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Press Review: Olympic Bombing in Atlanta

  • Charles Recknagel



Prague, July 29 (RFE/RL) -- Newspaper opinion and analysis focuses on this weekend's terrorist bomb blast at the Summer Olympic Games in the U.S. city of Atlanta.

Writers express outrage at the bombing Saturday, which killed one person and injured more than 100 others. They also analyze why terrorism seems to be becoming more frequent at the end of the 20th century and how the public should respond.

NEW YORK TIMES: You only need a pipe bomb to be a world shaker

Thomas Friedman writes today that the attack on the Olympics is symptomatic of a new form of terrorism whose primary purpose is only to instill fear in the public, rather than serve political ends. He writes that "what is so frightening...is that we seem to be dealing with a new kind of terrorist: 'anonymous'...the person with a small pipe bomb who can disturb the sleep of an entire globe...and yet prefers to savor it all alone, anonymously."

Friedman speculates that the growth of the worldwide media, which report a bombing to every corner of the world simultaneously, encourages anonymous terrorists by offering them the instant gratification of worldwide notice. Friedman concludes: "to be a world-class Olympic athlete, you need to train for years.... to be a world-class, world-shaking terrorist now, you need only a pipe bomb...no name required."

NEW YORK TIMES: Bring prudence and persistence to bear against terrorists

The paper said in an editorial Sunday that the only way to counter this weekend's terrorism at the Olympics is to go ahead with the games. The newspaper wrote that "terrorists vary in their political goals...but their psychological game is always the same. They want to put the public and their leaders into a panic that weakens their will, their judgement, and their faith in political structures--what (U.S. President) Bill Clinton called 'the fabric of democracy.'"

The editorial concluded that "prudence and persistence are the qualities (best) brought to bear against the initial surge of dismay that everyone feels when killers convert (their) most dreadful fantasies into reality."

WASHINGTON POST: Now we know what they know in Jerusalem and elsewhere

Tony Kornheiser wrote in yesterday's Washington Post that the attack at the Olympics was particularly vicious because it targeted a park where people gather in Atlanta to enjoy the spirit of togetherness of the Olympics as much as the games themselves. He said: "Centennial Park wasn't designed to hold any sports. It was designed to held something much more important--people."

He described the park as a place where people made "the quintessential Atlanta Olympic photograph for the family album (with) a smile on every face" but now the park is closed as a crime scene. He observed: "what they know in Jerusalem and Belfast and Beirut and Sarajevo and God knows how many other places... we know now in America (that) there is no totally safe place. Kornheiser concluded that "we have to learn to live with it...and get back on the bus, go back to the markets...and back to the park."

WASHINGTON POST: The spirit of the Games will go on undiminished

In an editorial Sunday, the paper said that the best response to terrorism is to go on with the games. It said: "The games will go on, as they should. Terrorism cannot be allowed to halt the Olympics, not because international competition is more important than security, but because a civilized world can never succumb to actions of the murderous and depraved." The editorial concluded: "The Olympics today are different from the festive occasion that marked opening night...in light of what has happened, how could it be otherwise? But the spirit of the games will go on undiminished."

LONDON TIMES: An American militia group probably planted the bomb

Evil cannot destroy the goodness in the Olympics, says today's edition. The paper urges: "even after these deaths and injuries, the Games should continue to be watched and prized for what they are--a great, even if increasingly commercialized, international celebration of youth, talent, and life."

But the paper warns: "soberingly, this is precisely what makes the Olympics a natural target (for terrorists). Cameras... are everywhere (and) the guarantee of global fame is absolute." The paper concludes that the bombing was likely carried out by one of America's little-known militia groups which have "less a political program than a burning rage against the state," and which attacked the Olympics to gain notoriety.

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: The Olympic bomb barely registers on the atrocities scale

The British paper today says that "terrorism is not a 20th century invention, but the arrival of mass communications...(has assured today's terrorist of) worldwide publicity for the cause of his choice beyond the dreams of any spin doctor." The paper says that before "other disaffected groups see the huge return this bomb produced on such a tiny investment" and also are tempted to step into the limelight, politicians should give the incident some perspective.

The paper concludes: "When set against the 1972 murder of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists, (this weekend) barely registers on the atrocities scale, and the chances of a visitor to the Atlanta games being killed by a bomb are less than his chances of dying on the road or being murdered."

LONDON INDEPENDENT: There is no great, global force called terrorism

"Breathe deep, count to ten, then react," says today's paper. An editorial observes that "in the aftermath of the bomb in Atlanta, the priority is to keep a sense of proportion." The paper continues: "it's always tempting to manufacture a panic" (about worldwide terrorism) but in spite of a recent spate of attacks around the globe "there is no great, global force called terrorism."

It continues: "if the perpetrators of the Atlanta blast are found to belong to some domestic American insurgency, the point to be reinforced is that 'terrorism' is no monolith, no international conspiracy. Most terrorist acts are rooted inside particular national and historical contexts." The paper concludes: "No random act of bombing can ever be justified; but there is no point, either, in pretending all terrorists are alike."

LONDON GUARDIAN: The Olympics are the embodiment of the good side of the human spirit

The British paper says that no matter how hard people try to keep this weekend's event in perspective, the bombing "is a shock to one's faith in human nature." The paper writes in an editorial: "There are shocked, bereaved, and indignant people this morning in places like Burundi, Indonesia, and Turkey for whom the events in Atlanta inevitably seem secondary. But the events in Atlanta represent something particularly oppressive to the human spirit everywhere (because) for all their many faults, the Olympic Games remain of the few practical expressions of global fellowship to have survived (more or less) this most destructive and intolerant of centuries."

The editorial continues: "Compared with universal peace, justice, and equality, doubtless the Olympics rank far down the list of ideal international aspirations. They are self-tarnished in many ways...but they are, in the end, the embodiment of the good side of the human spirit. The bombing strikes right at the heart of the capacity for optimism about our future."
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