Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Bali Bombing Leads to Questioning of Whether Bush War on Terror Is Working

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Bali Bombing Leads to Questioning of Whether Bush War on Terror Is Working

Article excerpt

Lucy Jones is a free-lance journalist based in London.

The European press was reeling in October from the Sari nightclub bomb attack on the Indonesian island of Bali which led to the death or injury of over 500 people, including many Australian and British tourists. The assault, which followed the shooting of U.S. Marines in Kuwait and the ramming of a French oil tanker off the coast of Yemen, was a "crime against all humanity," wrote the UK's Guardian on Oct. 14. "The linear connection of Bali to the fundamentalist killers behind Sept. 11 does indeed appear all but certain," the editorial continued. "The main difference now may be that the organization has decentralized its operations since its expulsion from Afghanistan and that small cells or even lone individuals are now tasked with carrying out `freelance' assaults wherever and whenever they can."

Like many publications, France's Liberation of Oct. 14 questioned whether the West should be considering war on Iraq while terrorists are still at large. "By making Saddam Hussain public enemy number one of the moment, George W. Bush is deliberately following the wrong path," the paper editorialized.

Russia's liberal daily Kommersant argued the same day that the campaign launched after Sept. 11 could well have led to more bloodshed. "Having set off a spiral of violence under the label of fighting terrorism," the paper said, "the so-called civilized world has in effect adopted the same rules as terrorists, for whom might is right."

So what can be done? asked The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland in an Oct. 15 article titled, "Bali proves that America's war on terror isn't working." Political action is needed "to win over the constituency that offers them [the terrorists] tacit backing: to drain the sea in which they swim," Freedland said. "No longer would the U.S. and others need to manipulate the Middle East just to safeguard their petrol supply," he continued. "They could let the peoples of the Arab world choose their own governments for once. The U.S. would move its troops out of Saudi Arabia, healing one of the sores Bin Laden most likes to inflame: the presence of `infidels' on holy Muslim soil. And Washington would pick up where Clinton left off, devoting serious political muscle to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Genuine movement in that area would instantly rob the Islamists of one of their greatest recruiting pitches," he concluded.

"We Must Take Saddam at his Word," says France's Le Monde

Saddam Hussain's sudden offer in mid-September to readmit U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq added another dimension to the war debate. The UK's Independent of Sept. 19 recommended that the Americans "should, against their better instincts, take the offer at face value, and reverse their position, so that America keeps the moral high ground and widest possible support for any eventual military intervention."

Le Monde of Paris on the same day agreed with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin that "we must take Saddam Hussain at his word....It's the least that public opinion--in the Arab world, in Europe, in the United States--has the right to require before the new war is unleashed, with the thousands of `collateral' deaths it will bring the Iraqi people."

According to Britain's Daily Telegraph of Sept. 19, however, "The `unconditional' offer to readmit weapons inspectors is, almost certainly, a ruse.... Saddam will not voluntarily give up his weapons of mass destruction because, without the threat they embody, his regime would be fatally weakened."

Russia's leading daily Izvestiya on Sept. 18 highlighted Moscow's role in bringing about Iraq's U-turn. "The cunning fox from Baghdad didn't really give in to U.S. pressure," it said, "but reacted positively to the requests addressed to him last weekend by Arab leaders and the Russian Foreign Ministry."

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