- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

New York Times

Nothing became Gov. George Ryan's term in office like his leaving it. As the clock ticked out on the Illinois governor's last days in office, he made a series of dramatic announcements that emptied his state's death row. We can only join in his hope that this sweeping, and almost shocking, gesture leads the rest of the country to reconsider whether America wants to continue to be in the business of state-sanctioned death.

Mr. Ryan, who opened a new national discussion of the death penalty in 2000 when he declared a moratorium on executions, commuted the death sentences of 163 men and 4 women to prison terms last weekend and freed four other men. It was a strange end to a political life that he began as an enthusiastic champion of capital punishment. …

The satisfaction of retribution that the death penalty supplies can never outweigh the danger of unfair or erroneous application as long as it exists. Virtually every country on the planet has rejected capital punishment as barbaric. Perhaps Governor Ryan, in the tortured end to his political career, can help lead the nation to a similar conclusion.

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Washington Post

Shielded from public attention by the mounting crises in Iraq and North Korea, Afghanistan slipped into the new year without having achieved the stability it desperately needs for a sustained recovery — but also without plunging into chaos. That it has avoided famine, civil war and the resurgence of serious military challenges to U.S. forces during the past 12 months is something of an accomplishment, if only in a negative sense; so is the survival of its liberal and Western-oriented president, Hamid Karzai. Mr. Karzai, increasingly popular around the country, has become more aggressive in trying to extend the rule of his government outside of Kabul, and lately he has made some incremental progress. A few second-rank thieves and thugs have been expelled from positions of power in the provinces, a new national currency has been introduced, a landmark highway reconstruction project is finally underway, and a burst of new reconstruction activity is lined up for the spring.

But Mr. Karzai and his Afghan and Western allies are still in a precarious position, one that in the next year could as easily tip toward anarchy as toward the self-reinforcing cycle of economic revitalization and governmental reconstruction that is hoped for. …

The Bush administration and the congressional leadership need to follow through on the funding commitments they have made, beginning with the current year. If aid to Afghanistan is postponed or choked off in the coming months, there may be no reconstruction to fund in the future.

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Chicago Tribune

So the Bush administration has softened its stance. Faced with what amount to threats from North Korea's dark regime to create an assembly line for nuclear bombs, the U.S. late last week began informal talks with the North Koreans, and earlier hinted at giving them diplomatic and economic benefits if they halt their nuclear buildup. Accompanying diplo-speak suggested that the U.S. also may give Pyongyang the non-aggression pact it has demanded. …

For all the cynical motives pinned on the Bush administration — the histrionics over Iraq are all about oil; the president just wants to settle his father's score with Saddam — only the bitterest partisans won't acknowledge that a nuclear Iraq would be a much more perilous foe.

Maybe that possibility is so remote that war with Iraq still cannot be justified. Maybe the rest of the world even could learn to live with a nuclear Iraq; after all, we live now with what almost certainly is a nuclear North Korea.

Yet it is largely Pyonyang's nukes that have the U.S. and many other of the world's civilized nations walking on eggshells. And that should expand our discussion of what to do with Iraq:

Can we tolerate two North Koreas?

Many Americans have not settled on an answer. But that is the question.

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

By any reasonable standard, the United States has been as generous in helping Afghanistan recover from war as it's been effective in ridding that nation of the scourge of the Taliban and putting al Qaida on the run. But the victory over homelessness and poverty is still not complete, especially in Kabul and other cities. Which means that more work remains to be done.

Since the beginning of October 2001, the U.S. has spent about $850 million on humanitarian relief operations in Afghanistan, according to Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. …

The commitment to Afghanistan's liberation after those terrorist attacks also involves a commitment to the country's political and physical reconstruction. Nation-building, previously scorned, became both a moral and a practical imperative embraced by President Bush. A good start appears to have been made in the countryside, where imminent disaster has been prevented. Now, it's time to turn more aggressively to the cities.

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(Compiled by United Press International.)




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