- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 21, 2003

New York Times

With all due respect to President Bush and Congressional Democrats, this month's most notable stimulus plan for the American economy did not emanate from Washington but from Vienna. The recent decision by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to provide an additional 1.5 million barrels a day to world markets should help make up for the shutdown of Venezuela's oil industry, the source of 13 percent of America's imports. The move also signals Saudi Arabia's willingness to ensure the flow of affordable crude in the event of war with Iraq.

Beyond its immediate benefits, the Saudi decision is a further reminder of how closely our fortunes are tied to the good offices of the big producers three decades after the oil shocks of the 1970's. That the Saudis and other Middle East producers have had to come to America's rescue in the wake of Venezuela's political crisis is rich in irony. Venezuela was counted on as a buffer against disruptions in deliveries from the Persian Gulf. …

One positive aspect of the current uncertainty is that it reinforces the need for Washington and its cold-war adversaries — Russia and China — to work closely together on energy policy. At home, it should also prod the Bush administration to address sensible measures to encourage efficiency.

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Baltimore Sun

If the United States takes control of Iraq, it will go a long way toward ensuring a steady supply of oil to American buyers for decades to come. Not only would Iraq's own vast resources become available, but, as we have argued before, Saudi Arabia would be much less likely to try to stand up to Washington, and the prospect of completely secure access to Caspian Sea oil, by way of Iran, would also become a possibility.

That is a long-term view, though. In the short term, expect considerable turbulence.

It's inescapable that a great number of people abroad believe the ruckus over Iraq has a lot more to do with petroleum than with doomsday weaponry. Russia and Saudi Arabia, in particular, are hoping to out-maneuver what they see as American oil politics — and if they succeed they may just force the Bush administration into making clear what its genuine objectives are in Iraq. …

That's why the Russians sent a delegation to Baghdad last week. That's why the Saudis have floated a plan to offer Mr. Hussein asylum if he would only step aside. That's why even the Turks are holding a regional summit to try to avert war.

If — through diplomacy — the regime can be changed without American troops landing in Iraq, turmoil in the global oil business that would play into American hands can be averted. That, at least, is the thinking.

It leads to an interesting question: What if the Bush administration got everything it says it wants — a new and saner government in Baghdad, and a country credibly swept clear of weapons of mass destruction — but without a U.S. presence there? Would that be good enough?

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New Orleans Times-Picayune

Some British aristocrats were bound to feel slighted when the House of Commons, the lower house of Parliament, stripped them of their seats in the House of Lords. Until Prime Minister Tony Blair and his allies kicked most of them out, hundreds of hereditary barons, dukes and earls got to influence legislation in the House of Lords.

Now dozens of those nobles plan to sue the government in the European Court of Human Rights. They claim to have been deprived of property given to their ancestors in perpetuity, and they want about $1.6 million each.

It takes some gall to claim the human right to hold a position of power over others by accident of birth.

True, Americans have installed multiple Bushes, Doles and Clintons — not to mention Landrieus and Morials — in public office. The difference is that we have a choice. Britons, by contrast, were stuck with their hereditary peers, even those who could compete for Monty Python's "upper class twit of the year" award.

The nobles' lawyer claims that taking away their seats would be like taking away someone's house for no reason. He also says that many of them feel hurt because they had so much to offer.

Maybe so, but trying to milk their grievances for $1.6 million apiece hardly seems like a public-spirited move.

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St. Petersburg Times

The antiwar rallies across the United States over the weekend were striking for their diversity. Besides the usual pacifists and aging hippies and Hollywood celebrities, the protesters cut across lines of class and race and included teenagers, parents, grandparents and veterans raising their voices against military action that to them would be as wrong as it is probable.

Tens of thousands gathered Saturday on the National Mall in Washington. Though police and organizers differ on the count, the demonstration on the Mall was the largest since the Vietnam War. There was, of course, the usual rhetoric and the demonizing of the president. But there was also solemnity. To many, the issue is not only war but also the lack of a public dialogue on it. Many oppose war for different reasons, on moral or political or practical terms, but the demand to be heard is universal. …

These rallies are important because they are trying to start an informed debate that should have been led by members of Congress. …

The past week showed a rising chorus of opposition to a war with Iraq. It would be a mistake for the Bush administration to ignore these voices and invade Iraq without a strong rationale and the strong backing of the international community.

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San Diego Union-Tribune

Can Iraq be disarmed short of war?

Events are moving swiftly toward an answer to this question, as United Nations inspectors expand their efforts and the Bush administration voices mounting impatience with Baghdad's intransigence, amid a quickening buildup of U.S. forces in the region. …

President Bush is right to amass military units surrounding Iraq in preparation for war. Such readiness may help persuade Hussein to accept the peaceful option of voluntary disarmament.

If, however, Saddam Hussein engages in prohibited weapons activities in defiance of U.N. Resolution 1441, the Security Council must be prepared to endorse a military response as a last resort.

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Chicago Tribune

An intriguing possibility surfaced last weekend in the high-stakes poker game between Iraq and the rest of the world: What if Saddam Hussein, his closest advisers and their families, were to surrender power in exchange for the promise of a safe exile somewhere?

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld floated the idea in one of the Sunday TV news shows and two other Bush administration officials endorsed it, albeit with grave doubts that Hussein would ever accept it. Some of Iraq's Arab neighbors, most notably Saudi Arabia, also have suggested exile as a peaceful solution.

A peaceful surrender of power by Hussein and the top Iraqi leaders, and subsequent exile, is a very long shot but indeed far preferable to war. …

By accepting UN mediation and renewed inspections the Bush administration has shown patience and restraint. The U.S. is ready to work with international bodies and U.S. allies to avoid a military confrontation, including now considering the possibility of exile for Iraq's rulers. But patience should not be taken for weakness or international willingness to fall for another one of Hussein's wily survival games.

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Cleveland Plain-Dealer

Someone unleashed hell last fall in the Democratic Republic of Congo's lingering war. A United Nations report documents widespread executions, rape, torture and even cannibalism as rebel groups eliminated foes and intimidated civilians.

Revelations of the atrocities came as Congo lurches toward ending a conflict that is often called Africa's first world war. At one point, it had involved as many as six African nations and their murderous proxies.

According to a United Nations report, Pygmies and others were targeted by rebels intent on murdering and terrorizing potential allies of rival militias so they could control Congo's lucrative gold and diamond mines.

They called it Operation Clean the Slate.

As many as 200,000 people have fled their homes in eastern Congo since the terror. This bruised warrior-state now stands as one of the world's most unlikely candidates for peace.

The atrocities occurred until all sides signed a peace accord last December to end the four-year civil war. President Joseph Kabila, the rebels and the unarmed political opposition agreed to share power for two years and then hold elections. The rebels are supposed to join the national army and the police force.

The Congolese Liberation Movement, which will be part of the coalition government, did arrest some of its soldiers. They will be tried in rebel military courts, said Jean-Pierre Bembe, the group's leader.

Congolese civilians, who have taken the brunt of the war's estimated 2.5 million casualties, have to see that announcement either as tragic or comical.

They can rightly ask how peace can last if war criminals are allowed to take a pound of flesh with such impunity.

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Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Gambling proponents who realize they have no chance of persuading Hawaii legislators to legalize gambling will try the more subtle strategy of seeking a nonbinding referendum among voters. Gambling interests are well-schooled in referendums, which they regard as an investment toward future legalization. Hawaii voters and legislators already know from numerous opinion polls that people are sharply divided on the issue.

Senate President Robert Bunda, who has supported legalized gambling, explains that a referendum would simply gauge the public's opinion. Sen. Willie Espero, a cosponsor of the proposal, says opponents fear a massive public relations blitz by the gambling interests to influence voters. He is right. That is precisely what the industry has done repeatedly all across the country, spending large amounts of money to sway voters.

Former Gov. Ben Cayetano favored opening up Hawaii to gambling, but Governor Lingle is unequivocally opposed. That means that gambling proponents, who never have won a majority in the Legislature, would need two-thirds of legislators' votes to override a veto of a bill legalizing gambling. The odds of that happening are off the table.

Legislators last year refused to put the question on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. The next best hope for gambling proponents is that it be put forth as a nonbinding referendum in the next election, intended as the precursor of a constitutional amendment the following election. …

A referendum would provide an opportunity for the gambling industry to fashion the issue in a way that it could get its foot in the door in Hawaii. Once winning legalization in the least offensive manner and degree, the industry would seek to expand its presence, along with all the problems that it creates for individuals, families, businesses — especially the tourism industry and society.

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Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

We suppose it's possible, though only remotely so, to argue that Moammar Gadhafi's Libya deserves a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission. It is not possible under any circumstances to argue that a diplomat representing Gadhafi's cruel and despotic regime should be elected to chair the commission.

But precisely that insult and setback to human liberty occurred on Monday, and by a lopsided vote of 33-3, with 17 abstentions. The election of Najat Al-Hajjaji actually was the intended consequence of a tightly scripted minuet. By custom, blocs of nations take turns selecting the commission's leaders, and this year it was the African bloc's turn.

The Africans chose Libya, perhaps as a reward to Gadhafi, whose oil wealth has supported the newly created African Union, formed to replace the now-defunct Organization of African Unity.

Whether the selection was payback or not, the move was a cynical blunder. It is one thing to admit a country like Libya to commission membership on the grounds that doing so will expose that nation to the organization's moderating influence. But the cause of human rights around the world is compromised when its chief voice at the United Nations belongs to a diplomat from a nation that has been an infamous one-man dictatorship for 33 years. …

If Gadhafi managed over time to demonstrate an authentic commitment to pluralism and human rights, his country one day might have a legitimate claim to the commission's leadership. But he hasn't done that, not by a long shot. Which means that Hajjaji's election should have been a non-starter.

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Minneapolis Star Tribune

What to make of Washington's sudden interest in seeing Saddam Hussein leave Iraq for exile and immunity from war-crimes prosecution? Certainly that would be a good idea if, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, it meant avoiding war. But those who know Saddam well say he will never agree to step down. So just what is Washington's game? Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell quite deliberately sent the same message on the Sunday talk shows. But for what purpose? …

In the face of this hostility toward an invasion of Iraq, could the Bush administration simply be engaged in a public-relations offensive by promoting Saddam's exile? The world will have to wait a few days to discover which perspective is more accurate. Everyone should hope that Saddam opts for a nice villa somewhere outside Iraq's borders.

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Portland Press Herald

The thousands of protesters who converged on Washington this past weekend should be taken into account by a White House marching to war.

That's not to say that removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq would be a mistake. Doing so is in the interests of the United States and the world.

Still, the broad swath of ordinary Americans demonstrating in Washington indicates that millions are questioning President Bush. That's a change from the weeks following Sept. 11, 2001, when the nation rallied around a leader who gave voice to fear, anger and resolve following the terrorist attacks. …

As long as Iraq is in his hands, the Middle East will be in turmoil and terrorists will have no shortage of recruits or cash. Removal of Saddam by force followed by a strong commitment to a stable post-war Iraq offers long-term benefits to world. It is one necessary step in the war on terrorism.

This is an end worth fighting for.

Millions of Americans want more and better reasons to go to war. The case exists. It is up to this president to make it.

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(Compiled by United Press International.)





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