What U.S. newspapers are saying

Oct. 28, 2002 at 9:06 AM
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New York Times

In the eight years that they have wrestled over control of Chechnya, the Russian government and Chechen rebels have descended ever deeper into a hellhole of brutish behavior. The two sides reached a new low over the weekend in their deadly showdown at a crowded Moscow theater that a band of heavily armed rebels had seized earlier in the week. The number of dead hostages and rebels is still being tallied, but it is already abundantly clear that the rebels and government forces once again disgraced themselves. The Kremlin and the guerrillas should come to their senses and settle a conflict that has left thousands of civilians dead and shamed Russian and Chechen leaders alike. ...

By now, the litany of depraved conduct in this conflict almost defies belief, including the rebel seizure of a Russian hospital in 1995 and a Russian town in 1996 and Moscow's indiscriminate attacks on Grozny, the Chechen capital, and other population centers. Mr. Putin rode to power by launching a second war against the rebels in 1999.

The international war against terrorism, and strong evidence that some Chechen rebels have received training and support from al Qaida, has emboldened Mr. Putin to equate his struggle against the guerrillas with America's campaign against Osama bin Laden and his followers. While there are common elements, the Chechens have some legitimate grievances about a long history of harsh Russian rule. Mr. Putin should recognize that he cannot end their insurrection through force alone. If the United States wants to be helpful, it should not give Mr. Putin a pat on the back after this debacle and tell him we are all fighting the same enemy.

Washington Times

The terror attacks that hit Southeast Asia resounded in the United States, as White House officials took wary notice of an al Qaida network regaining its foothold. While the terrorists that struck in the Philippines and Indonesia were operating in distinct political and religious backdrops, there is one factor these countries have in common: a lack of resources to battle terrorism.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has demonstrated an unwavering resolve to counter terrorism. Earlier this year, Mrs. Arroyo invited U.S. troops to give the Philippine military counter-terrorism training and she has consistently called for international cooperation for combating terrorism. The Philippine people, who are predominantly Christian, welcomed the U.S. troop presence, but Mrs. Arroyo's popularity is beginning to slip due to the violence.

In Indonesia, where Muslims are a majority, many individuals look askance at the prospect of a U.S. military presence. The U.S. military is restricted by law to giving the Indonesian military only humanitarian or disaster aid and training, as a result of human-rights violations committed in East Timor. Meanwhile, Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri has been reticent to acknowledge the terrorist infiltration of Indonesia. In August, while Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Southeast Asia, she objected to any measure that would facilitate U.S. troops' arrival in the region. ...

In August, this page raised caution over the penetration of terrorists into Southeast Asia. It specifically signaled that the crackdown in January against a JI cell in Singapore left four tons of ammonium nitrate unaccounted for. The same explosive was used in Bali. Keenly aware of the potentially global threat posed by terrorists in Southeast Asia, the United States should continue its efforts to train foreign troops and give countries trade avenues to bolster economic growth. It should remain wary, though, of doling out aid to countries that exhibit a weak will to counter terror.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Filipinos fought alongside American troops under U.S. command during World War II but most have unfairly been denied U.S. veterans benefits since the end of the war. Members of Hawaii's congressional delegation should continue their efforts in the next session to provide benefits that too long have been denied veterans who essentially were conscripted into the American armed forces.

The Philippines became a U.S. possession in 1898 as a result of the Spanish-American War and were given commonwealth status in 1934, becoming an independent nation in 1946. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 ordered the Philippine army into the service of the U.S. armed forces.

More than 120,000 Filipino soldiers volunteered and served under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, fighting at Corregidor and Bataan, subjecting themselves to death, injury, torture and incarceration as prisoners of war alongside American soldiers during Japanese occupation of the Philippines. Nearly half of the Filipino veterans are alive today, living in the United States or the Philippines, but their population is expected to decline to 20,000 by 2010.

As soon as the war was over, Congress unceremoniously declared Filipino veterans ineligible for benefits from the Veterans Administration. A 1990 law authored by Senator Inouye granted U.S. naturalization to nearly 25,000 Filipino veterans, including 3,000 who came to Hawaii, but they continue to be denied veterans benefits. ...

During this week's visit in Hawaii, Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo told Filipino veterans that she discussed the legislation with Inouye and would urge President Bush to support it. Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi has indicated his support. However, Senate Veteran Affairs Committee Chairman John Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., has held up the bill while seeking compromise language.

If Congress adjourns without enacting the Inouye bill, prompt action should be taken in the next session to end years of shameful neglect. "Heroes should never be forgotten or ignored," Inouye, himself a World War II hero, told the House VA subcommittee in June. "Let us not turn our backs on those who sacrificed so much."

Los Angeles Times

For celebrity-watchers, it's the trial of the new century. Princess Diana's long-time retainer, Paul Burrell, has been accused in England's famous Old Bailey court of pilfering no fewer than 310 objects from her estate. A police raid a year ago on Burrell's home in Cheshire turned up everything from china crockery with the Prince of Wales' feather monogram to autographed photos of Prince William with supermodels Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer.

This latest installment in the Windsor family's soap-opera-like drama has England and much of the world wondering: Was Burrell trying to protect her legacy from a "conspiracy," as Burrell has stated? Did he simply cherish the objects as a way of preserving her memory for himself? Or was he simply a common thief out to profit from her legacy, as the prosecution asserts?

Almost every hanger-on and associate of Princess Di has tried to extract something from her memory. But Burrell was supposed to be the exception. By all accounts, he was a model butler -- the one person Princess Di could count on for obedience, loyalty and, above all, discretion. During 22 years of service, he had risen from being a Buckingham Palace footman to Princess Di's personal butler. Burrell was the only mourner at her burial who did not belong to the royal family. But now Burrell is playing hardball with the family he once so devotedly served. He may, he said, feel forced to divulge personal details about Diana's life.

No doubt such details would further titillate the professional Diana-watchers who helped make her life such a torment. But even if he has to hand over the objects, Burrell could render his former princess one last service by keeping quiet and showing that the greatest of butler virtues hasn't gone by the wayside -- a stiff upper lip.

San Antonio Express News

In Saudi Arabia, women cannot drive, walk alone on the streets or travel abroad without a male relative's permission. In addition, they must wear a black cloak -- the abaya -- in public.

As oppressive as Americans may find such treatment, there's little the United States can do because that is Saudi law and tradition.

However, the United States needs to draw the line when the Middle East nation subjects American women and children to the same treatment.

In recent weeks, it has become apparent that dozens of American women and children are being held against their will in Saudi Arabia.

As a delegation led by U.S. Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., learned, one of the most disturbing facts is that many of those women and children were kidnapped in the United States and taken to Saudi Arabia, usually by Saudi-born husbands and fathers.

Equally disturbing is the U.S. response. The Wall Street Journal, "60 Minutes" and others news organizations have reported that the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh has turned down some requests for help from American women on grounds that the United States is respectful of Saudi laws.

Saudi laws? How about American laws? In many of the kidnappings that Burton has looked into, Saudi men broke U.S. laws.

Most cases involve American women and their Saudi husbands who divorce in the United States. The court gives the mother custody of the couple's children. In an authorized visit, the man abducts the children and takes them to Saudi Arabia.

There, the law protects the father because in Saudi Arabia -- as in many Islamic nations -- men have full custody rights. Even if adult women want to leave, they cannot unless their father consents, a highly unlikely possibility.

In Saudi Arabia, the United States has a loyal ally and a key oil supplier.

But no matter how loyal or how much oil it sells this nation, Saudi Arabia should respect the rights of Americans, and the U.S. government must make sure that happens.

(Compiled by United Press International.)

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