New York Times
For most Americans there is no more frightening threat than terrorists with nuclear weapons. Assuming Osama bin Laden does not already have them -- the assumption most experts make -- everything possible must be done to prevent him or other terrorists from obtaining them.
The starting point is Russia, where poorly protected nuclear bombs and materials remain vulnerable to theft. It is not enough that President Bush and Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, have agreed to greatly reduce the number of nuclear missiles in each country's arsenal. The two leaders must also do more to safeguard the remaining weapons and any vulnerable nuclear materials in Russia that could be used to make bombs if stolen.
Russia insists that it is guarding its weapons carefully. But a Russian general raised concern recently when he revealed that terrorists have twice this year conducted surveillance at a Russian nuclear arms storage facility, presumably with an eye to storming it. Another Russian general created alarm four years ago by asserting that many of Russia's small, portable nuclear bombs could not be accounted for. That was emphatically denied at the time, and was denied again just recently.
An alternative path to nuclear capability is for terrorists to make a weapon themselves. That would be extremely difficult for most terrorist groups -- far harder than making a chemical or biological weapon -- but it can't be ruled out entirely. The primary barrier has always been the difficulty of obtaining or producing the highly enriched uranium or the plutonium that would be needed to make a bomb. Unfortunately, the opportunities for theft have multiplied in recent years as the political and economic disintegration of the former Soviet Union has left many sites only loosely guarded, and their nuclear experts impoverished and vulnerable to bribes.
With enough plutonium or highly enriched uranium in hand, a terrorist group with three or four specialists in its ranks, a machine shop and sufficient time could probably make a crude nuclear weapon, weighing more than a ton. That, at least, was the alarming verdict of five American nuclear weapons experts who examined the question a few years ago. Even terrorist groups that were short on expertise and had only low-grade radioactive materials from medicine or industry could make a "dirty bomb" in which radioactive materials are placed around conventional explosives, with the goal of contaminating a large area.
With so much nuclear material in the former Soviet Union potentially vulnerable, it would seem imperative to swiftly safeguard the warheads and fissile materials not yet adequately protected. Farsighted cooperative programs begun a decade ago have done much to upgrade security at Russian nuclear facilities and to retain Russian scientists who might be tempted to sell their expertise. But the effort is proceeding at too lackadaisical a pace, and the Bush administration seems inclined to let it creep along.
A task force led by former Senator Howard Baker and Lloyd Cutler, a former White House counsel, called early this year for a huge increase in financing. Yet Congress has approved less than $200 million for such programs in the 2002 fiscal year, a small fraction of what the panel recommended, and the Bush administration has rebuffed attempts to boost the supplemental terrorism package to provide more. One way or another more money should be found. Even more important, Presidents Bush and Putin need to summon the political will to brush aside all obstacles that have slowed the program. Otherwise, the growing sophistication of terrorist groups will eventually overtake the lagging efforts to keep nuclear weapons out of their reach.
More than 10 white farmers a month have been murdered in South Africa this year, prompting fears that unrest from neighboring Zimbabwe is spreading to the continent's breadbasket.
"If you are killing the farming community, you are killing the country," says Steve Tshwete, South Africa's safety and security minister.
The assaults have alarmed whites, who control 85 percent of the best agricultural land.
The violence has already reduced grain production and could threaten South Africa's position as one of the few food exporters on the continent.
The government insists criminals are responsible for the attacks. White farmers suspect agitators are behind the bloodshed.
They refer to statements by the militant Pan Africanist Congress, which defends assaults as "politically motivated" and not criminal.
Black landlessness and poverty are so endemic they could well be contributing factors.
If so, the violence is likely to be homegrown. But continuing, government-sanctioned violence against white farmers in Zimbabwe could be an inspiration.
In recent months, the South African government has expelled more than 15,000 illegal Zimbabwean refugees.
They are not suspected of violence. But because they are willing to work at lower wages than locals, they have created tensions in a country where joblessness is widespread.
In Zimbabwe, embattled President Robert Mugabe continues his campaign to expel white farmers from their big holdings, even though such hounding is causing food shortages.
By contrast, South Africa recognizes the critical role of the white farmers and wants them to stay.
But even those farmers recognize that peace in rural areas can be secured only if the government speeds up its program of redistribution to the landless.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit with President Bush last week bordered on romantic courtship. Mr. Putin was wined and dined -- but apparently not cajoled. Despite the barbeque that Mr. Putin was served at Mr. Bush's Prairie Ranch in Texas, which he characterized as "masterpiece cooking," he was not inclined to make serious concessions regarding missile defense.
Still, Mr. Putin did seem moved by his stay at the ranch and spoke of the "romantic magnetism" of the Lone Star State. And the Russian leader held out the possibility that an agreement on missile defense could occur. "If we are to follow this road further," he said, referring specifically to discussions over missile defense, "we will certainly arrive at a solution, a decision acceptable to the United States, and indeed, the entire world."
The possibility that a missile defense deal with the Russians could be just a few Prairie Ranch steaks away is certainly promising, since Mr. Putin is proving to be an eager participant in the ongoing war on terror, pledging to help counter this threat along the Russian border with Central Asian states. All the same, the White House seemed to suggest that, while a deal with the Russians would be welcome, it is unwilling to wait indefinitely for an agreement that would revise mutual interpretations of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. "Everybody, including the Russians, understands that we're soon going to run up against certain constraints of the treaty, and we're continuing to work with them," said national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
In the event a workable deal on the ABM Treaty with the Russians can't be made, the United States should drop out of the treaty in the broader interest of homeland defense. The Sept. 11 attacks should stiffen the White House's resolve to pursue an effective missile defense program, particularly in view of reports that manuals detailing how to build nuclear weapons have been found at an al Qaida terrorist safehouse in Kabul. America's homeland defense response must be multi-dimensional, and missile defense remains an essential component. So, if masterpiece cooking and soul-gazing doesn't convince Mr. Putin to acquiesce to reality on the ABM Treaty, America will need to go it alone in finding ways to deal with the threats from rogue states and terrorist groups.
Los Angeles Times
When Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld met recently in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, with that country's dictator, Islam Karimov, he said he was satisfied with the cooperation he was receiving. That may be true on the military front, where 1,000 U.S. troops have been stationed to help in the fighting in Afghanistan, but it's far from true in the politics of Uzbekistan and other countries in Central Asia near Afghanistan.
After a decade of independence from the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, the "Stans," as they are known, have retained an ugly common legacy. All are authoritarian regimes that have failed to bring about economic prosperity and that rely on harsh repression to stay in power.
Now that the war effort in Afghanistan has forced the United States into an unsavory shotgun marriage, the least the Bush administration can do is exert leverage in defense of human rights and political liberalization. That should start in Uzbekistan, one of the worst violators of human rights among the former Soviet territories. As documented by nongovernmental organizations from the United States and Europe, the list of abuses against the people of Uzbekistan is long and troublesome.
There are at least 7,000 people in prison for their religious or political beliefs and affiliations. Independent political parties and movements are banned. There are no independent media, and Soviet-style censorship is practiced. Since the end of 1997 the government has engaged in a campaign to arrest Muslims who practice their faith outside strict state rules.
As the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan evolves, the United States will be pouring money into Uzbekistan and its neighbors. That's good; economic development reduces not just poverty but the despair-driven impetus toward violence and terror.
The United States should be careful, however, in monitoring direct assistance. No U.S. money should go to agencies involved in police and security activities until the human rights climate improves.
Under the current Cooperative Threat Reduction program between the United States and the former Soviet republics, countries eligible to receive aid have to show progress in human rights. The Bush administration should start by demanding the release of political prisoners like the poet Mamadali Makhmudov and teacher Bahodir Hasanov, among many who have been unfairly jailed.
It should also demand that human rights organizations be allowed to operate freely and that banned political parties be legalized. The ongoing abuse against peaceful Muslims cannot be tolerated; it undercuts proclaimed U.S. support for moderate Muslims. The fight, as President Bush has so often pointed out, is not against Islam.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Startling developments over the past week have altered the military landscape of Afghanistan and the American-led campaign against terrorism. Anti-Taliban forces now control more than two-thirds of the country. Some Taliban and al Qaida leaders have been killed, and planning for a post-Taliban era in this poor and benighted land has begun in earnest.
The United States and its allies are hardly finished in Afghanistan. But they are entering a new military phase -- one that will test U.S. tactical skills and, in some respects, the resolve of the American people.
President Bush has used flamboyant and colorful language -- "smoke them out of their holes," in one memorable phrase -- to describe the endgame of the American mission in Afghanistan. But the administration, to its credit, has been clear and unwavering in its objective: to make sure the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and al Qaida are brought down in a way that renders them incapable of operating from an Afghan base. This would not shut down al Qaida, which has cells in dozens of countries, but it would be a good beginning.
Accomplishing the task with bombs dropped from 30,000 feet might have been a comforting thought. Still, even true believers in the efficacy of air power conceded that it couldn't do the job alone. The bombing campaign has continued, but hundreds of special operations forces now are engaged, especially in southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban is strongest. The expectation is that the Taliban and al Qaida leaders and troops will retreat to the mountains and caves, if they haven't done so already.
Unless America's heaviest bunker-buster bombs can collapse entire cave systems and kill the inhabitants, which seems unlikely, special ops forces probably will have to track them down. There was an almost comic photo the other day of a couple of special ops soldiers on horseback with anti-Taliban troops, but the real business at hand is deadly serious.
In the European press, there are reports of U.S. combat casualties. American military briefers, from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on down, have not acknowledged any combat deaths, but they have not shied away from warning that the job ahead almost certainly will include fatalities. In the off-camera world of special operations combat, some U.S. soldiers are going to die.
It will be critical, when such bad news arrives, for Americans to remember why their country is fighting. Nearly 5,000 dead at the World Trade Center. Hundreds dead at the Pentagon. Regular threats by bin Laden and other al-Qaida and Taliban leaders against America and its interests.
A further reminder came late last week when Northern Alliance forces now in Kabul examined the stash in an al-Qaida safe house that was abandoned when the Taliban fled. The papers included designs for various nuclear weapons, chemical formulas and instructions for making ricin - one of the most lethal poisons on Earth.
New York Newsday
For all the warm statements and obvious good personal feelings between President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader went home without an agreement on how to deal with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
Certainly Bush and Putin have a good thing going. Behind the words and gestures of comity seems to be a genuine recognition by both sides of a possibility for crafting a new relationship - one that would benefit both Moscow and Washington. And these good feelings should give impetus for both sides to find a way to resolve their differences over tough issues, such as missile defense.
Still, the Bush administration continues to threaten that it will withdraw from the treaty next year so that it can test aspects of a missile-defense system. If this is a negotiating ploy, fine. But there are enough hard-line zealots on missile defense on Bush's team that the administration may wind up carrying out those threats.
Experts say that the administration could structure tests so that they don't violate the treaty. The administration ought to be looking at that possibility. The potential benefits of a fundamentally improved relationship with Russia far outweigh the very uncertain benefits of a missile-defense system.
And for all of Bush's and Putin's good cheer last week, Bush wrongly gives the impression that he and Putin have just broken through the ice of the Cold War. That happened more than 10 years ago, thanks to his father, the first President Bush, and Mikhail Gorbachev. What we are witnessing now is a second chance at making the relationship between Moscow and Washington work.
The first 10 years of the relationship foundered because of the difficulties of achieving economic reform in Russia, as well as diplomatic missteps by the leaders of both countries. The lesson ought to be clear: Good feelings aren't enough. Ultimately a positive relationship depends on substance, not atmospherics.
Salt Lake Deseret News
With the real possibility that the federal government's case against former Olympic bid leaders Tom Welch and Dave Johnson may be over -- U.S. District Judge David Sam on Thursday dismissed all criminal charges against them -- Salt Lake City, the state of Utah, and indeed the nation and world can focus on what really is important about the upcoming 2002 Winter Olympic Games -- the competition.
What we said in December 1998, shortly after the federal government launched its investigation into the alleged wrongdoings by Salt Lake Olympic organizers, is worth repeating: "The ideal solution would be for the investigations to end quickly and decisively, removing the taint and restoring confidence."
The investigations obviously didn't end quickly and the decisive part is subject to debate -- the Justice Department is reviewing its options, which include an appeal.
Despite the emotional roller-coaster that all those connected with the Games have endured, the so-called Olympic bid scandal has led to a number of positive changes.
Perhaps the biggest and best is the way the International Olympic Committee now operates. Its methods and reputation have frequently and justifiably been criticized. As we also said in that December 1998 editorial: "The IOC's operating procedures seemed to tacitly approve of bribery, and other Olympic cities may also have engaged in questionable tactics to secure bids."
As Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch told the Deseret News in July of 2000, regarding losing the 1998 bid to Nagano, "We lost by four votes because Japanese leadership just basically bought the Olympics. ... We were swindled out of it."
But that permissive culture has changed now, thanks to new IOC policies and leadership, which were a direct result of the problems surrounding Salt Lake City's bid process.
With less than three months to go before the opening ceremonies next February, it's past time to end the legal wrangling. The time has come to fully concentrate on what is expected to be an incredible spectacle.
We hope the Justice Department does not appeal Thursday's ruling and that the principals involved don't file their own suits.
Let's get on with the Games.
San Francisco Chronicle
For the first time in six years, the woman stepped outside her home unaccompanied by a male relative. The dust of battle had barely settled, yet music filled the air. Men whooped with joy and some began cutting off their beards. Intoxicated by a sense of hope, the woman lifted her veil and said to no one in particular, "Look at me. Look at me."
Having endured the nightmare of Taliban rule, she wants the world to know that she has survived, that she is visible and that she has a future.
But is anyone watching? Does anyone care?
Everyone is rightly worried about who will rule a post-Taliban Afghanistan. The United Nations has called for a two-year, broadly based, multiethnic, transitional Afghan government, backed by a multinational security force.
But will a new government represent the invisible creatures shrouded in blue burqas? A decade ago, the United Nations declared that women's rights are protected as human rights. Will the rest of the world now insist that women help shape the future of Afghanistan?
Consider what Afghan women have endured. When the Taliban took control in 1996, women became virtual slaves. No longer could they work or study. No longer could they leave their homes without a male relative. In sports stadiums, the Taliban shot women accused of adultery. In the streets, agents of the Department for the Propagation of Virtue and the Suppression of Vice viciously beat women if they inadvertently displayed a wisp of hair or an inch of ankle.
Most of the West ignored these egregious violations of human rights. For five long years, The Feminist Majority, which founded the Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan in 1996, tried, without much success, to get the U.S. government to address the atrocities described by women refugees.
After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the plight of women under the Taliban finally grabbed the public's attention. First lady Laura Bush highlighted the plight of women in Afghanistan in last Saturday's weekly radio address from the White House.
Women have never enjoyed proper democratic representation in Afghanistan. Now, there exists a rare opportunity to redress centuries of invisibility.
Change, of course, will come slowly. In a mostly rural nation, custom will govern women's lives. That is why women's nongovernmental groups must have a place at the table. Unless women represent their own interests, their needs and rights may go ignored.
The Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan, founded 22 years ago, is one of these women's rights groups. During the Taliban's repressive rule, some 2,000 members risked their lives by holding secret literacy classes for girls and women. They also worked in the refugee camps, providing women and children with clothing, food and medicine.
These women, in effect, created and participated in an underground resistance movement. Their distrust of the Northern Alliance should be taken seriously. Between 1992 and 1996, some members of the alliance raped thousands of women. RAWA members also say that some of these tribal groups "are also fundamentalists."
In contrast, RAWA's view of any future government resonates deeply with our own society's ideals. A new government, in their words, "should be based on democratic values and should ensure freedom of thought, religion and political expression while safeguarding women's rights."
Afghan society needs women at the table. As women move toward equality, standards of living, family income, education, nutrition and life expectancy will all rise.
The United States and the United Nations must commit themselves to protecting women's human rights and guaranteeing their full participation in the reconstruction and development of their country. Anything less will mock our justly admired democratic ideals.
If we could send a message back in time to 1972, what might we say?
Don't count on price controls to defeat inflation. Don't trust President Nixon and Vice President Agnew.
And please include in the Antiballistic Missile Treaty a paragraph that will allow a missile defense.
We've gotten rid of price controls, Nixon and Agnew had the decency to resign, but we're stuck with the 1972 missile treaty that has long been outdated.
Two years ago Congress wisely passed the National Missile Defense Act that requires the nation to build a missile defense ``as soon as is technologically possible.''
That cannot be done without violating the old treaty that forbids the testing needed to invent missiles capable of knocking down incoming missiles.
In 30 years, much has changed. Who in 1972 would have believed the unlikely situation today?
The Pentagon has been hit and the World Trade Center towers flattened by foreign, suicidal hijackers of airliners. The United States is at war against the sponsors of the attack, while the Russian president makes himself at home during a visit with the U.S. president.
Both leaders agree to scrap two-thirds of their nuclear weapons at a time when even Pakistan and possibly a band of terrorists operating out of caves have a limited nuclear capability.
No one knows what the next 30 years will bring, but for the present there is no appealing alternative to overwhelming military strength.
One argument against a missile defense is that it will spark an arms race of missile-building. Most of the world is too smart to waste money that way, and our main enemies are already arming as fast as their budgets allow.
Another argument is that no military defense can stop hijackers and smugglers. They must be stopped in other ways and will be a threat with or without a missile shield.
A third reason to balk at missile defense is that it won't work or won't work well enough. If Russia and China believed that, they wouldn't be so strongly opposed to it.
Bush concedes that Russian President Putin doesn't agree with the U.S. defensive strategy but says, "Our disagreements will not divide us as nations." Nor should these disagreements keep America vulnerable.
(Compiled by United Press International.)