- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

New York Times

The Bush administration proved over the weekend that it can plan for war against Iraq and fight international terrorism at the same time. The capture in Pakistan of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a top operative of al Qaida who is suspected of planning the Sept. 11 attacks, was the most significant strike against the terror group since the United States dislodged the Osama bin Laden network from Afghanistan. America is safer today because Mr. Mohammed is in custody, and the CIA and FBI should be applauded for their role in his capture.

But a cautionary note is in order. Pakistan's pivotal role in the seizure of Mr. Mohammed is one more demonstration of the importance of working in concert with other nations in the fight against terrorism. The United States cannot defeat al Qaida without the help of dozens of other nations. The same principle applies to Iraq. President Bush may be able to win a military victory against Saddam Hussein without broad international support, but he won't be able to rebuild Iraq, much less change the political and economic dynamics of the Islamic world, without a great deal of foreign assistance. …

The fragile Pakistani government could be toppled in an anti-American reaction, endangering the war on terror. Iraqi biological and chemical weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists. None of these events will necessarily happen, but the odds that they will are as good as the odds that a war will lead to the establishment of a peaceful, democratic state in Iraq.

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Washington Times

In his speech to the American Enterprise Institute Wednesday night, President Bush stated that, once Saddam Hussein's regime in Baghdad is ousted, Israel and the Palestinians will be able to implement the "road map" for Mideast peace that he put forward last June. Mr. Bush emphasized that his goal is the creation of an independent state of Palestine next to Israel, assuming that the Palestinians get out of the terrorism business. …

For now, the best thing that can happen for Palestinian national aspirations would be for brutal tyrants like Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat to leave the scene and be replaced by a new generation of leadership. Mr. Bush's plans for regime change in Baghdad would be an excellent beginning for that process.

In the aftermath of a decisive war, dramatic opportunities for restructuring often present themselves. But such moments can easily pass within months. If an allied victory in Iraq persuades Arab governments to pressure Mr. Arafat to stop terrorism — a big if, we admit — we should expect the Israeli body politic to make a dramatic move toward contraction of the settlements, and creation of a viable Palestinian state. It is incumbent on all of the interested governments in the region to make a maximum effort for peace.

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Washington Post

As a U.S. war with Iraq draws closer, the Bush administration's discussion of its economic plan is becoming increasingly unhinged from reality. It would be an amusing case study in the surreal nature of Washington debate if it were not simultaneously so irresponsible — and so real. The situation is this: The administration, already facing a record budget deficit of $304 billion this fiscal year, wants Congress to enact a 10-year, $637 billion tax cut plan that by the administration's own estimates will dig the deficit even deeper. As Congress considers that course, the administration is refusing to put any price tag on the coming war with Iraq; any number would be wrong, it says, so why try? White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer offered a particularly galling version of this argument the other day, telling reporters: "There is, unquestionably, a responsibility on the executive branch to provide to the legislative branch an estimate about what the war would cost, what the humanitarian operation would cost. And that is a responsibility the administration takes seriously. Because we take it seriously, I'm not in a position to speculate about what the number may be."

But administration budget experts have been doing exactly that. Newspaper reports last week said they are considering ranges between $60 billion and $95 billion; President Bush was briefed about the costs. The uncertainty over the precise figure may be a legitimate reason not to have included war costs in the administration budget request of last month. But that is no excuse to refuse to discuss, or for Congress to fail to consider, the broad range of possible costs in the context of whether the United States can also afford Mr. Bush's tax cuts. …

Tax cuts have a price. So do wars. Congress needs to take both into account before it acts.

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Christian Science Monitor

If he sings like a bird under the hot lamp of interrogation, al Qaida's top operational leader, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, could reveal the minutest details that would help the US blow open his terrorist network, especially the so-called sleeper cells in the US and Europe.

His capture in Pakistan on Saturday is the most successful victory in President Bush's war on terrorism since the United States liberated Afghanistan soon after Sept. 11 and scattered al Qaida's leaders.

Even if Mr. Mohammed doesn't talk, al Qaida has lost its main architect, one whose dark visions and effective command of lesser radicals led to many of the big terrorist attacks over the past decade, including Sept. 11. The capture, too, of his computers and papers, along with two compatriots, will force al Qaida to further scatter and hide, delaying its attempts to recruit and rebuild.

Among the lessons to be learned in his arrest is that the United States can bring down al Qaida even as it fights conventional wars. U.S. intelligence agencies can also now be judged to be effective in their electronic snooping and in developing good relations with other countries. Pakistan has helped the United States capture over 400 al Qaida members. So far, a third of the network's leaders have been captured or killed worldwide. And it also helped that the United States offered a $25 million reward for information on Mohammed's hideout.

Al Qaida still has the means for major strikes, and its two ideological leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, remain at large. But the arrest of the man who claimed to be the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks should reduce much of the public fear that al Qaida only hopes to create and increase. And this success creates a momentum of confidence that can help the United States win this war as much as anything.

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Rocky Mountain News

In his last two budgets, President Bush made no provisions for funding a possible war with Iraq. Now the probable costs of that venture are becoming clearer.

The administration is preparing to ask Congress for supplemental appropriations — unbudgeted additional spending — of at least $60 billion to fund fighting and reconstruction in Iraq over the next six months.

However, that supplemental request may grow to $95 billion to include $15 billion in promised aid to Turkey and lesser amounts to Jordan, Israel and Egypt. (The budget submitted Feb. 3 did contain $7 billion for peacekeeping and reconstruction in Afghanistan.) The administration reportedly will ask Congress to approve most if not all of that additional money before it leaves on a scheduled April recess. …

As large as these figures are, it's worth remembering that they are estimates that could be grossly overblown if the war is over relatively quickly. Indeed, the sooner the war is over, the more likely that the financial markets will revive, oil prices will relax, leisure travel will rise, and many other uncertainties now plaguing the economy will subside. Putting a cost on the war, in other words, is not merely difficult. It's impossible.

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(Compiled by United Press International.)




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