New York Times
With the White House and Capitol Hill approaching agreement on the language of a resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq, Congress is on the threshold of a solemn and rare occasion -- a debate over war and peace. Flag-waving sound bites with an eye to next month's hotly contested midterm elections will not be enough. There are too many crucial issues that require deeper examination than they have had so far. The debate should be a moment for the American public to take stock, perhaps the country's last real opportunity for measured deliberation.
No further debate is needed to establish that Saddam Hussein is an evil dictator whose continued effort to build unconventional weapons in defiance of clear United Nations prohibitions threatens the Middle East and beyond. The issue is how Washington and the international community can best eliminate or reduce this danger. ...
Political change in Iraq, after all, is likely to have regional consequences, beginning with the substantial Kurdish minorities of Turkey and Iran. Conquering Iraq could send shock waves through the Persian Gulf and North Africa, at least temporarily destabilizing oil markets and distracting support and resources from the larger fight against international terrorism.
The likely consequences of war in Iraq extend far beyond November's elections. The Congressional debate must be equally farsighted.
When Hong Kong came under Chinese rule five years ago, some optimists predicted that the freewheeling capitalism and personal liberties of the city might begin to spread to the mainland -- that Hong Kong would effectively swallow China rather than the reverse. Sadly, they have been proven wrong. Not only has political freedom not expanded significantly in China, it is steadily shrinking in Hong Kong, despite Beijing's promise to respect the formula of "one nation, two systems." Moreover, many of those who promised to be vigilant about Hong Kong's rights at the time of the hand-over -- or to fight for their expansion -- have been apathetic about their erosion.
The latest step in a gradual but systematic elimination of the city's independence came last week when the local government issued a draft set of security laws meant to combat "subversion, sedition and treason." ...
Hong Kong officials argue that the new laws were mandated by the Hong Kong constitution, or "basic law," agreed on by Britain and China before the hand-over. Yet that agreement also mandated a gradual move toward popular democracy in the city, a process that has not begun. That one mandate has been respected and the other ignored again has nothing to do with local opinion -- it is a policy that has been demanded of Hong Kong, in public, by senior Communist leaders, such as Deputy Prime Minister Qian Qichen. These officials appear to have little concern that Britain, the United States or other outside powers will react to their slow-motion suppression of Hong Kong's political autonomy, or even that they are paying much attention. Still, the suffocation of Hong Kong surely is being closely watched in the one place whose opinion should matter most to Beijing. It's hard to imagine that Taiwan's vibrant democracy, observing such a spectacle, would ever take seriously the "two systems" model that China claims to offer.
Pardon the paraphrasing of Ronald Reagan, but Saddam Hussein's offer to allow weapons inspectors back into his country under current United Nation rules -- the same rules he has willfully and flagrantly violated for years -- is pure smoke-and-mirrors diplomacy.
Under those rules, Saddam's palaces would be off limits to inspectors.
Any inspection of Iraq must be unfettered. Otherwise, what's the point?
It's simply Saddam trying to stay one step ahead of the United States, with catch-me-if-you-can stall tactics.
The Iraqi dictator has been spending billions since the Persian Gulf War building what the U.S. government believes to be dozens of mammoth desert palaces. Meanwhile, his people starve. (Saddam cleverly blames U.N. sanctions for keeping food and medicine out of his country, yet somehow finds the marble and gold to build palaces.)
Who's he trying to fool?
Well, France, Russia and China for starters. Those three permanent, voting members of the U.N. Security Council have not yet backed the United States' push to require open weapons inspections, destruction of any weapons of mass destruction and the use of military force if Iraq doesn't comply. ...
Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said the administration has exhausted all non-military means to disarm Saddam.
"They've not worked," he said. "The moment of truth has arrived for Saddam Hussein. This is his last chance."
We've heard that before. Let's hope this time it's true.
As the United States seems to move inexorably toward military conflict in Iraq, an important nation in the Western Hemisphere is headed toward constitutional crisis or civil war. The coming train wreck in Venezuela has yet to register on the U.S. State Department.
Last month the Chronicle's Editorial Board was scheduled to meet with a group of Venezuelan opposition politicians. The politicians canceled the meeting, their scheduler said, because they would soon be busy plotting a coup, fighting a civil war or enduring martial law imposed by Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez.
A State Department spokesman said he couldn't say which side the U.S. government would be on. This is not surprising, since the Bush administration appeared to change sides more than once during a Venezuelan coup in April, when Chavez was temporarily deposed by a group of oligarchs and disgruntled military men. ...
Unlike some Latin American intrigues, the threat to peace and the rule of law in Venezuela (Spanish for Little Venice) carries high stakes for the United States. Venezuela is a major exporter of oil to the United States and a source that would become indispensable if oil supplies were interrupted by war or revolution in the Persian Gulf.
Unfortunately, the United States has poor choices regarding Venezuela. Perhaps the best option is to lend help to mediators from the United Nations and Organization of American States trying to get both sides of Venezuela's conflict to respect democracy.
Los Angeles Times
The House and Senate may be rushing toward a barely debated bipartisan resolution that gives congressional backing to President Bush in any war with Iraq. The administration and the House reached an agreement Wednesday on language authorizing a resolution, and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) has introduced a resolution identical to the House's. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), a doubter on Iraq, acknowledged that the resolution is gaining momentum.
If the United Nations does not pass a stiff enough resolution on weapons inspections in Iraq, Bush seems eager to go it alone. Lawmakers who still have questions should not hesitate to raise them, for the sake of public understanding if not in hope of significantly amending the resolution. ...
Hussein is a dangerous dictator who has used chemical and biological weapons on his own people. But the White House has not yet provided a persuasive reason why he merits a one-on-one war with the United States, while the rest of the world, Britain possibly excepted, waits on the sidelines.
(Compiled by United Press International)