Tony Blair may be gung-ho about the war on terrorism, but his enthusiasm is not shared by his Labor Party's traditional media stronghold, The Guardian. In a commentary titled "A Grubby, Vengeful War" Madeleine Bunting warns of the impending humanitarian disaster. "You can't blow up fuel dumps, as the U.S. has done in Herat and Kabul, without crippling the distribution of aid. You can't bomb a country from high altitude without hitting depots and spreading fear amongst truck drivers and warehouse laborers… Aid is piling up in warehouses but not reaching the hungry stomachs that need it, a problem exacerbated by the fact that thousands have fled the cities for the countryside for fear of the bombs… What the war risks doing is turning a desperate, fragile situation into one of the biggest humanitarian disasters of recent decades." And, she warns, "Blair and Bush would do well to consider the political consequences of a famine: across a broad swathe of the Muslim world, the U.S. military action will be held responsible for every one of the deaths."
Across the now mostly metaphorical Fleet Street (few London papers still have offices there), he got some solid Tory backing. The Telegraph's Boris Johnson agrees that the Labor lefties and many of his conservative colleagues have plenty of valid concerns, but that toppling the Taliban and eliminating Bin Laden make waging the war an essential responsibility." There is always a period of Fleet Street nervousness, during any war. It happened during the Gulf. It happened during the Falklands. So come on, you Peggy Panics. Remember Margaret Thatcher on that very conflict: 'The possibility of failure does not exist.' "
The Mideast: Tug of peace
Over in Cairo, the editor of the official daily Al Ahram is more concerned that the U.S. do more to resolve the Middle East conflict. "Because the situation is so readily exploitable by madmen any long-term remedy to terrorism must extend beyond military and economic measures to address the policies that breed such rancor… By adopting a more equitable stance, recognizing the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and reviving the Arab-Israeli peace process in accordance with its original guiding principles, the U.S. would do much to counter anti-American sentiments." The paper welcomes recent announcements by the Bush administration of support for a Palestinian state and hints given to Arab officials of plans for a new peace initiative to achieve it.
The Israeli daily Haaretz has some bad news for their Egyptian neighbors: "Colin Powell is leaning toward a decision to cancel his plans to deliver a speech on United States policy in the Middle East containing suggestions for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement," the paper reported Thursday. "American diplomats sent a message to Sharon this week saying that the administration has no plans to launch a Middle East diplomatic initiative in the near future, and that any steps will be coordinated with Israel in advance." As ever in the Middle East, somebody's bound to be disappointed.
South Asia: No good choices
The Times of India was reassured by Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit this week that India wouldn't suffer the consequences of Washington's renewed affection for Pakistan. "Officials accompanying Secretary of State Powell on his trip to the region were quoted as saying he carried explicit assurances from General Musharraf to the Indian leadership that he (Musharraf) will try and contain extremism in Pakistan," the Times wrote. "After the Clinton administration had virtually discarded Pakistan to the dust heap, the Bush dispensation has decided that it needs to 'manage' Pakistan instead of isolating it. Indian officials say that suits India fine as long as it tempers Islamabad's behavior." The paper was particularly impressed that India's prime minister had been invited to Washington before Musharraf.
But over in Pakistan, the daily Dawn was less concerned with invitations to Washington than with how long General Musharraf will be around to accept one: "A number of difficult decisions were forced on him in the last few days. Any of these could easily go wrong and in the process not only destabilize his government but also have drastic consequences for the country and the region…There is little doubt that had he not responded to the American demand for cooperation in the manner that he did, the consequences for Pakistan could have been far worse than the specter of angry mullahs hitting the streets and burning his effigy. In all probability, Pakistan would have been branded a rogue state because of its admitted affiliation with the Taliban and for starters, what better ruse than a pre-emptive move to 'neutralize' our nuclear facilities?" Musharraf's survival, the paper suggests depends on his enlisting the support of Pakistan's mainstream political parties, whose ambitions he thwarted by suspending parliamentary democracy when he seized power.
Australia: Who's on third?
The U.S. is top of Osama Bin Laden's hit list, nobody doubts that. But who but ranks second and third? The Australian reports that the land down under is staking a claim on a joint third place. "Australia is now ranked third in the world as a terror target, Peter Costello said yesterday, as security forces prepared to raise the national level of alert… the Treasurer said Australia was behind only the U.S. and Britain, alongside Canada, on the list of terrorist targets." Although this was partly related to Australia's decision to send 1500 troops to the war zone in Afghanistan, Costello insisted that Australia was "already on the list" before September 11. At number 3? Hmmm. Israel may have something to say about that. Egypt, too. And Algeria. And France. And India, the Philippines, Spain, China, Russia and a few others with a lot more scars than either Canada or Australia.
Anthrax: The ultimate Halloween weapon
The Moscow Times offered an extremely pertinent understanding of anthrax's value as a weapon: Back when they were preparing for war with the West, Soviet generals had no plans to use their considerable stores of anthrax for the simple reason that nuclear and chemical warheads were more reliable weapons of mass destruction. "Bioweapons could kill hundreds of thousands or no one at all, depending on the weather and other factors that are hard to predict," writes commentator Pavel Felgenhauer. Still, he adds, "The inaccuracy and unpredictability of bioweapons makes them the perfect terrorist weapon that may kill few, but is guaranteed to terrify all."