- The Washington Times - Friday, June 16, 2006

Excerpts of editorials from newspapers around the world:

The Age

Guantanamo Bay

MELBOURNE, Australia — The Guantanamo Bay detention center has been the subject, and symbol, for many of the adherents and critics of the United States’ war on terror. To supporters, it was the safe receptacle in which terrorists were placed in the months following the devastation and loss of life from the September 11 attacks on America. For critics, it stands as a monument to the arrogance and indifference to human rights of the world’s only superpower.

In recent days, it has also been the site of three suicides: two men from Saudi Arabia and one from Yemen. They are the first suicides at the military prison in its 4½ years of operation. The men hanged themselves. There have also been another 40 unsuccessful attempts. Officials at the center had renamed some attempts as “manipulative, self-injurious behavior,” according to the New York Times. Only 10 of the more than 460 men at the center have been charged with any offense.

The war on terror, and the events that precipitated it — notwithstanding the pain and suffering — have thrown into the light another weapon: language.

Semantics might not kill, but it does wound. A U.S. State Department spokeswoman, Colleen Graffy, has described the suicides as “a good PR move.” The commander at Guantanamo, Rear Adm. Harry Harris, said they were “not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.” …

No doubt both could reasonably argue their case. Equally, others might argue, as did Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth, that “these people are despairing because they’re being held lawlessly and there’s no end in sight.”

If the first casualty of war is indeed truth, then the stretcher-bearers are words. The suicides at Guantanamo show that meaning lies in the mind of the beholder.

The Telegraph

Libraries matter

LONDON — When David Lammy, the culture minister, wrote to local authorities at the beginning of the year, urging them to keep public libraries open, about 50 were threatened with closure. His words, supported by no more tangible help, seem to have had a negative effect, for today the figure is more than 100, out of a total of just over 3,000. This is a crisis.

Councils, more heavily reliant than ever on central government funding, flounder in attempts to balance their budgets. First, they closed public lavatories; now it is the turn of public libraries as an “easy option.” Yet nothing could be as harmful to the people that councilors purport to serve.

Even in areas such as Buckinghamshire, where villagers have volunteered to take on the running of their libraries, they have done so with the galling knowledge that the proportion of the council budget spent on libraries has fallen by 60 percent in the time that council tax has risen by 140 percent. …

To close library buildings is to surrender to a new Dark Age.

Al Ahram

Somalia failure

CAIRO — We’ve failed Somalia, just as we failed Sudan before it. We’ve failed to identify problems in their early stage and do something about them. This is something we tend to do, but nowhere more so than in the southern stretches of our world, where Africa and the Arab region merge. We get obsessed with problems on our eastern front — Iran, Iraq — and forget about the south. …

Sudan is now faced with partition. The Abuja agreement may excuse rapid international deployment at any moment. …

Stability in Darfur has become a synonym for intervention. Major countries use the idea to find a toehold in a region rich with strategic minerals. … Much of the current debacle could have been avoided had we dealt with our problems in a democratic way instead of waiting for chaos to spread and intervention to follow.

Somalia is the next candidate for foreign intervention. …

The Arab League should do something for Somalia — preferably organize a national accord conference. Emphasis here should be not just on restoring law and order, but on creating a sustainable form of democracy before everyone starts talking about foreign intervention. It is high time the Arabs start focusing on the southern front, not just the eastern one.

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