracy, the one where ideas compete and vile pronouncements of terrorists are overwhelmed by truth.

Chicago Tribune

One of the many ironies of the U.S. war on terrorism is that President Bush, who came into office scornful of Clinton-era policies of "nation building," is now likely to face the need to do just that in Afghanistan. It's a daunting task in a state with feuding tribal warlords, oppressive rulers and no legacy of democracy.

Waves of U.S.-led airstrikes continued Wednesday not just against Osama bin Laden's terrorist network but also at what passes for an Afghan government--the extremist Taliban regime that gives the Al Qaeda network safe harbor. The Bush administration is backing a collection of Taliban opponents trying to overthrow the Islamic-fundamentalist regime.

The question seems no longer to be if the Taliban will fall, but when. A bigger question Bush, his anti-terror coalition and the United Nations need to address is: Who will replace the Taliban? Moreover, given the complexity of tribal rivalries, what plans are being made to prevent the cure from being almost as bad as the disease?

The primary U.S. ally on the ground so far has been the Northern Alliance, a group of fighters who held barely 10 percent of Afghan territory before the Sept. 11 attacks on America. Coalition forces may soon support an Alliance ground assault on Kabul. It is worth remembering that the last time members of the Alliance ran Afghanistan, its fractious fighters plunged into a civil war that reduced a third of Kabul to rubble and killed 25,000 people. The countryside split into fiefdoms run by warlords.

"The choice is between worse and worst," said Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, a policy consulting firm in New York, referring to the Alliance and Taliban, respectively.

Like it or not, Bush and his allies need to engage now to encourage the best possible broad-based government to emerge from the ruins of the Taliban--and perhaps start planning for a UN peacekeeping force, or even a UN protectorate, to create a civil society. No one should underestimate the difficulty of this.

Elements of one possible solution are taking shape. The key here may be the exiled former king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, 86, who has broad appeal and is trying to set up a Loya Jirga, an Afghan tribal council, from his exile in Rome.

Coalition leaders ought to encourage such an alliance, which would bring together the main factions in the Northern Alliance--rival ethnic Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras--with defectors from the Taliban, who belong to Afghan's largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns. The king is Pashtun. This new alliance should invite opposition tribes in south Afghanistan and peace groups among Afghan exiles.

A Loya Jirga that brings together tribal elders and others hasn't been called in Afghanistan since 1964, but it could start planning to name a head of state and transitional government. That would tackle the tricky question of power sharing in the most democratic way possible in Afghan tradition. What's more, it would be a home-grown solution, not one imposed from outsiders. And it could produce a credible alternative to fill a dangerous post-Taliban vacuum in power.

"I don't know people who are smart enough from other countries to tell other countries the kind of arrangements they ought to have to govern themselves," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said this week.

That's a nice, humble sentiment. But the U.S. and its partners will have to have a hand in rebuilding Afghanistan so the result of ousting the Taliban isn't chaos and regional instability.

Washington Post

Arab nations, including those considered allies of the United States, have been struggling with their response to the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan. If their contortions were not so familiar they would be hard to understand: After all, Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda organization are sworn enemies of the Egyptian and Saudi governments, which in turn depend on the United States for their security. But it took Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak three days to choke out a statement supporting "measures taken by the United States to resist terrorism"; and even then he coupled it with a parallel demand that Washington "take measures to resolve the Palestinian problem." Meanwhile, Mr. Mubarak's longtime foreign minister, Amr Moussa, now the secretary general of the Arab League, prompted first Arab states and then the 56-nation Islamic Conference to adopt a resolution yesterday opposing U.S. attacks on any Arab country as part of the anti-terrorism campaign -- a position that offers cover to Iraq's Saddam Hussein.

In effect, Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Moussa are backing both the military action of the U.S. alliance and the political position of Osama bin Laden, who on Sunday claimed that unjust American policies in Israel and Iraq justified his acts of mass murder. The world, Mr. Moussa said, needs to address the "causes" of the terrorism, and he suggested that a United Nations conference might be the best forum. There's little doubt what he has in mind: After all, Mr. Moussa only a couple of months ago led the attempt to hijack the U.N. conference on racism and revive the libel that "Zionism is racism."

Behind this contradictory rhetoric lies one of the central problems for U.S. policy in the post-Sept. 11 world: The largest single "cause" of Islamic extremism and terrorism is not Israel, nor U.S. policy in Iraq, but the very governments that now purport to support the United States while counseling it to lean on Ariel Sharon and lay off Saddam Hussein. Egypt is the leading example. Its autocratic regime, established a half-century ago under the banner of Arab nationalism and socialism, is politically exhausted and morally bankrupt. Mr. Mubarak, who checked Islamic extremists in Egypt only by torture and massacre, has no modern political program or vision of progress to offer his people as an alternative to Osama bin Laden's Muslim victimology. Those Egyptians who have tried to promote such a program, such as the democratic activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, are unjustly imprisoned. Instead, Mr. Mubarak props himself up with $2 billion a year in U.S. aid, while allowing and even encouraging state-controlled clerics and media to promote the anti-Western, anti-modern and anti-Jewish propaganda of the Islamic extremists. The policy serves his purpose by deflecting popular frustration with the lack of political freedom or economic development in Egypt. It also explains why so many of Osama bin Laden's recruits are Egyptian.

For years U.S. and other Western governments have been understanding of Mr. Mubarak and other "moderate" Arab leaders. They have to be cautious in helping the United States, it is said, because of the pressures of public opinion -- the opinion, that is, that their own policies have been decisive in creating. Though the reasoning is circular, the conclusion has been convenient in sustaining relationships that served U.S. interests, especially during the Cold War. But the Middle East is a region where the already overused notion that Sept. 11 "changed everything" may just turn out to be true. If the United States succeeds in making support or opposition to terrorism and Islamic extremism the defining test of international politics, as President Bush has repeatedly promised, then the straddle that the "moderate" Arabs have practiced for so long could soon become untenable. Much as it has valued its ties with leaders such as Mr. Mubarak, the Bush administration needs to begin preparing for the possibility that, unless they can embrace new policies that offer greater liberty and hope, they will not survive this war.

Washington Times

Pakistan took a step toward the United States this week, turning against the monster it helped to create in Afghanistan. While Pakistan was one of the Taliban's most passionate defenders ever since its military and intelligence helped the militant Islamic group's surge to power from 1994 to 1996, Pakistan is now the second Muslim nation after Turkey to accuse the al-Qaeda network of being guilty of carrying out the Sept. 11 attacks. It also called for Osama bin Laden's indictment. Having tried to negotiate with the Taliban for weeks, President Pervez Musharraf was forced to admit that further talks were futile. In a move that showed the extent to which he understands his own country's role in supporting the Taliban, Mr. Musharraf also fired top intelligence and military officials shortly before Sunday's retaliatory strikes by the United States and Britain against Afghanistan.

Gone were intelligence chief Gen. Mahmoud Ahmad and Army Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Muzzaffer Usami, who both refused to attack the Taliban. Extremist religious and political leader Faslur Rahman of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Party was put under house arrest. The army's vice chief of staff was stuffed into a strategically insignificant position -- that of chief of the joint chiefs of staff, a purely ceremonial role. They were replaced with moderates, and new commanders were placed in the more conflict-ridden provinces near the Afghan border.

For Mr. Musharraf, such moves come at a price. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Pakistan Monday and Tuesday, wrecking cars and buses, burning down movie theaters, a UNICEF building and a police and fire station. U.S. and British warplanes using their airspace overhead did little to calm the violence.

"Long live Osama" and "Bush is a dog" were their mantras. They called for holy war and burned images of President Bush and Mr. Musharraf. This violence will provide a security challenge for Pakistan, but compromise on support for the anti-terrorism effort could cause far greater challenges for the country, which is dependent on the international community for economic assistance. Washington has recently approved grants of $100 million and debt rescheduling of $379 million.

Having their likenesses burned in effigy may not have been the common ground the two leaders wanted to share. But Mr. Musharraf's decision to isolate the extremists within his government and his move to break with his country's past support of the Taliban -- and its "guests" -- is to be commended.

Honolulu Advertiser

While at first glance his remarks might appear somewhat selfish or cold-hearted, Gov. Ben Cayetano was right on target with his reaction to a new congressional report about the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

The report, out of the General Accounting Office, urged increased health and education money to the governments of these two Pacific island groups. Part of the rationale is that the extra relief to the Marshalls and Micronesia would ease the burden now being felt by Hawai'i.

Under compacts of free association with these two nations, citizens are free to travel, live and work in the United States. Faced with a lack of job or educational opportunities at home, many residents move on to Guam, the Northern Marianas, Hawai'i and even the U.S. Mainland.

Many arrive in Hawai'i with poor job skills or with medical problems. The GAO report says that 59 percent of those living in Hawai'i are in poverty and making use of social services. Education and healthcare costs to the State of Hawai'i were close to $15 million in the year 2000 alone, the report suggests. One way out of this problem would be fresh federal grants targeted toward building education and health systems in the island nations.

That's fine as far as it goes, Cayetano suggested. But if there is money available, he told Congress, some of it should go to Hawai'i to offset the immediate expense of dealing with these Pacific migrants. Guam and the Northern Marianas do receive some federal help of this type.

Cayetano's argument is that since the late 1980s, billions have flowed to these island states with little to show in the way of high-quality education and health systems. He is correct, although it would be unfair to expect these small isolated nations to be any quicker at nation-building than other emerging states around the world.

In many ways, the decade-and-a-half since the United States and the former trust territories created their compacts of free association has seen progress. Indigenous economies are slowly being built, and growing numbers of educated islanders are choosing to return home to teach, heal and build.

Part of the reason the progress has been as slow as it has is that the United States offered the money without insisting on high levels of accountability. That must change in the case of any future grants.

Slowly but surely the Marshalls and the Federated States will create systems that adequately educate, employ and care for their own citizens.

Until that time, however, a disproportionate share of the burden will continue to fall on their nearest neighbor state: Hawai'i. That's a burden we willingly take up, but it is a burden we should not have to pay for alone.

Providence, R.I., Journal

The dedication of the new Jewish Museum in Berlin last month is a welcome landmark in the 2,000-year-old history of Jews in Germany. The museum was constructed with funds from the German government, from the City of Berlin, and from private contributors around the world. The building was designed by an American Jew, Daniel Libeskind, born in Poland. And the museum's director is Michael Blumenthal, a refugee from Nazi Germany who was Treasury secretary under Jimmy Carter.

Note that while the museum scarcely ignores the subject, it is not exclusively concerned with the destruction of Germany's Jewish population during the Nazi era. As the German president, Johannes Rau, noted at the dedication ceremonies: "We must keep the memory of the Shoah [Holocaust] alive. . . . However, that should not lead us to the false conclusion that the Holocaust is the sum total of German-Jewish history."

Indeed not. Arriving with the Roman legions, Jews over the centuries became an integral part of German intellectual, scientific, commercial and political life, from the poet Heinrich Heine to the physicist Albert Einstein.

That vanished, of course, with Adolf Hitler. But now, happily, there is a modest renaissance of Jewish life in Germany. When the Nazis came to power, there were about 500,000 Jews in Germany; by 1990, the year of reunification, there were 29,000 in West Germany and 370 in the East. Today, thanks to immigration from the former Soviet Union, there are some 90,000 members of the Central Council of Jews, and some 60,000 people who consider themselves Jewish but are not registered with the council. And in Leipzig, Dresden and Chemnitz, in the former East Germany, new synagogues are being built to replace structures destroyed by the Nazis.

Berlin's newest museum is not just a repository of past relics, but a powerful symbol of Europe's future.

Indianapolis Star

Americans should be encouraged by the way President Bush's military campaign is unfolding against terrorists and their supporters in Afghanistan. Just three weeks ago, naysayers in the media were warning that Afghan mujahedeen fighters would prove to be too tough for the U.S. Now, the Washington media have reversed directions entirely, with some commentators daring to speculate on how Afghanistan might be governed once the Taliban falls.

This remarkable change in outlook is a result of the determination and skill by which the Bush administration is prosecuting its war on terrorism.

The first proof of that came in the air attacks, which have been spectacularly successful. In just five days, U.S. forces won control of the sky over Afghanistan and destroyed virtually every building and above-ground facility used by terrorist groups. They have nothing left but their caves, and even those won't be safe from attack much longer.

Most importantly, it is becoming evident that much of the ground war against the Taliban and terrorists will be waged by Afghan Muslims rebelling against Taliban oppression.

Kabul's days in Taliban hands are numbered. The tactical advantage is shifting to anti-Taliban forces north of the city. Kabul's defenders can no longer use their MiG jets to harass Northern Alliance troops. Soon, the Taliban will no longer be able to mass troops or move an artillery piece without coming under fire.

If New York Times' sources are correct, U.S. helicopter gunships will be pounding Taliban positions, opening the door to an assault on Kabul. These gunships can operate day or night and strike targets with pinpoint accuracy from more than a mile away. No Taliban tank, artillery piece or machine gun nest is safe.

Once Kabul falls, it is likely U.S. special operating forces will establish bases inside Afghanistan and begin the search in earnest for Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida followers.

Their Toyota Land Cruisers would be targets on any road, day or night, so they will be limited to moving on foot. They will be armed only with what they can carry. And sooner or later, our helicopter-borne troops will find them and destroy them. Count on it.

Dallas Morning News

Of the many contributing factors that led to the gargantuan lapse in national security that befell the nation on Sept. 11, there were some to which Americans had given little or no thought. That cannot be said of immigration.

Our consciousness on that subject has perhaps never been higher. The 1990s was the Decade of the Immigrant, during which a greater number of immigrants entered the United States than in any decade in U.S. history. The average American has been exposed to countless newspaper stories, books, TV newscasts, studies, ballot initiatives, and political campaigns -- all seeking to put the immigration issue on the table.

And yet we never expected our enemies to resort to political jujitsu and turn the strength of our own wonderful tradition of welcoming newcomers against us.

Law enforcement authorities say that at least two of the Sept. 11 hijackers had legal visas but overstayed their visit after the visas expired. A third received a student visa to study a foreign language, but never showed up for class. To close loopholes, the Immigration and Naturalization Service last week froze immigration applications and visa petitions from people already residing in the United States while it conducted an audit of new applicants.

But how is it that an issue that gets so much attention, and stirs so much emotion, helped set the stage for one of the best-kept secrets in modern history?

It could be that much of our attention has been misplaced. We've been so concerned with keeping out illegal immigrants at the border that we haven't bothered to keep track of those legal immigrants already here. Even our idea of an "illegal immigrant" is too narrow for our own good. How many of us upon hearing the phrase think of the estimated 4 million people who reside in the United States on expired visas? More often, the image that comes to mind is of Mexican laborers trekking across deserts or Chinese refugees stowed away on boats in the Pacific. And so it is at the border that reform measures have typically been directed.

That must change. The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, authored by Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio, allowed for a special computerized system to monitor the half-million foreign students in the U.S. It never got off the ground, in part because academic institutions ducked their responsibility to keep tabs on their own students. That system now should be on a fast track. Insurance companies track students who get a discount for good grades. Why can't the U.S. government insist that "students" who want to stay in this country produce proof every semester that they are enrolled and making passing grades, just like the insurance companies do?

And without taking our eye off the U.S.-Mexico border, we must beef up enforcement along the U.S-Canadian border, where some terrorists entered the United States.

Immigrants are just as valuable a resource to the United States now as they were before Sept. 11. But unless real reforms are made, we soon may get to the point where the relatively free flow of human capital across our borders becomes something we no longer can afford.

(Compiled by United Press International)

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