What U.S. newspapers are saying

Oct. 17, 2001 at 11:23 AM
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New York Times

The last thing Secretary of State Colin Powell needed as he began a delicate diplomatic mission to Pakistan and India this week was a flare-up of violence in Kashmir. Thanks to an untimely attack by India on Pakistani border posts, that is just what he got. The clash served notice, if any were needed at this volatile time in South Asia, that maintaining some sort of equilibrium in relations between Pakistan and India will be essential to waging a successful international war against terrorism.

In return for Pakistani support for the American bombing campaign in Afghanistan, President Bush has embraced Gen. Pervez Musharraf's regime in Islamabad and offered Pakistan large amounts of economic aid. Not surprisingly, that has alarmed Indian leaders, who before Sept. 11 had every reason to believe that Washington was eager to build stronger ties to New Delhi. Secretary Powell's difficult job has been to reinforce the new relationship with Pakistan while reassuring India that its interests will not be overlooked.

He appears to have accomplished the first part by gaining General Musharraf's agreement to work together to create a new, broad-based government in Afghanistan. To secure Pakistan's cooperation, Mr. Powell in principle endorsed the inclusion of moderate elements of the Taliban leadership. General Musharraf, for his part, did not insist on a fixed deadline for ending American military action. As General Powell completed his visit to Islamabad and began talks in India yesterday, it was clear that the Bush administration has no choice but to get more deeply engaged on a host of regional issues, including Kashmir.

General Musharraf deserves American support for his willingness to help in the campaign against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. That does not mean he should be given a free hand to support Islamic fundamentalist extremists in Kashmir, the northern Indian state where a Muslim uprising has been raging for years. Pakistan needs to stop supporting guerrilla fighters in the conflict. India must understand that it cannot crush Muslim aspirations in Kashmir with the use of force.

Washington should also press the two nations to lower nuclear tensions. The Clinton administration made significant progress in getting India and Pakistan to agree to end nuclear testing, curb the production of weapons material and halt the export of sensitive material. That effort must be continued.

George W. Bush came into office determined to keep his distance from foreign conflicts that did not directly threaten American interests. He probably would have put the strains between India and Pakistan in that category before Sept. 11. Now, with American forces attacking Afghanistan, Washington will have to be very much involved in maintaining the peace between these two old adversaries.

Washington Post

Even without knowing who's mailing out anthrax, it's already clear that this constitutes a classic act of terrorism: The fear induced is far larger than the physical damage. So far, just one person has died and a handful have been infected. But precisely because nobody knows who is responsible or where they might strike next, everyone is anxious. That anxiety in turn induces a flood of false alarms along with panic buying of antibiotics -- actions that may cause more disruption and public health problems than the attacks themselves.

The right response starts with understanding the terrorists' goals. Whoever mailed anthrax to offices around the country sought to undermine the nation's psychological stability, perhaps in the hope of undoing popular support for the campaign in Afghanistan, perhaps for some other purpose. The attackers must have known that nobody before had resorted to the hideous expedient of germ warfare -- not even Saddam Hussein, who has used chemical weapons, or the crazed Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo. It was precisely to exploit the primordial horror of a new and insidious weapon that the terrorists selected it.

So the right response begins with refusing to be terrorized. Abroad, that means persevering in the war on terrorism, beginning in Afghanistan but later extending to other countries where terrorists are sheltered. At home, it means continuing to live and work as normally as possible, taking new precautions but taking them in stride. Across the country, companies have turned mailrooms into security operations and circulated e-mails about handling suspicious letters; at The Post yesterday, an employee was evacuated after opening letters and finding suspicious dust. But those same companies have continued to do business. This is the right balance, one we will have to keep on striking for months and years.

So far Americans have passed the terrorism test admirably. The outpouring of generosity and patriotism that followed Sept. 11 has been succeeded by a sober determination to beat the new challenge. You see this in the unprecedented support for President Bush as he promises a long and difficult war against terrorism, in the surprisingly buoyant stock market and even in the polling on the anthrax attacks. A Washington Post-ABC News survey found that two in three Americans were concerned about anthrax, as well they might be, but that 85 percent said they were satisfied with the way the government is handling the situation. Yes, there have been jitters. But the national mood has not been far removed from the splendidly laconic reaction of Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., to Monday's attack on the Senate: "Being from a rural area, we deal with anthrax on a fairly regular basis. I think we've got to guard against overreaction here."

Washington Times

Afghanistan produces about three-quarters of the world's opium. There is a fairly good argument that we should have been at war with the Taliban long before Sept. 11, as they are both encouraging the production of opium and profiting from it by direct taxation of the crop. Apparently, conservatives and liberals alike have much to learn about the dangers of farm subsidies.

We have known for years how many of our adversaries promote the drug trade and profit from it. Cuba, China, the FARC terrorists in Colombia and Afghanistan's Taliban regime all encourage the drug trade as a weapon against the West. So, in the war against terrorism, President Bush has correctly targeted the terrorists' money, as well as their safe havens. By cutting off the money supply and the terrorists' ability to move money, we can limit and eventually strangle their ability to finance their war against us. Still, if we are to succeed, we obviously need to cut off their ability to profit from the drug trade as well.

The State Department has said repeatedly that it lacks sufficient evidence to say that Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network is financed by drug profits. But the very clear fact of the Taliban's direct profits from drugs makes the connection between bin Laden and the drug trade a short leap indeed.

Now, there are many things that the United States can deal with in the war against terrorism, and one of the most obvious -- but least easy to stop -- is the drug trade. Whatever comes to rule Afghanistan after the Taliban, it must be a regime that neither tolerates nor profits from the drug trade. It is a relatively simple thing for our armed forces to destroy the larger opium fields with plant-killing agents. But that will not stop Afghan cultivation of opium. It will only sidetrack it. What comes after the Taliban is the issue.

Interestingly, Secretary of State Colin Powell told Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf that following our military campaign in Afghanistan, the successor regime to the Taliban regime may be allowed to include some Taliban members. This astonishing statement is as bad an idea as we've heard in many a day. Aside from being willing to sacrifice themselves to protect bin Laden, the Taliban have insisted on placing themselves among the most lawless and hostile regimes on the planet. We cannot trust them to not grow opium or cultivate terrorism. There is simply no place in the world community for such a regime.

In other words, America must take a stand against such ill-gotten gains, and now is a very good time to start in Afghanistan.

Honolulu Advertiser

All of us are at least a little bit on edge. It's only natural.

Anthrax is sent to Sen. Tom Daschle's office and to Mainland media offices. People are scared and translating the most innocuous of things into suspicious goings-on. A shopper fears a bag of potatoes that wasn't tied has been tampered with. A post office is shut down because an organization that routinely does mass mailings makes a change in its packaging.

We have been seeing the bogeyman around every corner, and as a result, emergency personnel in Hawaii and on the Mainland have been run ragged responding to one false alarm after another.

It's time for a collective deep breath. Yes, we need to be vigilant, but not obsessive. We need to take precautions, but not bring our infrastructure and ourselves to the point of collapse.

While the war on terrorism is a struggle to preserve our way of life, it is a sorry reality that some things are probably forever changed. We must be more careful when we fly, attend large events, send packages in the mail. There are some things it is wise not to do. Many of them are common-sense warnings that are not new, such as not accepting packages from an unknown sender.

Likewise, we must adjust to a different way of life. We all have to learn to be alert to anything out of the ordinary, but we also must learn not to panic but think things through. If we buckle to the pressure, we only cripple ourselves.

Sacramento Bee

Like all terrorist actions, the real power of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington came from the terrorists' ability to turn the ordinary machinery of daily life in an advanced society into weapons of death and fear. The lesson was not lost on the person or persons who have sent anthrax-laced mail to media outlets and the office of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

Their effect amplified by the megaphone of a wired, media-saturated civilization, a few contaminated envelopes have transformed the daily business of opening the mail into a moment of doubt and anxiety in offices around the country, and even abroad.

Measured against the background mayhem of modern life, the anthrax attacks hardly register on the meter of physical destructiveness: one dead, a handful sickened, several hundred taking precautionary antibiotics. The daily toll of ordinary crime is far more deadly.

But it's not just bodies that terrorists seek to destroy. Terrorists count on the modern world's electronic connectedness, which so easily leads us to imagine that what happened in an office in Florida last week might happen today in an office here, never mind that the risk is very small. Terrorists target trust, hope, confidence, community, morale and conviction, with our individual fears as their best weapon.

They have not succeeded in their main objective. Daily life goes on, and citizens' resolve to defend the country is unyielding. Congress has not been stampeded into a wholesale weakening of individual liberties, although the decision last week by the House Republican leadership to force through a substitute anti-terrorism bill for the version carefully worked out, and unanimously approved, by the Judiciary Committee, is the low-water mark of this crisis. Leaders and citizens alike have stood guard to protect the rights of American Muslims and those of Arab descent from assault. We have not been divided against ourselves.

For all that, though, nerves have been frayed and cracks have opened in our confidence. The panicked run on doctors' offices and pharmacies by individuals seeking ciprofloxacin, the antibiotic used to treat anthrax infections, has drawn down supplies needed to treat more common illnesses. Widespread and unwarranted taking of the antibiotic threatens to create drug resistance in common bacteria, posing far more risk than anthrax ever will. This fear-driven hoarding undermines the common good.

President Bush and the administration haven't adequately addressed the fears that lead to such anti-social behavior. One moment they urge citizens to get back to normal life. The next they warn that another terrorist attack is likely and urge citizens to remain on highest alert. Both messages are important and true, but for many people they remain confusing.

Americans are not accustomed to living like gazelles, knowing that lions always lurk in the high grass just a few bounds away. They need their leaders to show them how to reconcile vigilance with normality, to put the danger in perspective and counter the tug of fear. That must start with better information and assurance out of Washington about the anthrax incidents. But it will be a daily duty of leadership throughout the nation as long as the terrorism threat endures.

Boston Herald

President Bush leaves today for the Asian summit meeting in Shanghai, a helpful demonstration of resolve to travel on essential business when many people are fearful of leaving home.

Past meetings of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group have concentrated on trade issues, something the president -- and for that matter most of the other countries involved -- will want to deal with quickly this year. But a resolution urging next month's meeting of the World Trade Organization to launch a new round of trade liberalization talks shouldn't take long.

Bush's task is to encourage friends, solicit the wavering and warn the unfriendly in the war on terrorism. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the assault on Afghanistan prompted the president to give up plans to visit Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing, though he will meet leaders of the Japanese, South Korean and Chinese governments in Shanghai. The White House has announced other meetings with leaders of Russia, Singapore and Malaysia - entirely appropriate in light of the help they can give.

Some of the 21 APEC countries are struggling with separatist or terrorist movements of their own, notably Indonesia and the Philippines. Even China is confronting Moslems who want their own state, and Chechen rebel links with Osama bin Laden are well known. In Indonesia (whose leader recently met Bush in Washington) gangs of Islamic fundamentalists have roamed through some cities on the island of Java looking for Americans to attack, without much opposition from the authorities.

The president has been reported planning to make the point that opposition to terrorism and to separatist movements (which are not necessarily the same thing) should not imply opposition to Islam as a religion, and should not give grounds for trampling on fundamental human rights. It wouldn't be a bad thing if he could persuade some of the other heads of governments to spread the word that three recent U.S. military actions, in Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo, all were aimed at preserving communities of Moslems.

For foreign leaders, there is nothing like a personal appearance by the president of the United States for grasping the resolve of all America to see the atrocities of Sept. 11 punished and made impossible to repeat anywhere in the world. It would be undiplomatic of Bush to use these words, but the message he conveys must be: Follow us or get out of the way.

Chicago Sun-Times

Andrew Young said that once the Xerox copier was invented, diplomacy died. But he was wrong.

The former UN ambassador meant that after technology allowed words to spread and multiply, the delicate art of playing friends and foes against each other was lost. Diplomacy survived the communications revolution, however, entering an even more demanding realm of multiple audiences and layered meanings.

Take the White House's rebuke of Israel for its assassination of Hamas bomb plotter Abed Rahman Hamad, cut down by an army sharpshooter Sunday. On its surface, the American stance would seem the height of hypocrisy. Even as we feverishly struggle to try to kill those responsible for unleashing terrorism on U.S. soil, we condemn our close ally, Israel, for doing exactly what we would do if only we could.

It would be a mystifying position, except for one thing: The world does not consist entirely of Israel.

We also have a coalition of jittery Muslim states whose cooperation is essential if we are to have any hope of delivering justice to those who violated our borders and murdered our citizens. Without Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and whoever else we can enlist to our cause, our difficult mission is impossible.

Their cooperation comes at a price, however. They would like us to chill our ardor for Israel, to push toward solving the Palestinian problem that roils every government in the Middle East. (The sincerity of that concern is another matter. One very credible line of thought says the Palestinian crisis is the best friend repressive regimes like Egypt and Saudi Arabia ever had. Far easier to let their people rage against Israel's perceived injustices against Palestinians than to risk their noticing the injustices committed against them at home, by their own governments.)

Such is diplomacy post-Xerox, post-Internet. We suggest that those tempted to make too much of the White House's rebuke of Israel remember Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent statement that he feared the United States might abandon Israel the same way that the European powers let Hitler grab Czechoslovakia in the vain hope that doing so might appease him. Another extreme statement, like the White House rebuke, designed to play well in one quarter and be ignored in another. At home, Sharon's allies scream for more of the hawk, while abroad his friends clamor for the dove, and he must appease both.

This is complex stuff. Fists are shaken for the benefit of newly befriended foes while winks are delivered to reassure newly estranged friends. We trust Israel to be savvy enough to grasp this finely shaded situation.

Dallas Morning News

The terrorists will win if Americans become paralyzed with fear over a potential outbreak of anthrax. For every person who is exposed, millions are afraid they will be the next victims.

That point was made abundantly clear Tuesday by Bill Gross, coordinator of emergency preparedness for the city of Dallas. Mr. Gross said that one confirmed death related to anthrax does not justify a national panic.

He is right. But Dallas and other major cities have to take the anthrax scare seriously. With the latest incident involving an employee in Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office, the bioterrorism stakes have been raised.

Important steps are being taken in case Dallas becomes a target for bioterrorism:

The office of emergency preparedness met Monday with representatives from the Dallas County Medical Society and the county health department. Meetings with the Texas Health Department also are planned this week.

The Dallas County Medical Society has agreed to provide additional assistance to the county's epidemiology department. Dr. Charles Haley, a former Dallas County epidemiologist, also has offered to serve as a resource.

The critical element in treating an anthrax exposure is speed. Those exposed can fully recover if they are treated in time. Availability of antibiotics is a critical ingredient. The most common antibiotics known to treat anthrax exposure effectively are Cipro and Doxycycline. In case of an attack, Dallas could receive supplies in four hours. Larger orders can be here in 12 hours. The Center for Disease Control also has contracts with the major manufacturers that ensure a sufficient supply to handle any crisis, Mr. Gross said.

It is only natural for the public to be concerned about the isolated incidents of anthrax exposure around the nation. But Dallas residents should not be gripped with fear. The best antidotes for terrorism are education and preparedness -- two ingredients this city is putting in place.

Des Moines Register

The image sticks. The one showing Palestinians cheering the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. American sympathy for the plight of these stateless people virtually evaporated in that instant.

This created a public-relations nightmare for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Though the Bush administration is pushing Israel to reach an accommodation with him - despite the ongoing terrorism inflicted on that nation - it is not enough for the U.S. government to be so inclined. Such a policy needs the support of the American people as well.

This highlights how difficult it is to separate what should be done from what we feel like doing. Nothing, for example, would be more satisfying in the short term than deciding to never give the Palestinians another penny.

But in the long term, the United States should provide such impoverished regions with unprecedented economic aid. How else to rid of them of the ignorance and envy that breed anti-Western hatred?

In return, leaders such as Arafat should have to agree to stop indoctrinating their youth with hatred -- and follow the promise with action. That won't be easy. Satisfying the extremists has been considered the price of staying in power in many Arab countries. Still, this change is essential, or America's war on terrorism won't be won.

The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is only one issue that festers. But a resolution that provides Israel with genuine security and Palestinians with a viable state would be enormous progress.

However hopeless the term "peace talks" had come to seem before Sept. 11, it should now be seen as the only choice.

New York Post

In wartime, what do you do when the enemy's in your sights?

Hint #1: It's not "call your lawyer."

Hint #2: Take Israel's lead. (It aced one terrorist for sure, and may have killed two others, in just the past few days.)

The answer, of course, is: Shoot!

Anybody knows that.

But do Bush officials?

According to a report by Seymour Hersh in this week's New Yorker, officials intentionally let Taliban leader Mohammad Omar escape attack by Hellfire missiles mounted on a U.S. drone that had him in its targets early last week.

Hersh says that, under then-current rules of engagement, permission to fire at Omar had to be obtained from U.S. Central Command in Florida.

Military lawyers demurred. "We want you to kill the guy, but not the guy next to him," Hersh quotes a top officer as saying. "No collateral damage."

And Omar escaped.

Never mind that Pakistan's leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, says that without Omar, bin Laden would be lost.

Never mind that this phase of the war might be nearing its end by now.

Officially, the Pentagon is not commenting. And Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has acknowledged the need, sometimes, to act even when a target's identity is not 100 percent clear.

"It is practically impossible to know with certainty who is on the ground in any given location by name and serial number," Rumsfeld said.

But there's plenty other evidence of confusion in the Bush administration about who can shoot whom and when.

Israel, for example, should be applauded for dispatching the terrorists: All three were associated with the bloody-handed terrorist group Hamas.

But instead, Israel got a slap from Washington. America, you see, opposes "targeted killings." At least, those carried out by Israel.

President Bush had it right when he said, "The only way to defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it and destroy it where it grows."

The Israelis understand. Now Bush must make his own team -- at the State Department and in the Pentagon -- understand as well.

Providence, R.I., Journal

The news is disturbing, to be sure. Mailed envelopes containing deadly anthrax bacteria are making their way to some prominent people and organizations -- mostly news-media outlets, though U.S. Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle received one as well. One person, a photo editor at a group of tabloid newspapers in Boca Raton, Fla., has died from exposure. And this week came word that a 7-month-old boy who was brought into the offices of ABC News in New York has been found to be infected.

The notion of death arriving in the mail is enough to send some people into a panic. It's a big news story, by any definition, but that those who report the news are on the receiving end of some of these attacks no doubt immensely elevates their visibility.

We would simply urge Americans to keep the hysteria in check. Remember, one person has been killed by anthrax. That appears to be a despicable crime, but it is no cause for nationwide panic. It is far more likely that any one of us will die in a highway accident, from cancer, heart disease or the complications of diabetes, or even from violence in the streets, than from anthrax.

Moreover, there are terrorist threats that are far more alarming and could pose far greater danger than this crudely delivered bacteria. Many spores must be breathed to develop the deadliest symptoms -- and people seem to be safe if they take antibiotics before the symptoms appear. It is quite possible, too, that this is no coordinated terrorist attack at all, but the work of some lone maniac or assorted copy-cat criminals, inspired by hyperbolic coverage in some media since Sept. 11.

The best response is to be vigilant but unafraid. These anthrax attacks are not a dire threat, and they should not bring America to a halt. In any event, the nation is now in a more important battle: using its power to root out state-sponsored terrorism, thus greatly reducing the truly awful threats of nuclear and widespread biological terror.

(Compiled by United Press International.)

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