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Press Review: Olympic Bombing and Belarus Politics

  • Charles Recknagel

Prague, July 30 (RFE/RL) -- Many newspapers today continue to focus their comment and analysis on this weekend's bombing at the Olympic Games and what societies can do to prevent terrorism. Several papers also turn their attention to recent developments in Belarus.


The bombing on Saturday killed one person and injured more than 100, but did not interrupt the Games.

NEW YORK TIMES: Terrorism lives because victim nations do not stop it

"Domestic terrorism is treason (and) international terrorism is war," wrote A.M. Rosenthal in yesterday's edition. He said that governments should respond to terrorism accordingly, but that so far they have not. "So far... governments have taken some steps against domestic terrorism but in total (they have been) insufficient. Against international terrorism, the West has failed to act with any efficacy at all." He argued that "the chief reason is that trade profits have become more important to Western society than human lives or even national safety." Rosenthal concluded that "terrorism lives on and on, not because of its ideological or physical power but because the victim nations do not reach out to stop it."

NEW YORK TIMES: Will Western societies sacrifice individual liberties?

In an editorial today, the paper weighs the danger that the desire to prevent future terrorist attacks will eventually prompt Western societies to sacrifice individual liberties for tighter public security. "Terrorist attacks like the weekend bombing in Atlanta understandably generate pressure to give law enforcement agencies enhanced investigative powers." But, the paper, concludes: "the measure of wise leadership in Washington is whether the White House and Congress can resist the temptation to lunge for superficially attractive proposals that would undermine the liberties and privacy of Americans."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The only way to abate the threat is to increase security

The paper said in an editorial yesterday that it is time for Americans to consider imposing tighter public security on their society. "There is only one obvious way to abate the threat and that is to increase security. Measures must be taken to protect the public in situations that tempt political terrorists and violent screwballs."

The paper concluded: "Americans are not comfortable with the heavy security they see when traveling abroad: heavily armed soldiers patrolling airline terminals, roadblocks and checkpoints in sensitive areas. But operations like these, while oppressive, can help crush terrorism, and with proper restrictions they can be performed without violating... constitutional rights."

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: In a perverse way, the bomb at the Olympics was anticipated

Bob Greene wrote yesterday that terrorism is becoming a familiar presence at public events and there seems to be little societies can do about it. "The terrible news out of Atlanta last weekend was probably predictable. That's the worst part. In the past, events like the bombing in the Olympic park were variously described by the public and in the press as 'shocking,' 'totally unexpected,' 'unbelievable.' No more. In a dark and perverse way, the bomb that went off at the Olympics was every bit as anticipated--expected--as the gymnastics competitions, as the swimming races, as the basketball games." He concluded that "it is a chilling way for a nation, a world, to live--knowing that all the fine intentions of all the good people cannot defeat the intentions of the few who want only to hurt."

NEWSDAY: The credo that "the games must go on" is correct

Stan Isaacs, writing yesterday, said that the only way to prevail against terrorism is to refuse to let it succeed in disrupting normal life. He said that, in the end, the credo that the 'the games must go on' has correctly prevailed. Isaacs concluded that as a mark of respect for the dead, one could argue for calling off the games (following terrorist attacks). "But we must look at another aspect. If we quit, then it will give other terrorists ideas. No international gathering will be safe."

SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Terrorists should be vigorously pursued and punished

Commenting in today's paper, Kurt Kister says that "certainly a bomb attack of this kind cannot be prevented. As long as major events do not take place with the total exclusion of the public there will always be areas which can be reached without having to present identification." But, Kister says, "we cannot simply shrug our shoulders, note that terror attacks are inevitable, and go back to the main agenda." He calls instead for vigorously pursuing and punishing terrorists as the way to discourage future attacks. Kister concludes: "one can take action against (terrorists), at times with more, at times with less, success."


Turning from the Olympic bombing, several papers analyzed the meaning of Belarusan President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's banning yesterday of public demonstrations during the current harvest season.

WALL STREET JOURNAL: The ban comes two days after 10,000 Belarusans protested

The paper says today that Lukashenka's announcement is "seen by many as a further bid to clamp down on growing opposition." It notes that the ban comes "two days after an estimated 10,000 angry Belarusans took to the streets of the capital Minsk to protest human rights violations by the maverick leader." It continues: "Although last weekend's march was peaceful, several recent ralles have been violently suppressed by elite security troops."

THE WASHINGTON POST: Belarus has made less political or economic change

James Rupert writes today that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka "has renewed efforts to establish one-man rule in (Belarus), but has succeeded mainly in energizing and uniting his diverse political opposition." Rupert continues: "at stake is the broad direction of Belarus, which has made less political or economic change than most other former Soviet states. Lukashenka has reversed many of the country's modest economic reforms (while) his opponents favor some reforms and have opposed a vague union agreement Lukashenka signed last spring with (Moscow)."

Rupert says that the West is watching events in Belarus with interest since "Belarus's stability and independence are growing more important for Europe as NATO considers embracing Poland and other east European states (while) Lukashenka has warned of conflict if Poland joins NATO and has given Russia new military influence in Belarus."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Lukashenka's communist-era approach to the economy was on display

The British paper says today that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka "yesterday tightened his iron grip on Belarus.... It was his response to increasingly united and vocal opposition to his authoritarian rule." Correspondent Chrystia Freeland writes: "the Belrusan leader's increasingly dictatorial style could become an embarrassment for Moscow, which has singled out Mr. Lukashenka as Russia's best friend in the former Soviet Union. The paper roundly criticizes the Belarus leader by saying: "Mr. Lukashenka's communist-era approach to economic management was on display yesterday when he ordered Belarusan fuel company officials to lower their prices and warned that, unless they did so, they would be demoted to driving combines in the country's vast fields."