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What U.S. newspapers are saying

New York Times

Last September President Bush made the wise decision to work through the United Nations Security Council as the most desirable way to force Iraq to disarm. While marshaling American military forces in the Persian Gulf region, he has given international weapons inspectors time to gear up their investigations, test Iraqi intentions and satisfy other nations that force remains, as Mr. Bush has repeatedly said, a last resort. Now, with that process still incomplete, he seems increasingly impatient to abandon inspections and go to war, even if other Security Council members are not yet ready to do so. That would be a mistake.

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Washington is awash with war talk this week, as Mr. Bush and his top aides try to build support for a showdown with Iraq. It would be better to heed the advice of other Security Council members, including France, Russia and China, to allow more time for the inspectors to work. ...

If the Bush administration's aim is to keep military pressure on Mr. Hussein to encourage him to cooperate more fully with the inspectors or accept a diplomatic deal, the results could be constructive. But if Washington is actually planning an early military strike in the weeks just ahead, either on its own or with only British support, it should reconsider. Given the risks of military action and the widespread public opposition in the United States and abroad to acting without Security Council support, Mr. Bush should not be in a rush to go to war.

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Washington Times

The Vatican and the U.S. Roman Catholic Church have distinguished themselves in recent months as two of the sharpest critics of possible U.S. military strikes against Iraq. In November, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement that its president, Bishop Wilton Gregory, had written a letter to President Bush questioning "the moral legitimacy of any preemptive, unilateral use of military force to overthrow the government of Iraq."

The U.S. bishops' statement, perhaps their most definitive to date on the possibility of war between the U.S. and Iraq, warned that "the use of force might provoke the very kind of attacks that it is intended to prevent" and "could lead to wider conflict and instability in the region." If anything, the Vatican's tone has been even harsher. "It's unilateralism, pure and simple," the Vatican's observer at the United Nations, Archbishop Renato Martino, said in October. Last month, Archbishop Martino declared that preventive war against Saddam Hussein "is a war of aggression and does not come under the definition of a just war." ...

Unfortunately, some in the Vatican today seem to have learned the wrong lesson from the 1991 Gulf War. Archbishop Martino, for example, suggested last month that the 1991 experience shows that war is always futile. "Everyone knows the way it turned out. War doesn't resolve problems. Besides being bloody, it's useless," he said. But the tragic reality learned from centuries of experience is that sometimes dialogue and discussion with cutthroat dictators can be futile. Sometimes, the only way to achieve justice is to employ force.

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Washington Post

The United Nations Security Council may have reached an impasse on Iraq. Saddam Hussein's refusal to accept the "last chance" for voluntary disarmament offered by the council's Resolution 1441 has split the council into two opposing camps. One, led by the United States, takes seriously the council's threat of "serious consequences" in the event of Iraqi noncompliance -- meaning, very likely, a military campaign to remove Saddam Hussein's vile regime. The other, including France and Germany, in the face of war would abandon 1441 and fall back on a strategy of "containing" the Iraqi threat through continued inspections. Unless this divide can be overcome, the Bush administration will have to choose in the coming weeks between giving up on Iraqi disarmament and leading a military campaign without further approval from the United Nations. President Bush signaled yesterday that if pressed he will choose to act with a "coalition of the willing" rather than be blocked by the council's failure of nerve. That was the right message to send. ...

Mr. Bush should offer a detailed public explanation of what the United States knows about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and challenge the United Nations, one last time, to preserve its relevance by acting to implement Resolution 1441. In the meantime, the administration should continue to prepare the military coalition that even now is taking shape in the Persian Gulf. It would be best if that coalition could act with full Security Council support; but it can, if necessary, succeed without it.

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Boston Globe

Iraq's neighbors deserve support in their efforts to avoid a war next door by offering Saddam Hussein and his top accomplices asylum or by seeking to have the dictator deposed in a coup. Even if some of those neighbors are motivated by self-interest, they are justified in striving to prevent the loss of life that is bound to accompany any military action to remove Saddam's regime. ...

In the Saudi case, it is no secret that the ruling princes do not look kindly on the prospect of a constitutional government in Iraq that would not be dominated by Sunni autocrats and would establish full human rights for women, Kurds, Christians, and other minorities. It would be a shame -- and a tragic blunder -- if the United States once again fell for the Saudi fallacy of strongman rule in Iraq.


Chicago Tribune

If you're looking for human rights abuses, you can't find many better places than Libya. It is to human rights what tornadoes are to trailer homes. The human rights group Freedom House ranks it as one of the nine most repressive countries on the planet, among such company as Iraq and North Korea.

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Human Rights Watch says Libya's record has been "appalling," based on the government's habit of assassinating political opponents, imprisoning people without charge, arresting dissidents and torturing prisoners. ...

With a record like that, you might guess Libya would be Public Enemy No. 1 at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. And you'd be close: As of Monday, Libya is now in charge of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights -- elected by competent diplomats. There were 33 nations voting for Moammar Gadhafi's regime, three (including the U.S.) voting against, and 17 abstaining. It's as if Charles Manson were put in charge of the LAPD homicide division. ...

The UNCHR could be a powerful tool for exposing human rights violations and shaming governments into ending them. But right now, it's more intent on shaming itself.


Houston Chronicle

The notion that Libya would be chosen to head the United Nation's Human Rights Commission this year would be laughable were it not an unfortunate fact. The vote this week was a living example of a fox being named to guard the chicken coop.

Libya's leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi, is not known for his warm support of human rights. He is known for the arrest and torture of hundreds of dissidents and for stamping out all attempts to establish a free press or human rights organizations in his country. ...

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Countries such as Algeria, Burundi, China, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Kenya, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Togo and Vietnam -- all known for their questionable human rights records -- command a significant voting block. No wonder suggestions that human rights records be used as criteria for membership on the commission have fallen on deaf ears.


Los Angeles Times

Intelligence experts say "Londonistan," as they call it, has been a center of Islamic fundamentalist activity in Europe since the 1980s. The North London Central Mosque, the site of a raid Monday by British police, is, according to European law officials, the beating heart of that activity. The mosque's leaders claim it is a harmless house of worship catering to the needs of faithful Muslims, but investigators say it has been a fertile recruiting ground for Islamic extremists, producing self-styled holy warriors such as Richard Reid, the al Qaida-supporting "shoe bomber."

American and European officials have no doubt that it also serves as a link between local extremists and Islamic warriors from Chechnya to the Middle East. ...

The police raid shows a new and necessary unwillingness to compromise with terrorism in Britain, after a series of shocks. ...

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The mosque raid, during which police found canisters of tear gas, a stun gun, an imitation firearm and potentially incriminating documents, was a sign that Britain is going from using radical Muslim activity as a valuable source of intelligence to attacking it directly. ...

Islamic radicals have deftly exploited Britain's liberal free speech and political asylum laws to establish a safe base. Britain's raid, with the support of moderate Muslims, will help safeguard those liberties.


(Compiled by United Press International.)

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