What U.S. newspapers are saying

Dec. 13, 2002 at 11:43 AM
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New York Times

By failing to set a swift timetable for Turkish membership, the European Union has fumbled its chance to make an enormous contribution toward integrating Turkey into the West. Ignoring the urgings of President Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, Turkey's newly elected government and others, it chose to wait two more years before even deciding whether to pursue membership talks with Ankara. This is a needless and damaging delay, particularly now that Turkey has elected a party with Islamic roots and a pro-Western orientation, a rare combination that could serve as a model for other Muslim states.

Earlier this week, President Bush met in the White House with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of Turkey's new governing party. Washington's most immediate goal, of course, is winning permission to use Turkey's strategically located airfields in the event of war with Iraq. Turkey is the only country that can provide bases along Iraq's northern border, greatly simplifying any military offensive and narrowing the time window in which Baghdad could use unconventional weapons. ...

Now that the voters have spoken, the ban on Mr. Erdogan should be lifted so that he can openly lead his party in Parliament. By giving him the prestige of a White House visit, Mr. Bush has made that more likely and earned his good will on the bases issue.

Europe's approach has been less farsighted and less forthcoming. Turkey's candidacy was accepted in principle three years ago but has been held up by a series of concerns -- some legitimate, like human rights, others merely a facade for anti-Muslim prejudice. This should be the last delay Turkey is asked to accept.

Washington Times

After a difficult debate, President Bush is expected to announce today that he will permit all Americans eventual access to the smallpox vaccine. While certainly a step in the right direction, it still falls short of the sad necessity required by national security. Indeed, while it is laudable that the president has dragged the bureaucracy to this point, he will have to exert even more vigor to ensure that Americans' most basic rights are respected in this matter. ...

When public vaccinations begin, the public, of course, will want to be informed of the possible risks. In the longer term, the research and development of a safer smallpox vaccine and smallpox antivirals will be required.

Mr. Bush is headed in the right direction on smallpox vaccinations. But he is not there yet.

Washington Post

The Bush administration would dearly like to postpone any major engagement with North Korea. A hotly contested South Korean presidential election is only days away, and a decision on whether to go to war with Iraq may need to be made within weeks. But North Korea's brutal and isolated dictator, Kim Jong Il, apparently intends to force his way onto Washington's agenda, even if it means bringing his country to the brink of war. Yesterday's announcement by Pyongyang that it would reactivate its closed nuclear reactor and resume construction on two others brings North Korea to the edge of activities that the United States has previously regarded as grounds for military intervention. Bush administration officials said yesterday that the threat won't change their stance of refusing Mr. Kim the political negotiations he craves. The question is whether that tough stance will yield concessions -- or further escalation by a desperate regime. ...

The Bush administration is rightly resistant to this attempted blackmail. And yet it cannot be assumed that time and outside pressure will eventually force Mr. Kim to back down; it is just as possible he will escalate still further. For that reason the United States must make clear that some steps by Pyongyang will not be tolerated -- such as removing spent fuel rods from international supervision. It must also find a way to clearly communicate to Mr. Kim what specific steps he must take to end the standoff; the Russian or Chinese governments could serve as intermediaries. This complex and difficult situation would be hard for President Bush to manage even if he did not face a crisis with Iraq. And yet a holding action does not look like a workable option.

Chicago Tribune

Jimmy Carter accepted his Nobel Peace Prize this week, which was awarded in part as a blunt message to President Bush that the Nobel crowd didn't like his threats to invade Iraq. Carter had been critical of Bush, too. But there he was, in his acceptance speech, warning Iraq that it must relinquish its weapons of mass destruction or face dire consequences.

"The world insists that this be done," Carter said.

It would have been gracious of Carter to remind the Nobel audience how the world got to the point of insisting on compliance by Iraq. He could have talked about why, after years of evasion, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has permitted arms inspectors back in his country and has, so far, seemed to comply with their demands.

Simply put, Hussein is complying because of the imminent threat of U.S. military action. And the world is demanding disarmament because Bush went to the United Nations and challenged it to enforce its own resolutions. ...

Four years ago, Iraq stonewalled UN inspections to the point that inspectors gave up and went home. That won't happen again. Now U.S. forces are building strength in the Persian Gulf. Enough troops, equipment, and supplies will be in place by January to launch a military strike.

The U.S. is right to keep the military pressure on Iraq with the threat that any deviation from compliance will spur action. That's the only language Hussein respects.

Dallas Morning News

Happy holidays, but forget the sugarplums. What Americans have dancing in their heads are unwelcome visions of weapons of mass destruction, with smallpox threats requiring new vaccination efforts, with al-Qaeda allegedly pirating chemical weapons out of Iraq, and with Iran and North Korea reviving nuclear reactor programs. To that, add Yemen receiving a shipment of Scud missiles this week, while saying "we promise it's our last," and you've got three unwelcome gifts being crafted -- biological, chemical and nuclear weapons -- and a method of delivery.

Move over, Santa, we need some wise men and women. ...

The U.S. has enough conventional capability; it does not need to elevate the status of nuclear forces. America should reduce tactical nuclear weapons, pursue alternatives to research on low-yield nuclear bombs and recommit to a ban on nuclear testing.

Then to wisely increase its own credibility, America itself must abandon first use of weapons of mass destruction -- including nuclear weapons.

Los Angeles Times

Henry Kissinger is tying up the independent 9/11 commission in needless controversy. With the backing of the White House, he is refusing to divulge his client list despite the potential conflict of interest inherent in leading a top-secret government panel and, at the same time, advising multinational companies. Former Sen. George J. Mitchell has resigned from the panel because he can't devote enough time to it; Kissinger should do so because he is bringing discredit upon it. ...

Kissinger keeps giving the public new reasons for why he's unsuitable for this task. He should go, either at the president's request or through his own reasoned conclusion that he is not doing the commission or his reputation any good.

Philadelphia Inquirer

It will be some time before experts finish poring over Iraq's 12,000-page declaration on its weapons programs, given to the United Nations this week.

It will be weeks before that document is matched up against intelligence reports.

It will be even longer before international inspectors, expected to number a hundred before the end of the year, finish looking at suspected production or storage sites throughout Iraq.

And it could be even longer until some Iraqi scientists or officials summon the courage to provide inspectors with details of weapons programs -- the surest way of learning Saddam Hussein's secrets.

That's why the Bush administration needs to be patient.

With so much at stake, invading Iraq should be a last resort, not a foregone conclusion.

Inspectors need more time to do their work before anyone should conclude that invasion is the only way to defuse the threat of Saddam Hussein.

(Compiled by United Press International)

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