New York Times
Sept. 11 was the 254th day of the year, which is just a way of saying that most of 2001 passed in the way that most years pass. The high points and the low points of those first 253 days look much like the high and low points of most years, only seen from a very great distance.
This was the year when Timothy McVeigh was executed, Senator James Jeffords switched parties, Chandra Levy disappeared, Slobodan Milosevic faced a war crimes tribunal, an American spy plane went down in China and Robert Hanssen of the FBI was unmasked as a Russian agent. The Rev. Al Sharpton spent 90 days in prison for political protests in Puerto Rico, and getting on his visiting list became one of the hottest political tickets in New York. George W. Bush was sworn in as president in 2001, under a cloud of dimpled chad. We spent much of last winter mulling the significance of the Clintons' new homes, new book deals and old presidential pardons.
The effect of Sept. 11 was to make many of our old concerns look puny, and there are very few Americans who have not made resolutions, changed priorities or otherwise refocused their lives since the terrorist attacks. We may be a more caring people, but there are very few among us who would have chosen this path to self-improvement. ...
There are only a few hours left in this lamentable year, barely enough time for summation, much less a true accounting of what 2001 has meant in the lives of each one of us and the life of a nation. Every coming year, in prospect, is a best guess, an unknown and unknowable quantity. It would be tempting to say that it's a relief to close out the daybook of 2001, if it weren't so clear that what happened this year was begun years ago and that what began this year will be a long time in the finishing.
Denial is always dangerous. But in South Africa, it has proven deadly. Some 4.7 million people there are HIV-positive. That is the highest number living with the prospect of AIDS, or with the disease itself, of any nation in a world where 40 million people are infected.
Yet the government of South African President Thabo Mbeki inexplicably keeps denying South Africans the government attention, access to drugs and educational programs that offer the only real chance of success against this plague.
Now he is doing that again. Mbeki's government has announced its challenge to a Pretoria High Court order to widen access to the AIDS drug nevirapine, which has been proven to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV during pregnancy by up to 50 percent. Mbeki, mistrustful of drugs developed in the United States and Europe, is unconvinced.
Mbeki lives on a continent inhabited by more than two-thirds of the world's people infected with HIV/AIDS -- more than 28 million. One in nine South Africans is infected, and AIDS is the largest killer of adults. What more evidence does he need that the potential benefits of nevirapine, or any other anti-AIDS medications, greatly outweigh the risks he still imagines exist with such drugs?
Mbeki's government claims the Pretoria case involves a constitutional issue, that the court order may infringe on its right to determine and set national policy.
But Mbeki is defending the indefensible. The effect of that policy has been to sow uncertainty about the disease. ...
South Africa's plight demands unequivocal leadership--not denial and uncertainty--about AIDS, rape and the cataclysmic problems related to those scourges.
Other South African leaders are showing impatience. Desmond Tutu, former archbishop of Cape Town, declared of AIDS this month: "Drugs must be available. It is silly to hold on to positions that are untenable. The president's position is undermining his stature in the world."
The unmoved Mbeki remains in deep denial. Meanwhile, his people suffer and die.
Tomorrow, Europe begins in earnest its grand experiment with a single currency -- the euro. This is the day that Europeans switch their francs, lire, marks, etc., for new money that many believe can be a unifying force for the continent. We wish them a smooth transition and easy conversions.
By one measure, the euro is a logical extension of the many connections that bind Europeans to a shared geography and history. Yet despite the potential for natural alliances, Europe's history has been characterized by intense competitions, rivalries, feuds and wars. Until recently, that is.
With the world shrinking, thanks to the Internet, global economics and rapid advances in communications and technology, Europeans increasingly are acting as a collective. Still, converting to a single currency may be Europe's boldest move yet. Success depends not only on governments acting in unison but also on the acceptance and involvement of the majority of people in each member nation.
Conversion to the euro actually began a year ago when electronic and bank transactions were shifted to the new currency. At midnight tonight, automatic-teller machines switch to the new bills. Ordinary residents of the 12 participating countries -- notably excluding Britain -- can begin everyday exchanges in euro money.
With a single currency, Europe gives itself a better chance for greater economic stability, easier commerce, more tourists, better exchange rates, less inflation and fewer inconsistencies in pay scales and the value of goods and services.
The euro is a good idea whose time has come, finally.
In the Peoples Republic of China, which is one of America's new allies in the war against terrorism, a judge recently sentenced Wang Jinbo to four years in prison. Mr. Wang, 29, was found guilty of "subversion" after he reportedly e-mailed to acquaintances articles that were critical of China's Communist government. Specifically, Mr. Wang seemed interested in promoting the view that Chinese students slaughtered by their government at Tiananmen Square in 1989 were not traitors but honorable champions of democracy. We say "seemed," because Mr. Wang is as unavailable for comment as anyone could be, and his trial -- like most of China's trials of democracy advocates -- was conducted behind closed doors.
What does any of this have to do with the fight against terrorism? Indirectly, a great deal. Since Sept. 11 the United States has forged new partnerships with a number of unsavory regimes that claim to share America's interest in fighting Islamicist terror. Some of these regimes, notably in China and Uzbekistan, want their wars against Muslim fundamentalists to be accepted as equivalent to America's. Russia's democratically elected government similarly wants its fight against Chechen separatists blessed as one more front in America's anti-Osama bin Laden campaign.
Evaluating these claims is difficult for Americans. There are credible reports that Chechen fighters were aided by some number of Arabs and other foreigners trained by or allied with Osama bin Laden; that some separatists in western China have used terrorist tactics such as car bombs and assassinations; that some fighters in Uzbekistan seek to replace the current secular autocracy with an equally cruel Islamic dictatorship. Yet we also know that many Muslims in China are imprisoned for peacefully expressing a desire for more religious freedom; that Uzbeks may be tortured for praying at the wrong mosque; and that most Chechens are fighting, not for sharia or Islamic law, but for national autonomy and out of anger at the ravaging of their territory by Russian troops and bombs.
If any of these countries had a free and vibrant press testing and evaluating the official version of reality, outsiders might feel more comfortable accepting that version. But -- and this is where we come back to Mr. Wang -- the opposite is true. In Uzbekistan and China, people routinely go to jail for writing or speaking the truth. Mr. Wang is one of many. Russia has more freedom of expression, but President Vladimir Putin's campaign against the independent media has limited reliable reporting from Chechnya. Governments of all three countries ask for the benefit of Americans' doubt as they wage their repressive campaigns. But their unwillingness to open those campaigns to independent reporting automatically tips the scales against their claims.
President Bush has moved forcefully to address the deteriorating situation along the India-Pakistan border, telephoning Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday to urge him to "eliminate" Kashmiri terrorists who launched a murderous attack on India's parliament earlier this month. While Mr. Bush expressed appreciation for Pakistan's "continued support" for the U.S.-led military campaign against Osama bin Laden's terror network, he made clear that General Musharraf's government must end its backing for the Kashmiri terrorists, in particular the Jaish e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the groups believed responsible for a Dec. 13 attack in which 14 people (nine Indians and all five attackers) were killed. Mr. Bush "urged President Musharraf to take additional strong and decisive measures to eliminate the extremists who seek to harm India, undermine Pakistan, provoke a war between India and Pakistan and destabilize the international coalition against terrorism," a White House spokesman said. In a telephone conversation Saturday with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Mr. Bush denounced the attack as "a strike against democracy" and emphasized that Washington is "determined to cooperate with India in the fight against terrorism." Secretary of State Colin Powell announced last week that the JEM and LT would be added to the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations.
While India, a majority-Hindu nation, has behaved in a brutal, heavy-handed manner in its administration of Kashmir (most of whose residents are Muslims), the lion's share of the blame for the current crisis lies with the Kashmiri radicals and their longtime supporters in Pakistan like General Musharraf. ...
In the wake of September 11, Washington threw down the gauntlet to General Musharraf so far as the Taliban (and by extension, bin Laden) are concerned, forcing the general to choose between his relationship with Washington and his relationship with Taliban terrorists. A prudent man, General Musharraf wisely decided he would be better off siding with the United States. Since that terrible day, Pakistan has been a key player in the coalition that drove the Taliban from power and now has bin Laden on the run. The sharply contrasting tone of President Bush's messages to Mr. Vajpayee and General Musharraf on Saturday strongly suggests that Washington is about to do the same thing with regard to Islamabad's support for Kashmiri terrorist groups like the JEM and LT. This would be a very important move, especially in a region of the world with two nuclear-weapons states. Pakistan needs to understand that to continue support for Kashmiri terrorists would be the height of folly. It is essential that Islamabad get completely out of the terrorism business.
(Compiled by United Press International.)