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Western Press Review: Remembering Nazi Germany's Book Burning; The EU 'Superstate'; Containing SARS

Prague, 12 May 2003 (NCA/) -- Among the topics discussed in Western media commentary today are Nazi Germany's 10 May book-burning of 70 years ago; the new European Union constitution and the creation of a European "superstate"; containing the worldwide spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS); implementing the road map to Mideast peace; and preventing violence in Kashmir, as Indian and Pakistani leaders announced the restoration of diplomatic relations.


The "International Herald Tribune" discusses Nazi Germany's book burnings of 10 May 1933. In several German cities, crowds fed books into bonfires, aiming, as the "Tribune" put it, "to cleanse Germany of un-German literature, of 'Jewish intellectualism' and works by Nazi enemies." It calls these events "a cultural atrocity that presaged the human atrocities that soon followed."

The paper writes: "The first enemies of a totalitarian regime are always its most articulate enemies. The sight of those fires of 70 years ago and those faces livid with conviction should remind us that censorship, even when no books are being torched, is in its very nature a violence against the essential freedoms of thought and expression."


Writing in the British "Times," columnist William Rees-Mogg discusses the draft European Union constitution to be presented on 20 June in Salonika, Greece. He says it will be difficult in Britain and elsewhere to get an "adequate" debate on the proposal, as "the issues have not been properly explained to the public, either by the media or by the government."

Rees-Mogg says the drafts published thus far "involve a total change in the nature of the government of [all] nations of the European Union." In sum, he says, the European continent will "cease to be independent nations; the sole independent nation would be the EU itself. And that nation would not be a democracy."

The constitutional proposals call for a common foreign and defense policy; a pan-European economic policy; universal European citizenship; and, as Rees-Mogg describes it, "the supremacy of the new European legal system based on the Charter of Rights, and overriding European control in all the major domestic areas, including health, education, crime, immigration, and the environment."

Rees-Mogg urges the British and European publics to look at the constitutional debate "from all points of view." A country "is entitled to decide its own future," he says. "[An] integrated and centralized Europe [would] be a weak form of government."

During the inevitable times of national crisis, such a "bureaucratic European superstate [would] lack the strong basis of public support."


Writing in "The Wall Street Journal Europe," Alyssa Ayres, co-editor of "India Briefing: Quickening the Pace of Change," says the two nuclear neighbors on the subcontinent have begun "an ambitious effort to end the dangerous state of enmity" that has persisted in past months.

India recently announced it would restore diplomatic relations with Pakistan; Islamabad responded favorably, with a formal invitation to talks. But Ayres says one of the main obstacles to a resumption of friendly relations is that India demands Islamabad end "cross-border terrorism," or terrorist infiltrations between Pakistan and Kashmir, before negotiations resume.

Ayres says many observers question how much control Islamabad has over the terrorist groups active in Kashmir. Nevertheless, she says, the Pakistani government is responsible for "policing activities within its borders." "Theoretically," the Lashkar-e-Taiba militia -- blamed for several political assassinations ahead of October's Kashmir elections and the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament -- "does not exist: Pakistan's President [Pervez] Musharraf banned it in January last year." But Ayres says, "for a banned militia, [their] media production continues apace," looking for new recruits.

Ayres says the conflict in Kashmir "has claimed tens of thousands of [lives]. No one's hands are clean in Kashmir, particularly not the Indian security forces. Kashmiris have suffered terribly, and deserve a shot at peace. [But] that peace will remain a fantasy as long as spoilers like the Lashkar-e-Taiba receive free rein to propagate their vision and recruit new soldiers."


Writing in the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung," commentator Peter Muench examines the U.S.-sponsored road map to bring peace to the Middle East.

Muench says the United States has tried carefully to prepare the way toward stabilizing the situation in the Middle East. He writes, "The U.S. first plowed the field in Baghdad, and now seeds will be sewn in Jerusalem and Jericho. The hoped-for harvest is a peace settlement that would be welcomed by all concerned -- the Israelis, who would have peace at last; the Palestinians, who would have their own state; and the other Arab states, who could hope for a new prosperity once they accept the Jewish state in their midst."

This sounds like a "brave new world," says Muench. But he says, in fact, "the plowing was done in the wrong field and in Palestine, the seeds are still falling on weed-contaminated soil."

Muench says the road to Middle East peace via an Iraqi war was a "grave mistake." Such an argument only serves to legitimize the U.S. venture, he says. The Baghdad war was not a shortcut, nor a necessary stage, but a "detour" from peace in the Middle East.

Anyone with a credible intention to improve the situation in the Middle East should not have started in Iraq but in Palestine, he writes. The Iraq war has not eliminated a single obstacle to solving the outstanding regional issues -- not the division of territory between Israel and Palestine nor the dispute over Jewish settlements and the return of Palestinian refugees.


Writing in "The Washington Post," Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian-American sociology professor at the American University in Cairo, says, "The doors are opening for democracy" in the Middle East. "The yearning for peace is unmistakable and the aspiration for development universal. The post-Saddam Hussein era offers a momentous opportunity to achieve these objectives."

Ibrahim says it "is time for a forceful -- not arrogant -- message from the United States to the people and rulers of the region -- a message that America will be a reliable partner in the pursuit of democracy, peace, and development. Only with such a vision [can] the United States avoid being dragged into repeated armed intervention. And only with it can the long-suffering peoples of the region finally join the community of open democratic societies."

He says ongoing military conflict in the Middle East has been due to "the weak state systems in the region, created in the aftermath of World War I and later confounded by the establishment of Israel. Drawn by Britain and France, the artificial and arbitrary boundaries of most Middle Eastern states gave rise to both interstate conflict and protracted civil wars."

Today, a "forceful and sustainable effort by the United States to bring about an equitable resolution to the Palestinian question" is needed as a beginning. Israelis and Palestinians now seem willing to agree on a "historic compromise." The United States "must seize the moment before extremists on both sides manage, as they have so many times in the past, to ruin this opportunity."


In a contribution to "The New York Times," oncologist and bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel says that while the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) now appears to be stabilizing, it is important "to develop and put in effect a strategy that tries to prevent future SARS-like outbreaks now."

One reason why SARS spread so easily throughout China is its combination of population density and the proximity of human living quarters to those of animals raised for food. Pigs, which can harbor human viruses, can also absorb influenza viruses from contact with birds. People who live in close proximity to others can easily infect their neighbors.

"Better surveillance is essential," says Emanuel. "Early warning systems for respiratory viruses will enable preventive measures, like quarantine and vaccination programs, to be put into place more quickly. Yet, while surveillance can hinder the spread of respiratory viruses, it doesn't change the underlying human-animal cohabitation that is the source of the problem."

Separating the living quarters of different animals is important, as is better and more spacious human housing. Improving surveillance is relatively inexpensive, but the money needed "to improve the millions of small farms, slaughterhouses, and housing and sanitation in China is staggering. Still, it is certainly outweighed by the tens of billions of dollars SARS has cost China and the world economy."


Writing in "The New York Times," Thomas Friedman compares the Mideast policies of current U.S. President George W. Bush with those of his father, former U.S. President George Bush (1988-1992).

Bush the elder "was ready to tell Israel and the Jewish lobby some very hard truths after the Gulf War in 1991: that expanding settlements would harm Israel's long-term interests, would shrink the prospects for peace and would help undermine America's standing in the Arab world." He also supported pressuring Arab leaders "to get them to sit down, en masse, for the first time with Israel at the Madrid peace conference."

Today is a "crucial moment" for the Middle East, says Friedman. The new Palestinian leadership, including Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, "[understands] how disastrous for the Palestinian people was the [Yasser] Arafat strategy of suicide terrorism and double talk with Israel." Abbas must now "deliver Israel security, but [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon also needs to deliver for him, by improving Palestinian daily life and rolling up some of the renegade outposts" erected by Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

Friedman says President Bush should "tell both the Christian right and the Likud-run Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that he is not going to let them block his path by their support for the lunatic Israeli settler movement." And Arab leaders must be told it is time to take decisive action in accordance with past promises.


A "Le Monde" editorial today says the UN role in Iraq is being marginalized by the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush. Some Bush advisers openly celebrated "the death of the UN" along with the fall of Baghdad, the paper notes. It remarks that, according to some U.S. officials, the "enemy" is not just rogue states or the nebulous threat of radical Islamist terrorism, it is also symbolized by the glass building in New York that houses UN headquarters.

Those that view the United Nations, with all its imperfections, as the main viable repository of international law will be glad to see that a new resolution on Iraq is being proposed at the Security Council. Contrary to its roles elsewhere, however, a UN envoy will not assume authority in Iraq; that role is reserved exclusively for the U.S. appointee, Paul Bremer.

"The UN has been deprived of any political role; it has been confined to a humanitarian [function]," says "Le Monde." At stake is depriving the UN of its authority to "maintain the peace," in accordance with its charter. Instead, it is being transformed into a massive humanitarian organization.

For the quickest normalization of the situation in Iraq, one must hope that the new proposed UN resolution is passed without prolonged ideological battles. But the world should also be mindful that the Iraq affair profoundly reveals the Bush administration's solitary attitude toward the international community.

(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this report.)