What U.S. newspapers are saying

Nov. 20, 2001 at 12:12 PM
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New York Times

Secretary of State Colin Powell launched a timely new initiative yesterday to revive stalled Middle East peace efforts. Greater American activism is justified by the inability of Israelis and Palestinians to move forward on their own and by the changed international conditions created by the war against terrorism. While obstacles to progress are daunting, strong engagement by the Bush administration can help overcome them.

As President Bush did earlier this month, Mr. Powell held out the vision of an eventual state of Palestine living peacefully alongside Israel. He bluntly reminded Palestinian leaders, however, that movement toward such a peace could proceed only if Israelis were able to live their lives free of terrorism as well as war. Reinforcing this point, he called on Yasser Arafat to produce not just declarations but actions to prevent attacks against Israelis and prosecute those responsible for them.

The practical path back to the negotiating table was outlined earlier this year by a commission headed by former Sen. George Mitchell. It outlined steps both sides needed to take, including stronger Palestinian moves against violence and an end to all new Israeli settlement activity. These proposals were broadly accepted by both sides and remain the central element of American policy.

Little has come of them because of the inability to achieve a lasting cease-fire. Both sides are responsible for this failure, though Mr. Arafat's failures have been the more egregious. He has repeatedly issued calls for ending the violence and then has either failed to back them up with actions or has undermined them with inflammatory rhetoric. In recent weeks he has once again indicated that he is ready to make a real effort to rein in Palestinian terrorist groups. These suggestions should be tested, as Mr. Powell is now about to do.

Washington's top Mideast diplomat, Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, will soon begin consultations with Israelis and Palestinian leaders. In addition, Mr. Powell has appointed Gen. Anthony Zinni, who recently retired as American military commander in the region, to be his special envoy charged with helping the two sides achieve a cease- fire. Mr. Powell put it well yesterday when he said: "Get that cease-fire in place and other things can start to happen. Without that cease-fire, we are still trapped in the quicksand of hatred."

The Bush administration initially sought to minimize American involvement in the Mideast conflict. It began moving away from that unrealistic position before Sept. 11, as the threat of uncontrolled violence and regional war increased. Since then, the war against terrorism has given Washington added incentive to play a more active role in Mideast diplomacy. Some worry that Israel could be asked to sacrifice legitimate security interests to the needs of the anti-terror coalition. Mr. Powell's words provide reassurance it will not.

Washington Post

In the past week the images out of Afghanistan may have done as much to advance the war against Islamic extremism as any missiles or bombs: Joyous Afghans have been seen shaving their beards, dancing to music, reopening schools for girls and otherwise making perfectly clear their delight with the end of the Taliban's harsh rule. As such scenes have been broadcast around the world, the claims by the propagandists of militant Islam that the U.S.-led military campaign has been doing great harm to the Afghan people have been badly damaged; so too the boast by Osama bin Laden that he leads Muslims in a war against the West. This windfall in the war of ideas has been sorely needed: Despite the horror of Sept. 11, the Taliban and al Qaeda seemed in recent weeks to be gaining sympathy in Arab and other Muslim states. But it's worth noting that the communications coup has had little to do with the U.S. government's "public diplomacy" apparatus or its increasingly aggressive efforts to market and control information.

Therein lies a lesson. Rightly recognizing that defeating terrorism means attacking the ideology and disinformation behind it, the Bush administration has launched a series of aggressive initiatives to get its story out, from setting up a 24-hour information war room to soliciting help from Hollywood. Some of the activity is worthwhile, and there is evidence that leaflets dropped in Afghanistan and the radio broadcasts of roving aircraft did some good. But too much of the administration's information strategy appears aimed at controlling what comes out, rather than encouraging the kind of open flow of information that has helped so much in the past week.

The administration now seeks to develop and peddle a "message of the day." That may be a good idea, but it's undermined by a parallel effort to push other messages off the air. U.S. networks are pressured not to air the statements of Osama bin Laden; the Taliban's outspoken ambassador in Pakistan is muffled. Administration officials openly seek to censor the Voice of America, stripping the radio of the credibility that is its strongest asset. Meanwhile, the Pentagon goes to great lengths to control the flow of news to U.S. journalists, keeping reporters far away from American troops in the field and strictly curtailing even after-action accounts. That the reaction of Afghans to their liberation was reported at all was due to the independent efforts of Western media to get to the scene -- a journey made possible only because Afghan opposition forces have proved more welcoming to journalists than the U.S. military.

Military authorities have a legitimate need to protect sensitive information in wartime. But the downside of the Bush administration's policy is already becoming clear: Around the world, media and governments are taking note of the efforts at control, and rightly or wrongly drawing the conclusion that the U.S. government is no longer as trustworthy, nor its press as free. At the White House last week, a Russian reporter asked President Bush why he still bothered to express concern about media freedom in Russia now that he was trying to curtail the flow of information himself. As often happens when governments seek to control the news, the effort at control is getting more attention than the official daily message -- which, because it is official, is anyway less likely to be believed. Last week's wondrous footage from Afghanistan suggests that the administration could gain more ground by embracing a simpler strategy: continue to fight its justified war, drop as many restrictions as it can, offer as much information as possible, and let the world's free press tell its story.

Washington Times

Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech on the administration's "new" Middle East policy left much to be desired. His statements at the University of Louisville were meant to deflect criticism that the administration has not been involved enough in brokering negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. Instead, they left more questions than answers.

Israelis and Palestinians, exhausted by the increase in violence that has erupted in the wake of last year's failed Camp David talks, were given no new vision for the future. Instead, Mr. Powell pointed to the past, to the lost ground since the peace proposals put forward by CIA Director George Tenet and former Sen. George Mitchell. Mr. Powell told Israel to stop its occupation and said that if it had any confusion on the how-tos of withdrawal, they were to refer to the U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967, which calls for swapping land for peace, and Resolution 338 of 1973, which calls for a ceasefire and the implementation of 242. Unfortunately, there are as many interpretations of these resolutions as there are countries who have a stake in the Middle East conflict.

Equally confusing was the creation of a new position for Gen. Anthony Zinni, the Marine commander who directed Bill Clinton's Operation Desert Fox against Iraq on the eve of the impeachment hearings three years ago. His role is to oversee a cease-fire between the Israelis and Palestinians. Wait a minute. Was this not U.S. Middle East envoy William Burns' job? What new mechanisms will be used to cement a cease-fire that have not already been tried and failed? Mr. Zinni's past also places him in a delicate position. He has lobbied against U.S. support for the Iraqi opposition in Washington's search for solutions to oust Saddam Hussein, and he took full responsibility for sending the USS Cole into terrorist-infiltrated Yemen.

Mr. Powell's proposal to set up an economic reconstruction effort to help rebuild the Palestinian economy could also mean a return to the past. Stringent conditions should be placed on the funds, which should not go directly to the Palestinian Authority (PA). In 1997, a PA comptroller's report found that 40 percent of its budget was mismanaged or used for kickbacks. In 1998, an internal EU report found that $20 million in unrecoverable U.S. and EU funds were spent on amenities such as Italian designer kitchens and luxury bathrooms for Mr. Arafat's friends rather than relief for the Palestinian people. Since then, the United States has continued leading global fund-raising efforts, pouring billions into the PA's pockets. But this has resulted in little improvement in living conditions for the Palestinian people themselves.

Peace must start with the determination of Israelis and Palestinians to stop the violence. Yet, rather than aid that process, Mr. Powell displayed a philosophy of moral equivalence that will only harm efforts toward peace. By likening the "concession" that Palestinians must give up terrorism to the concession that Israelis must cease their occupation, Mr. Powell made defending the security of Israel's borders a crime on the same level as terrorism. His lack of definitive measures to follow through with this "new" policy leaves the Palestinians room to continue pointing fingers and defending policies of terrorism. It leaves the rest of the world with a lesson in how to perfect ambiguity.

Atlanta Journal Constitution

Ten weeks later, a fire still burns beneath ground zero in New York City.

Horrific as that is, it is also appropriate. In far away Afghanistan, those who conspired to begin that fire now find themselves being consumed by it. In a collapse so swift as to still seem incredible, the Taliban has been thoroughly routed in the last two weeks, fleeing city after city and now clinging to power and to life in just a handful of places.

There, in desperation, they have begun to turn their guns on each other. If that hastens the day that the shooting stops altogether, so much the better.

Those scattered remnants of the Taliban and al Qaida that have taken to the countryside -- including, apparently, Osama bin Laden -- have equally poor prospects for survival. They are ill-equipped to deal with the Afghan winter about to settle over the landscape, lacking food, shelter or the ability to resupply themselves.

And in a cold landscape, any signs of heat -- a cooking fire, for instance -- will be quickly spotted by U.S. infrared sensors and targeted for destruction.

While the speed of this success may seem startling, the outcome itself is not. It is the culmination of a wise strategy outlined by the Bush administration and the U.S. military in those brutal days immediately after the attacks on Manhattan and Washington and carried out in the days since with skill and resolve.

As the president promised, we have gotten the Taliban on the run, and once on the run we have been able to find them and kill them. We have accomplished that feat even while attempting -- to the best of our ability -- to minimize civilian casualties.

It is true that for all of our technology, we have not been able to eliminate the random brutality that is war. But the sincerity of our effort is not to be questioned, and this was not a war of our choosing. It was forced upon us, and we have fought it appropriately.

The news seems equally encouraging on the terrorist front. So far, al Qaida has not been able to mount another operation on even a small scale since Sept. 11. That's a tribute to the response of U.S. law enforcement and to the international efforts to dismantle the network built by bin Laden. His operatives have apparently found it difficult to plot an attack while running for their lives.

However, while the war in Afghanistan seems to be approaching a finality of some sort, we know now that the struggle against terrorism will continue for decades to come. No nation can play as large a role in world affairs as we do without making enemies. And no enemy will dare to confront the United States directly; the quick collapse of the Taliban under U.S. bombing only confirms the hopelessness of that approach. That leaves terrorism as their only weapon, and we will have to be prepared.

All in all, though, our progress is so encouraging on so many fronts that optimism -- and thanksgiving -- seems perfectly appropriate. In fact, it would not be surprising at any moment to hear that bin Laden himself has been captured or eliminated. He has nowhere to go, and no way to get there.

That would be great news.

Because as long as he remains free, that fire in New York cannot truly be extinguished.

Baltimore Sun

The Taliban rule of Afghanistan is over. The country needs a working interim coalition regime as soon as possible, to restore civil order and safety and allow for restoration of public health and humanitarian aid before winter.

Only in such a setting can more permanent political institutions be negotiated through traditional Afghan councils.

Women, who played important roles in society before the Taliban and are now a greater majority than before, are needed in essential services immediately and should participate as citizens in institution-building.

The Northern Alliance and the former president, Berhanuddin Rabbani, are not a suitable interim regime but are an indispensable part of it. The old former king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, could help confer legitimacy to such an undertaking, but could not run it.

The United States has properly deferred to the United Nations in bringing the factions together. A first conference outside the country is essential. A major role for ethnic Pashtuns is required. They may not all be identified before both Kandahar and Konduz have been transferred to anti-Taliban, Pashtun control.

Kabul will not do for the first meeting because the Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance holds it. A site in Pakistan is symbolically out because of that government's involvement with the Taliban and Pashtun favoritism.

A quick meeting - probably in Europe - could enable a transition government in Kabul that the Northern Alliance would join. An international conference on economic reconstruction, scheduled for Nov. 27 in Islamabad, Pakistan, might instill confidence.

A continuing U.S. political role is vital. Americans and Afghans alike will welcome a withdrawal of the military presence when the Taliban and al Qaida have been dismantled. Other peacekeepers are in the wings. But the hands-off indifference of Washington after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, leading to anarchy and Taliban tyranny, must not be repeated.

While the Northern Alliance looks strong in Kabul, nobody is fooled. As an opposition, it was barely hanging on until U.S. bombing broke the will of its enemies.

The music has been turned on in most of Afghanistan after five years of terrible silence. It should be clear to observers from everywhere that the Afghan people are being liberated from a substantially alien regime that most hated.

The Afghans of all ethnicities and countries with a legitimate interest have a chance to put right what they all did so dreadfully wrong more than a decade ago.

Boston Globe

The United States stands for disagreement. This is where the famous words, ''I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,'' are reaffirmed each day.

Public conversation swings from Maya Angelou to Jerry Springer. Presidents are habitually roasted on Saturday Night Live. Even Al Gore tells Al Gore jokes. We do not worship sacred cows. This is the land of the free and the home of the opinionated.

Terrorism shouldn't change this. The Sept. 11 attacks lacerated the country. But they are not an excuse to muzzle public speech.

Bill Maher, host of television's ''Politically Incorrect,'' called the military ''cowardly'' for firing long-range missiles. Columnist Ann Coulter wrote after the terrorist attacks, ''kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.'' These comments can sting, even insult. But they are signs of a healthy democracy.

Only fanatics demand lock-step conformity. So it's disappointing to read a new report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni claiming that ''college and university faculty have been the weak link in America's response to the attack.''

The offenses: ''... many faculty demurred'' from condemning the attacks. ''Some refused to make judgments. Many invoked tolerance and diversity as antidotes to evil. Some even pointed accusatory fingers, not at the terrorists, but at America itself.'' Included is a McCarthyesque list of professors' names and comments.

The report calls for more of a focus on western civilization and criticizes schools that have added courses on Islam because this ''reinforced the mindset that it was America - and America's failure to understand Islam - that were to blame.''

We disagree.

Professors are complaining and getting away with it? Great. It means Americans are not the Taliban. We let people talk.

More courses on Islam? Wonderful. Pursuing knowledge is not casting blame on anything except, possibly, ignorance.

More attention on western civilization? Terrific. But the schools whose faculty are criticized in the report already offer many such classes. For example, professors at the University of North Carolina were criticized. But the school has several sections of ''History of Western Civilization to 1650'' that go from Plato to Charlemagne to Martin Luther.

And though it's called ultra-liberal, the University of California at Berkeley offers ''Origins of Western Civilization'' and classes on ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and European and American history.

Praise the critics and contrarians for teaching this lesson: A free society doesn't just accommodate dissenters; it thrives on them.

Boston Herald

Efforts by the United States and the international community to construct a post-Taliban Afghanistan should focus on attainable goals. The objective should not be "nation building'' but peace and stability in a land torn by decades of war.

It's encouraging that the Northern Alliance has agreed to a meeting outside the country as a first step toward forming a coalition government. Such a coalition -- including the nation's dominant Pashtuns, as well as the ethnic groups represented by the alliance -- is crucial to national unity.

The United States will not repeat the mistake of the 1980s, when this nation aided the Afghans in ousting Soviet invaders, then walked away from the country and its problems. The result was massive bloodletting, as various factions and warlords fought for power. Aided by Islamacists in Pakistan's military, the Taliban came to power. The death toll of Sept. 11 proved the folly of that policy.

But it would also be a mistake to go too far in the other direction. Neither the United States nor the United Nations can create a model democracy in a nation that has never had anything approaching it. Nor can anyone force modern social attitudes on a tribal society. That would only cause resentment and give radicals a cause to continue their fight.

The overriding objective should be to assure that Afghanistan will never again be a terrorist haven. That means encouraging rival factions to work together to create a functioning government, distributing international aid effectively, reconstructing the nation's agricultural sector and assuring at least minimal respect for human rights.

While Afghanistan's new leadership works toward these ends, the presence of a multinational peacekeeping force will be necessary. In a country where outsiders are always resented, such an operation should be of short duration.

In Afghanistan, winning the peace will take patience, money, diplomacy and a focus on what's feasible.

Chicago Sun-Times

First, Yasser Arafat must stop the violence. That is the fundamental requirement for getting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations going again. It's that simple. And Secretary of State Colin Powell was eloquent and unequivocal in making that point in his long-awaited foreign policy speech Monday. His message was so painstakingly clear that it's worth quoting: "To begin with, Palestinians must accept that, if there is to be real peace, Israelis must be able to live their lives free from terror as well as war. The Palestinian leadership must make a 100 percent effort to end violence and to end terror. There must be real results, not just words and declarations. Terrorists must be stopped before they act. The Palestinian leadership must arrest, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of terrorist acts."

And, Powell said, it's not just the Palestinians who must renounce violence against Israel: "All in the Arab world must make unmistakably clear, through their own actions, their acceptance of Israel and their commitment to a negotiated settlement." At long last someone has said it out loud: Moderate Arab states, the ones who keep telling us that achieving an Israeli-Palestinian settlement is so vital to their commitment to our coalition against terrorism, have a responsibility to pressure Arafat to rein in the warfare and hatred directed at Israel, recognize its right to exist and get that message to the Arab street.

Yes, Powell said Israel must end "the occupation," must trade land for peace, must accept a Palestinian state. But, of course, these are all things Israel has demonstrated it is ready to do--most notably at Camp David in the summer of 2000 when it offered to negotiate creation of a Palestinian nation in the most far-reaching peace proposals ever made by an Israeli government. Then Arafat walked away without even making a counteroffer. Now, Powell and President Bush have given Arafat a graceful way out of the mess he has created. Both have called for creation of a Palestinian state and both called it by the name Palestine, a significant and important gesture to the Arab world. But both also stated in identical language that no national aspiration justifies terrorism, the murder of the innocents. Powell made it clear that the Bush administration is ready to help the two sides--"We will push, we will prod. We will present ideas." And he recognized that many tough issues stand in the way of a lasting peace, most notably Jerusalem and refugees. But most significantly, the secretary of state declared in plain language that it all must start with Arafat ending the violence. Will Arafat finally get the message? It's his last chance to prove to the world he's not a terrorist.

Chicago Tribune

With the war in Afghanistan going so well, some people think this is the perfect time to deal with a matter left over from a previous war. Many conservatives want to expand our target list to include Iraq's Saddam Hussein, whom they regard as an ally of al Qaeda and the biggest terrorist threat in the world today. Otherwise, they warn, he will remain in place to build weapons of mass destruction and, someday, use them against America or its allies.

They also believe it would be a simple task to remove our longtime nemesis once and for all. Columnist William Safire of The New York Times suggests that the approach we have used to oust the Taliban-U.S. air power combined with indigenous opposition military forces and a population weary of oppression--could also yield quick success in Iraq.

It's a tempting idea, but not a convincing one. Taking the war to Hussein would be a much more formidable undertaking than defeating the Taliban, and one that might do as much to undermine the current war against terrorism as to enhance it.

In the first place, the war in Afghanistan is not over, and may not be for a long time. The collapse of most Taliban strongholds has been swift and surprising. But Taliban resistance may be hard to eradicate entirely. Whatever government inherits power in Kabul may face a protracted guerilla war. In addition, the tedious job of smashing the Al Qaeda network in Afghanistan and dozens of other countries has only begun.

Attacking Iraq would not help this effort. Just the opposite. Much of the behind-the-scenes help Washington has gotten from governments in the Muslim world would suddenly evaporate. Anti-American sentiment in the Middle East might boil out of control, endangering comparatively moderate regimes in Cairo, Riyadh and beyond. Nor is there any guarantee that Iraqi opposition groups would prove as aggressive and resourceful as the Northern Alliance has in Afghanistan.

Advocates of a wider war suspect Saddam Hussein helped the hijackers who hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Yet the evidence to support that charge remains thin at best. Without a solid case, Washington would find itself with few allies in the effort.

It would also sow debilitating doubts here at home--unlike in the war in Afghanistan, where the urgency of answering the Sept. 11 attacks assured that Americans would be united in their resolve to win.

While the Iraqi dictator unquestionably has developed chemical and biological armaments, and has made great efforts to acquire nuclear ones, he conspicuously declined to use them against the United States when American forces were routing his army during the Gulf War. Why? Because he knew he would be inviting overwhelming retaliation that would mean the end of him and his regime.

The demolition of the Taliban should also deter mischief-making by letting Hussein know that if he is implicated in attacks on America, he will face the same fate. That work, however, is still in progress. Less urgent concerns should not be allowed to get in the way of finishing it.

Dallas Morning News

Secretary of State Colin Powell laid it out straight for Israelis and Palestinians in his Middle East policy speech on Monday at the University of Louisville. Their decades-long war must end, he said. For Palestinians, that means an end to terrorism and to incitement of violence against Israel, no matter how legitimate they feel their grievances to be. For Israelis, that means an end to the building and expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. For both it means recognizing the other's right to live securely in an independent state. It means treating the other with dignity and respect. It means accepting United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 as the basis for an exchange of Israeli-occupied land for peace.

Mr. Powell was correct on all those points and correct to describe how desperate the situation has become since the once-hopeful Madrid peace conference of 1991. Then, flush from their multinational victory over Iraq, Western and Middle Eastern countries banded to begin a new peace process. Two years later, Israel and the Palestinians completed the Oslo accords, which were to have led to an independent Palestinian state. Negotiations collapsed last year after the eruption of a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising. The intervening period has been marked by more Palestinian terrorism, Israeli military reprisals, repeated failed attempts to impose cease-fires, a general absence of trust, and a rise of mutual hatred.

As Mr. Powell recognized, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the central challenge in the Middle East, and resolving it is key to peace in the entire region. The cancer of instability that extends and radiates from it must be excised so that Islamic extremists may no longer use it as a rallying cry for their campaigns of vilification and violence against the United States and Western civilization.

Mr. Powell's blunt talk was welcome. It suggested that the United States was prepared to exert strong pressure on both parties. It will take that kind of effort to convince them to make the right compromises for peace. For each is reluctant to confront its hard-liners and to shed dreams of total victory.

The United States must not relent. It must use its great influence to compel the parties to compromise and to see the wisdom of peace. As the retired general said, "It is time -- past time -- to bring the violence to an end and to seek a better day."

Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Congress has had to temper Attorney General John Ashcroft's zeal in using a wartime rationale to undermine the nation's legal standards. Disappointed with congressional action on anti-terrorist legislation, the Bush administration has opted for executive orders to circumvent Congress in trying to deny constitutional rights to suspected terrorists. American unity in support of the campaign against terrorism seems to have produced an arrogance in the White House that should be brought under control.

Soon after the Sept. 11 attack, Congress provided the Justice Department with tools to fight terrorism but stopped short of granting martial-law powers. The administration has rounded up more than 1,100 aliens and held them indefinitely as part of an investigation into terrorism. Ashcroft has signed an order that allows him to eavesdrop on conversations between suspects and attorneys.

Those are shortcuts compared with the notion of the president of the United States designating an alien to be shuttled away into a kangaroo military court where two-thirds of a panel may determine guilt and impose the death penalty -- that, after a trial that included hearsay, and with no right of appeal. The order is a dangerous attempt to short-circuit the judicial system.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said he would move in a "very measured and conservative" way to establish procedures for such trials, but that's not Rumsfeld's job. Transferring criminal proceedings from the judicial system to a military base or warships at sea for trials that could be conducted in secrecy is unacceptable.

The order has been criticized across a broad political spectrum, from the liberal People for the American Way Foundation to William Safire, the conservative columnist for The New York Times. On the Senate floor, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania demanded congressional hearings and Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, quickly agreed, saying he will hold them soon after Thanksgiving.

President Bush's selection of Ashcroft, formerly a Republican senator from Missouri, as attorney general raised concerns that the president was trying to appease the conservative wing of the GOP. Not only has Ashcroft validated those concerns at this most sensitive of times, but the president seems to have followed Ashcroft's extremist course. It is time for President Bush to seek moderate legal advice and to fit Ashcroft with reins.

Los Angeles Times

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's speech Monday on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a welcome and tangible sign that the war on terrorism has forced the Bush administration to abandon its previous indifference to the spiraling violence between Israelis and Palestinians. The more the two sides battle, the harder it becomes for the United States to hold the anti-terror coalition together in the Arab world. Only the United States has the clout to exert a calming influence that might set the stage for renewed negotiations.

Powell rightly warned Israelis and Palestinians that they were caught "in the quicksand of hatred" and said that Israel should stop building new settlements in occupied territories. He announced that he was sending to the Mideast both retired Marine Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, who commanded U.S. forces in the area, and Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns. The administration continues to hope that the Mitchell plan, which calls for a truce and negotiations, can be put into effect immediately.

Both Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat could use a respite. Arafat's limited moves to curb Palestinian terrorists have created a backlash. A new survey by Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki shows that Hamas and Islamic Jihad combined enjoy more public support than Arafat. Arafat must show real progress in prompting Israel to pull out of Palestinian territory. For his part, Sharon faces the prospect of being outflanked on the right by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, should the state of siege continue.

The Bush administration already appears to have persuaded Israel to give up on its precondition of seven days of "absolute quiet," as Sharon put it, before it will deal with the Palestinians. For further progress, Powell himself, not just his lieutenants, will also have to play a key role. His speech was a first significant step.

Miami Herald

Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday offered no bold new ideas for achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians in his much-anticipated speech about new developments in U.S. Mideast policy. What Mr. Powell did offer, however, was American help and assistance to both sides if they would agree to cease their hostilities.

That is a tall order. Since last year's Camp David accords ended in failure after coming so tantalizing close to an all-encompassing, land-for-peace deal, the cycle of violence between Israel and the Palestinians has escalated into a low-intensity war. So Mr. Powell's speech outlining greater U.S. involvement is timely and welcome. It also is a crucial adjustment of the Bush administration's policy, which heretofore was detached and distant.

Mr. Powell announced that two top advisors -- Assistant Secretary of State William Burns and retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni -- would be sent to the region as U.S. intermediaries. He said that the United States would be willing to send independent monitors to the West Bank; and he offered economic assistance to rebuild Palestinian areas in exchange for security and peace. In addition, Mr. Powell said that both Israel and the Palestinians would create senior-level task forces to focus on ending the violence and getting back to the negotiating table.

The new initiatives are part of the Bush administration's ``vision'' for a Mideast peace in which Israel and the Palestinians coexist as independent states that recognize the right of each other to exist within secure borders. The blueprint for achieving such a peace already has been spelled out in the Mitchell plan, which calls for a cease-fire and a cooling-off period, followed by a renewal of negotiations.

Mr. Powell took pains to position the United States as an impartial third-party arbiter in the conflict, pointing out to each side how its actions prolong and feed the violence. He exhorted the Palestinians to make a 100-percent effort to stop terrorist attacks against Israel and to arrest and turn over to Israel extremist militants. And he told Israel that its settlement policies and occupation of Palestinian areas must end.

These Bush administration initiatives are overdue. The administration has been criticized for its hands-off approach to the conflict, leaving Europe, Russia and other nations to take a larger role. As Israel's closest friend and ally, the United States must do more than be a third-party observer. This is a step in that direction.

Portland Oregonian

The imminent fall of Konduz, the last Taliban stronghold in the north of Afghanistan, has produced a dangerously combustible situation that underscores the complexity of the war against terrorism.

It's difficult even to surrender. As rebels of the northern alliance tightened their siege against Konduz, Taliban forces offered to give up -- if the rebels would agree to spare the lives of foreign fighters loyal to Osama bin Laden. The Taliban also asked that their surrender be witnessed by U.N. representatives.

The offer sounded desperate Monday, amid reports that these foreign Islamic militants -- aligned with bin Laden's al-Qaida network -- had shot hundreds of Taliban fighters who had tried to surrender at Konduz. Refugees also told of incredibly brutal executions of civilians by the besieged Taliban.

This bloodshed puts the United States and its allies in a tricky spot.

If U.S.-led forces take control of surrendering fighters and refugees, then America and its allies will be responsible for the treatment of these people. That's a daunting responsibility in a nation with a long tradition of reprisal killing, and already the northern rebels have engaged in it widely since U.S. bombing cleared their path to Kabul.

But if the northern alliance takes charge of the surrender, there's a great potential for summary executions and other vengeful atrocities.

Perhaps the United Nations could play a role, but events are moving so swiftly there may not be time to engage the world body in overseeing the surrender.

And what should become of the surrendering parties? Taliban militia and their supporters were never the prime U.S. targets; their offense was harboring the true enemies of America, bin Laden and his terrorist gang. Once removed from power, most Taliban leaders may be of little interest to the United States, though of considerable interest to the conquering northern rebels.

The soldiers of al-Qaida -- mostly Arabs, Pakistanis and Chechens -- are a different story. These are enemies who have declared a holy war to destroy the United States. Those who surrender or are captured will be prisoners of war. America and its allies will want full access to these prisoners for interrogation, incarceration and, in some cases, trial and punishment.

Just as we abhor the thought of a slaughter by the northern alliance, U.S. forces also oppose any deal that would grant the Islamic militants freedom or sanctuary in another country. To put it politely, al Qaida terrorists are not soldiers committed to following the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war. And they will not be prisoners who can be trusted to lay down arms and go home in peace.

If a U.N. force cannot be counted on to take responsibility for their detainment, the United States and its anti-terrorist coalition will need to do the job.

Either way, the detention of captured and surrendering al Qaida militants will need to be indefinite. The housecleaning in Afghanistan is only the opening battle in what will be a long and complicated war.

San Francisco Chronicle

With the Taliban on the run, a fresh challenge is arising over how to replace Afghanistan's despotic leadership. It's a choice between stability and modernity that the United States must handle carefully.

The quick answer would be to hand control of the country to the Northern Alliance, the faction-ridden but successful rebel host that is advancing with a considerable assist from the U.S. and British military.

If any group controls Afghanistan, it's the alliance. Its military occupies the capital of Kabul, and its allied warlords control two-thirds of the country.

The Northern Alliance, under heavy pressure from Washington, has now agreed to widen its rule in a major way. It will invite all major groups in the ethnic mix of Afghan politics to a peace conference where a post-Taliban government will be discussed. Most significantly, this offer means allowing a role for the Pashtun, the country's largest ethnic group that went along with Taliban misrule.

This gathering won't be a polite debate club. These groups have fought for generations, switching sides, buying off rivals and massacring foes. But a working government that gives all sides a stake is important for many reasons. First, power-sharing will preserve the peace better than leaving the job to the Northern Alliance alone. The moderating nature of compromise politics will rein in the extremes symbolized by the Taliban theocracy.

Also, a modern Afghanistan -- inclusive, democratic and open to the West -- would send a message in the Central Asian neighborhood. Genuine stability doesn't lie with military control, religious domination or the exclusion of women or ethnic groups. It rests on broad participation and support.

Carrying through on this ideal will be hard. The country is among the poorest on the planet. It floats in a sea of Kalashnikov guns and grenade launchers. The Taliban may yet fight back from caves or hideouts.

Politics aside, a huge rescue operation awaits. Humanitarian aid must come quickly, and outside peacekeepers may be needed to preserve order while the country climbs back on its feet.

President Bush has handled the war well by striking hard and maintaining a worldwide alliance against terrorism. Now he faces the slippery job of "nation building," a term he denounced when running for office.

If he can foster a peaceful Afghanistan, the result will speak more powerfully than any battlefield victory. An end to the Taliban won't be enough.

A broad-based, tolerant government needs to emerge.

Union-Leader, Manchester, N.H.

Evidence uncovered by reporters rummaging through former Taliban-controlled sectors of Afghanistan has revealed a worldwide plot, approved by the Taliban leadership itself, to wage a global war of terror against the West, The Observer newspaper in London reported on Sunday. The discovery proves that Bush's decision to attack Afghanistan with military force rather than pursuing justice through international courts was the right decision.

The documents unquestionably link al Qaida to the Sept. 11 attacks. They include a flight simulator and addresses of flight schools in Florida. Other papers show that al-Qaida was planning to attack power plants in the United States and Europe and to assassinate Western leaders. Al Qaida documents were discovered in the Taliban Defense Ministry, establishing a clear connection between bin Laden's terrorist organization and the renegade government.

The discovery of the documents vindicates Bush's action against the Taliban, but it condemns earlier U.S. inaction. The Clinton administration went after bin Laden in 1998 by asking the Taliban to hand him over. The Taliban refused and brushed aside American threats. Clinton's pursuit of bin Laden consisted of solo air strikes against suspected al Qaida targets (primarily, we think, to boost his own popularity and not to effect a defeat or capture of the terrorist).

Clinton either wouldn't risk a plunge in his popularity ratings by going to war with the Taliban, which was blatantly aiding and harboring a man whose organization had killed Americans, or he was too distracted by other interests to do so. As a result, we left bin Laden and the Taliban free to pursue their declared war against the United States (bin Laden declared war on the United States in 1998) when we had every opportunity and justification to use force to go after them.

Clinton didn't do so, and now thousands more Americans are dead at the hands of al-Qaida and the Taliban. With the Taliban and bin Laden on the run, Bush will soon have to decide the next phase of the War on Terror. The president and administration officials need to keep in mind the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. No terrorist organization, and no government supporting or aiding a terrorist organization, should again be allowed to go unchallenged.

St. Petersburg Times

We should seize the moment to penetrate the airwaves in Afghanistan. But a radio station under White House control would appear less credible.

The war is going well against the Taliban, which is in retreat and on the verge of collapse. However, a war is won not only on the field of battle, but also in the hearts and minds of the people -- a hard lesson learned in Vietnam. Our ultimate success in Afghanistan depends in part on our ability to convince the average Afghan that American forces are liberators, not invaders.

How can we best be heard in this public relations war? Through radio. Short wave and AM transistor radio is the one connection with the outside world most Afghans still have.

We can start by providing better funding for Voice of America. The American-sponsored international radio network has been ratcheting up its efforts in central Asia. Despite the carping by some in Congress that its broadcasts are too balanced and not sufficiently pro-American, VOA deserves the additional resources it needs to do its job effectively. Upwards of 80 percent of Afghan males reportedly listen regularly to VOA. It would be foolish not to capitalize on such an opportunity.

To supplement the VOA effort, Congress should authorize the creation and funding of "Radio Free Afghanistan," in the mold of Radio Free Europe, the broadcasts that penetrated the Soviet iron curtain with perspectives and news from the free world. Legislation recently cleared the House that would earmark $19.5-million for the project -- chump change by Washington standards. It would give us the ability to communicate directly with the Afghan people, something we have been far too slow in doing.

By broadcasting in Pushto and Dari, the two main languages of Afghanistan, we could explain our purpose, let them know of our humanitarian efforts and dispel the lies and disinformation. At the same time, we should take care that the effort doesn't devolve into a propaganda campaign. The news and information on RFA may come from a Western vantage point, but it must be accurate, balanced and credible if this tool is to be effective.

Oddly, the Bush administration is being coy about signing on to the idea. In an official statement, the State Department applauds the creation of RFA as long as it "does not dilute or divert resources from U.S. government or other western broadcasting programs." But the bill to create RFA would not do that. It's an entirely new appropriation. The real story, according to New York Times columnist William Safire, is that the administration's reluctance is driven by Elliott Abrams, a veteran of the Nicaraguan Contra aid scandals of the 1980s, who is now in the National Security Council. Abrams is apparently holding out for a radio station under the direct control of the White House.

What a disastrous idea. Such a station would have no credibility as a source for news and information. It would be a waste of time and money.

The systems are already in place at Radio Free Europe to launch an Afghan equivalent. Every day we fight this war in the air and on the ground without also doing so on the airwaves is a missed opportunity. We have pretty well blasted away the Taliban's ability to communicate and broadcast their lies to the Afghan people. With a relatively small investment, that vacuum can be filled with the truth.

Salt Lake Deseret News

People prosper in direct relation to the amount of freedom they enjoy. That ought to be a simple concept to understand. But many people, such as the anarchists and assorted miscreants who regularly protest world economic summits, or the few who have staged pathetic protests against the war on terrorism, don't seem to get it.

Fortunately, the Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation team up each year to publish the "Index of Economic Freedom," which brings the point home forcefully.

Each year, the editors rank nations according to empirical data that measures freedom. The categories include banking and finance laws, private property rights, government intervention in the economy and trade policy, among other things. One glance at the list says it all. The nations with the greatest amount of freedom are the nations whose people prosper the most. In other words, prosperity has nothing to do with geography, population density or any other factors that sometimes invade public debate.

The top of the list is fairly predictable. Hong Kong still ranks as the most free, although its score has slipped a bit since it became a part of China. Singapore is second, New Zealand is third and the United States is tied for fourth with four other nations. The bottom of the list of 156 nations is equally predictable. The final six are Iran, Laos, Cuba, Libya, Iraq and North Korea. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that repressive governments are falling behind in the global economy.

Afghanistan didn't even make the list. That's because no reliable data was available with which to rate its economy. It also is because, quite frankly, there was no economy worth rating.

To further bring home the point, the editors use World Bank data to draw a connection between freedom and per capita income. In "unfree" or repressed nations, the per capita income is $3,500. In mostly free countries, including many industrial nations that have embraced forms of Socialism, income is $11,549. In free nations, income jumps to $23,325.

The key to prosperity, then, is not to oppose American corporations that "exploit" poor nations. It is to establish democracy, impose a constitution that guarantees basic human rights and to invite as much economic activity and innovation as possible.

Afghanistan offers a prime example of what happens when repression is carried to its extreme. The resulting poverty becomes a breeding ground for fanaticism, and fanatics tend to want to import their anger to more affluent nations.

This year, the editors found good news. Seventy-three nations granted their people more economic freedom during the year. Estonia, a former Soviet republic, moved into the top 10 for the first time ever, marking a truly successful transformation. It was one of the nations that tied with the United States.

Which brings up another point. Americans ought to ask themselves why they don't rank higher. The editors give plenty of hints. The biggest is that taxpayers here pay an average of 28 percent of their income in taxes, and corporations pay 35 percent. A correlation exists between tax burdens and freedom, as well.

Portland, Maine, Press Herald

Now that President Bush has signed an executive order authorizing World War II-style military tribunals to prosecute terrorists who are not American citizens, the issue of what to do with Osama bin Laden, should he captured alive, is a topic of national debate.

It should be said that it doesn't seem likely he will be taken prisoner. He has vowed to commit suicide should capture seem imminent, and with a $25 million bounty on his head, it seems much more probable that if he fails to do that, someone who knows his whereabouts would be tempted to produce his body for payment.

All of that, of course, would only happen if he escaped the continued U.S. and allied commando raids and bombing runs that are occurring in the shrinking portion of Afghanistan still controlled by the Taliban.

So, assume bin Laden beats the odds and is captured by American forces. What should we do with him?

The tribunal procedure was last used to prosecute German spies, some of whom received the death sentence. It was upheld by a unanimous Supreme Court decision in 1942. The tribunals are conducted in secret, with a panel appointed by the president substituting for a judge and jury. While the accused is provided counsel, only a two-thirds vote is required for conviction.

The procedure has many critics, who cite U.S. constitutional provisions and ideals regarding the right to a fair trial. However, such provisions apply only to U.S. citizens. Further, our judicial provisions of discovery of evidence and confrontation of accusers could be used in open court to reveal many vital secrets that would make it much easier for terrorists to commit their evil deeds and escape punishment in the future.

The United States is at war with terrorists, because what took place on Sept. 11 was an act of war, not a crime.

Military tribunals were valuable during World War II, and they're equally vital now. Terrorists will still have a chance to make their case, but they shouldn't be allowed to use the legal safeguards Americans cherish in order to destroy our freedom.

Tribunals are a perfect place to bring bin Laden to justice.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Russian President Vladimir Putin paid last week what must be considered a successful visit to the United States. Apart from the media home runs -- a good-natured exchange with National Public Radio listeners, a visit to the World Trade Center site and Texas cultural processing -- the visit gave Americans an opportunity see Mr. Putin interact with President Bush.

Although most of the visit was about posture and laying the basis for future transactions, serious business was done. A hoped-for deal on missile defense did not materialize, but there was preliminary agreement on the mutual reduction of long-range nuclear weapons. That should make all Americans sleep better, particularly since the security of Russian weaponry remains a serious concern. Russia also announced a 16 percent reduction in its armed forces by 2003.

Important trade discussions also took place. If Mr. Bush is successful in obtaining congressional agreement to remove economic sanctions contained in the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Amendment, the way will be clear for Russia to join the World Trade Organization. However, Russia will have to reform and revitalize its economy to satisfy the organization's strictures.

On other fronts, Russia under Mr. Putin is proving helpful to the United States. At a time when the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is reducing production in an attempt to drive up prices, Russia -- the largest non-OPEC producer with 10 percent of the market -- is keeping production high.

Other sore thumbs in U.S.-Russian relations were salved as well. Russia has started talks with the Chechens. The United States agreed to favor greater Russian participation in NATO deliberations. And while Mr. Putin has not yet agreed to changes in the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, there was at least a serious discussion of Mr. Bush's determination to test a limited national missile defense system.

All in all, presidents Bush and Putin built solidly on their three previous meetings and numerous phone conversations to make it likely that more of the kind of fruitful cooperation that has occurred in the wake of Sept. 11 is in store for the world.

Russia has used its influence to help the United States get access to military bases in its old Central Asian backyard, permitted American planes to use its air space, shared intelligence on al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations and supported the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.

One robin doesn't make a spring, of course. Russia's economy is still a shambles. It is selling advanced conventional weapons and nuclear technology to Iran, and one must assume that there are still more Russian spies in the U.S. woodwork. The amiable Mr. Putin was, after all, head of the KGB.

Still, last week's meeting reinforced the impression that the United States can do some useful business with Russia under Mr. Putin. In cultivating that relationship, the United States should stick with the themes it has been emphasizing all along: democratic values, market economics and the partnership of "civilized nations" that President Putin himself trumpeted.

Christian Science Monitor

With oil prices falling again, the United States may be tempted to avoid making expensive investments in alternative energy sources or in conservation. But the nation needs a long-term perspective to reduce its dependency on Middle East oil -- a dependency that only helps entangle it with terrorists.

One hopeful sign comes from San Francisco, where voters recently approved a ballot measure that will turn the city into a solar-energy leader, while also possibly getting it off California's wild ride in electricity prices.

The environmental benefits of alternative energy are largely driving this move, in San Francisco and elsewhere.

Europe is moving much faster than the United States toward renewable energies as a way to cut back on greenhouse emissions. The European Union plans to produce 22 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2010. Denmark currently gets 14 percent of its power from the wind. Britain is increasing its public investments in solar and wind.

The antiterrorist angle is a more recent rationale. It's much more difficult to target a power system when it's dispersed on countless rooftops. And it's much easier to deal with Saudi Arabia when it doesn't hold an oil club.

The question, as always, is whether these renewable sources can economically replace the current dependence on fossil fuels for electricity.

Recent advances in technology have greatly reduced the price of a kilowatt-hour of electricity produced from solar cells and wind turbines. And economists are getting better at calculating the real, long-term costs to the world of burning dirty coal in power plants.

San Francisco plans to produce 20 megawatts from solar panels and wind generators to power public buildings. A second measure passed by the voters allows the city government to underwrite widespread residential and commercial use of solar as well. San Francisco's steps should help stir solar development in other parts of the country and stimulate investment in the manufacture of solar and other equipment. Some cities are already moving in that direction. Seattle, for example, encourages utility customers to voluntarily contribute to a fund for renewable energy.

California set an earlier example by spurring car companies in the 1990s to develop hybrid electric-gas vehicles to meet state requirements for reducing air pollution.

Residents of the City by the Bay, despite their often foggy weather, are thinking clearly about their energy future. Here's hoping some of that thinking finds its way to Washington.

(Compiled by United Press International.)

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