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Western Press Review: Comments Concentrate On Global Themes

Prague, 7 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary surveyed today by RFE/RL ranges the world, with global themes the dominant concern.


Writing in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung," Stefan Ulrich says that European ideas of how to control protestors at the sites of international meetings tend to sort into two compartments -- hide from the protestors or face them down with superior force.

He writes: "Italy's government has opted to try the 'Arrivederci Genova -- See you in Ouagadougou' approach." The German commentator says: "The upcoming World Trade Organization conference scheduled for this December in the Gulf emirate of Qatar -- a location not renowned for its thriving protest culture -- has been bandied about as an example to be followed."

Ulrich says that one trouble with hideaway conferences is they allow protestors to drive legitimate institutions underground. Another is that they rob legitimate opponents of the opportunity to express themselves on significant public issues.

He writes: "Suggestions by Germany and Italy's interior ministers to set up a European anti-riot force sound far more promising. In a special unit like that, experts from all over the continent would be able to exchange notes and discuss experiences to try to avoid disasters like the one that hit Genoa. Behind that Eurocops concept stands the idea that, as Europe grows ever closer together, police forces should no longer be treated as nothing more than a simple instrument of national public security."


The "International Herald Tribune" carries a commentary today by Don McKinnon, secretary-general of the British Commonwealth. McKinnon says that demonstrators preparing to attack his organization are setting up a Biblical David vs. Goliath. He writes: "The next high-profile summit meeting to catch the world's attention will be in October, when Commonwealth heads of government meet in Brisbane, Australia. There are already websites dedicated to wrecking the meeting."

McKinnon writes: "If people took the time to find out, however, they would realize that the Commonwealth is all about ensuring that its members prosper from the benefits of globalization -- to achieve a true 'common wealth.'"

The writer concludes: "Extremist protesters tend to construct the old David and Goliath scenario, with them playing David. But only a lousy director would cast the Commonwealth as Goliath. It is not a big-budget outfit and almost every nation in the Commonwealth family is a David. It would be a supreme irony for anyone who really cares about the developing world to let loose a slingshot at the Commonwealth."


The "Los Angeles Times" says in an editorial that the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia advanced the cause of globalized justice last week. The newspaper says: "With the conviction last week of Radislav Krstic, a Bosnian Serb former general, on charges of genocide, [the tribunal] passed its first test with flying colors. The practical and moral significance of Judge Almiro Rodrigues' words as he read the verdict should not be underestimated: 'You are guilty of genocide, General Krstic.' Not mistakes, not murder."

The editorial says: "The bluntness of Judge Rodrigues of Portugal should serve as a model for dealing with former [Yugoslav] President Slobodan Milosevic, now in custody. It should also shame NATO into going after other fugitive Serbian war criminals, most notably General Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic."

The "Los Angeles Times" concludes: "The tribunal cannot apportion justice for every error or restore the Serbs' victims or end communal violence in the Balkans. But its trials will have served their purpose if they convict the chief perpetrators -- all of them -- and thus perhaps deter future acts of genocide. That is firm enough ground to stand on."


Andrew Simms directs the global economy program at the London-based New Economics Foundation. He says in a commentary published by the "International Herald Tribune" that poor countries economically victimized by the pollution-obsessed United States should sue. His logic goes like this: "One of the most basic principles in law is that if someone does you harm, two things should happen. First the aggressor should stop what he is doing, and second he should provide compensation for the harm he has caused."

Simms continues: "The financial services initiative of the UN Environment Program estimates that the extra economic costs of disasters attributable to global warming are running at more than $300 billion annually."

He writes: "The prospects for poor countries look so bleak that we could be experiencing the end of development. Their terms of trade keep getting worse. Their share of aid nearly halved during the 1990s. The trickle of foreign direct investment they receive remains focused on natural resource exploitation. Getting the resources to tackle climate change seems impossible."

The writer says: "But there is an action of last resort. A group of threatened small island states, or a country like Bangladesh, could test the emerging international legal architecture with a novel nation-to-nation tort-like action."

Or, Simms suggests: "The United Nations General Assembly could request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice. Countries committed to realistic action on cutting emissions might view the U.S. cheap energy policy as an insidious subsidy and implement anti-subsidy duties."

He concludes: "The next message that [G-7 plus Russia] heads of state receive from their poorer cousins may not be an invitation to a reception, or a plea for more aid. It may be much more abrupt: 'We'll see you in court over global warming.'"


The U.S. national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, writes in a commentary in "The Washington Post" that global racism has diminished since the fall of the Soviet empire. He writes, however: "The world's nations face a critical test to determine whether they can, through cooperation, create a less hateful and more tolerant world or whether ideological politics, with all its destructive consequences, will rule the day. The opportunity and the challenge come in the form of the week-long World Conference Against Racism, scheduled to begin [at the end of this month] in Durban, South Africa."

Foxman writes: "At a time when conflict between developed and developing countries threatens to reappear in environmental and trade issues, among others, a successful conference on racism with agreed-upon principles could foster greater trust on other issues. These potential gains, however, are being put in jeopardy. Anti-American and anti-Israel forces have tried to hijack the conference. Undermining Israel and the United States seems more important to these parties than the real achievements meant to benefit all."

The writer says: "Both as a matter of justice, and to ensure that the conference will not be tainted as have others in the past, Western democracies, especially Britain, Germany, France, and the United States, must actively oppose the destructive propositions at the preparatory conference now taking place in Geneva."


"Sueddeutsche Zeitung" commentator Andreas Baenziger writes that Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia has carried its xenophobia to incredible depths. He says: "This weekend, the Taliban-controlled government in the Afghani capital Kabul ordered the arrest of 24 employees of the aid organization Shelter Now, a group which assists displaced people in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan."

Baenziger recounts: "In the raid, the authorities confiscated a Bible [and] Christian literature in translation in the local language. This prompted the Taliban to close a Shelter Now school which taught 65 children. They were sent to a home, where they will now be instructed in the 'true Islamic religion.' The government in Kabul has already indicated that the captives will be punished according to Sharia, or Islamic law."

The writer says: "In Afghanistan, the death penalty can be imposed on any Muslim who converts to another religion or to anybody who seeks to convert a Muslim to another faith. Although that is far from tolerant, it would be indefensible if the organization had indeed exploited the crisis in Afghanistan to extol Christianity."

He concludes: "In Afghanistan, blinkered ideology continues to take absolute precedence over the people's dire need."