January 13, 2003
World Media Watch
by Gloria R. Lalumia
BUZZFLASH NOTE: Once again, these are the views and perspectives of the individual papers, not of BuzzFlash or Gloria. They offer BuzzFlash readers a way of reading what other nations are saying about the crisis, whether we like it or not. We repeat: This is not an endorsement of their viewpoints.
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1/The Guardian, UK--HAWKS SIT OUT PHONEY PEACE WHILE WAR
MACHINE ROLLS ON (Officials in Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence
said that people had 'got the wrong end of the stick' over Blix's comments
and Blair's statements on the need for patience. Although one official
said that the week had been marked by 'cock-up and confusion' over the
central message on possible military action, he said it was clear which
way the wind was blowing...The number three at the State Department,
John Bolton, even said: 'There is no such thing as the United Nations.
There is only the international community, which can only be led by the
only remaining superpower, which is the United States.' )
3/The Toronto Star, Canada--OPINION: A MORALLY INERT FOREIGN POLICY (That this new policy is cowardly is self-evident. We're adopting it, not because we're afraid of Iraq and of whatever weapons of mass destruction it may have, but because we're afraid of the U.S. Its gross stupidity is almost as self-evident...To have shredded our credentials as international good guys at the same time as we earn no compensating credits in Washington has to be the most inept and morally inert foreign policy that we've executed all the way back to our isolationism in the face of the rise of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.)
Daily Star, Lebanon--US CONSIDERS LAUNCHING ARABIC TV CHANNEL (Senior
US envoy Christopher Ross said here Friday that a private initiative
to launch a satellite channel in Arabic, called Al-Haqiqa - Arabic for "The
Truth" - was "an effort to address a perceived need to add
an American dimension to the Arabic-language satellite programming that
now exists."... "I am not aware that (former) President (George)
Bush Senior is behind this (initiative)," Ross said in response
to a question that suggested US President George W. Bush has failed in
his public diplomacy and that his father came to his rescue with a group
of advisers from previous administrations to set up the satellite channel.)
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Guardian Sunday January 12 2003
Kamal Ahmed in London and Ed Vulliamy in Washington
It seemed an open and shut case. Blix had not found any evidence of weapons of mass destruction. And neither had he been frustrated by Iraqi efforts during the inspections. Military action, it appeared, was a receding possibility. Over the last seven days it has appeared as if peace is breaking out all over the place. Tony Blair said that it was time for a patient approach to the issue of Saddam. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said that the chances for war were now 60:40 against rather than the 60:40 for that had been supposed just before Christmas.
Colin Powell, US Secretary of State, made similar comments. 'The odds have gone down for war,' one US official told the Washington Post. 'We don't have a good war plan; the inspectors have unprecedented access to Iraq; we have just started giving them intelligence; we have to give them more time to see how this works. There is no reason to stop the process until it can't proceed any further.'
the world the atmosphere was cooling. In Germany, where Blair arrived
for a dinner with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder last night,
diplomats were making their opposition to military action clear. 'We
subscribe to the recent statement of the [UN] Secretary-General that
the inspections should continue and for that reason there are no grounds
for military action,' said Günter Pleuger, German Ambassador to
the UN, who will take over as chairman of the Security Council next month.
All the events seemed to point in one direction. The appearance is that Saddam is starting to wriggle off the hook; that the world has started to wobble. But, speaking to officials closely involved in the military build-up for possible military action in the Gulf, appearances can be deceptive. At lunchtime yesterday, HMS Ark Royal set sail from Portsmouth for the Gulf. The message was not lost on those watching: here is a country preparing for conflict.
In what will be the biggest military deployment since the Falklands conflict, the Ark Royal will spearhead a force of 5,000 naval personnel and 3,000 Marines. Ostensibly it is there for an exercise in the region, long planned. But appearances can be deceptive.
Officials in Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence said that people had 'got the wrong end of the stick' over Blix's comments and Blair's statements on the need for patience. Although one official said that the week had been marked by 'cock-up and confusion' over the central message on possible military action, he said it was clear which way the wind was blowing.
'We know he has got weapons of mass destruction,' said one well-placed No 10 source. 'If Blix finds anything, then that will be a breach of the resolution; if Blix's work is frustrated, then that will also be a breach.
'Saddam has to actually disarm or we take action. The last few days has seen a concerted effort to say that 27 January was not D-Day. Some people have engaged in wishful thinking about what that actually means. But we are still clear where we are going.'
Sources admit that the public have been left confused. On the one hand Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, announces the deployment of troops and the calling up of reservists. On the other Straw says that a non-military response to Saddam is now more likely. When Hoon was asked about Straw's comments, he said that they had been 'unhelpful'.
UN sources said that, at the end of the meeting, British and US officials made it clear Saddam had to engage in pro-active co-operation 'or else'. Or else what? Or else military action is 'inevitable', said one official. There is now more confidence among US and British officials that the UN will provide the trigger, obviating the need for unilateral action.
This week will see a significant ratcheting up of the UN pressure on Saddam. High-level air reconnaissance flights will begin over Iraq, joining the helicopter fleet which arrived in the region last week. Blix, after visiting London, Paris and Brussels to discuss intelligence swaps, will make his first visit to Baghdad since the inspections began.
The US administration had swung behind Powell, insisting that the passage to war must proceed through the UN.
But in recent days those who speak for the Pentagon - markedly former Deputy Secretary of Defence, Richard Perle, now a powerful influence from outside the administration - have insisted that the inspectorate process with which they have been so impatient need not prevent the US from going to war, whatever it produces. Pentagon officials echo what is said to be Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's view that there is no stopping the US pursuing its interests, however it sees fit.
The number three at the State Department, John Bolton, even said: 'There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States.'
Rumsfeld himself is reported to see Iraq as the test case for his new 'pro-active' view of how the Pentagon should be reshaped and how America should mould the planet to its chosen order.
Even the smallest signals are pointing in one direction. In Cyprus, where UN weapons inspectors have set up their main field office, the authorities are bracing for war. 'Yes, I think it will happen,' said the island's Foreign Minister, Ioannis Cassoulides. 'They [the US and Britain] seem pretty determined.'
Asked what his personal feeling was about the possibility of military action against Saddam, one British government official said that 'it was still more likely than not'.
The focus will now be on Blix and his next report. If that doesn't produce the material breach, then another report will be provided on 1 March. If there is still room for manoeuvre, then Blix will report again during the summer. Each will be a possible trigger.
PRINCE ABDULLAH SEES NO WAR ON IRAQ
RIYADH, 13 January 2003 - Crown Prince Abdullah, deputy premier and commander of the National Guard, yesterday told a group of Arab thinkers and intellectuals he was "convinced" there will be no US-led war against Iraq.
"We are seeing fleets and concentrations (of troops) in the region but I have a strong feeling that there won't be a war," the crown prince said.
"This is my conviction and my personal point of view," the crown prince told the gathering, cautioning that, "No one has spoken to me about war."
Riyadh has reiterated that its decision to join a UN-sanctioned war against Baghdad will be based on its national interests and the evidence of Iraq's material breach of the UN Security Council Resolution 1441.
The crown prince insisted that "war is in no one's interest", adding that Iraq was "dear" to his country.
In his address yesterday, Prince Abdullah also urged Arab and Muslim writers and media persons to work for the unity of Arab and Islamic countries. "We have to make intense efforts to unite the Araband Islamic Ummah," the crown prince told Saudi and foreign thinkers and media persons who came to attend the Heritage and Culture Festival in Janadriah.
High-level sources in Cairo, meanwhile, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the Kingdom had handed its proposal for Arab unity to the Arab follow-up committee in preparation to presenting it to next Arab summit scheduled for March in Bahrain.
The Saudi proposal called for a new Arab charter that would ensure protection of Arab legitimate interests, realize just demands of Arab nation, promote Arab joint action and regulate inter-Arab relations.
The proposal also called for self-reforms and development of political participation in Arab countries. It opposed illegitimate foreign attacks against any Arab country and called for resolving all Arab conflicts peacefully. The proposal urged all Arab states to stand united against any Arab country which attacks a member state.
OPINION: A MORALLY INERT FOREIGN POLICY
Saying Ready, Aye, Ready would be craven, but it would also be calculating and self-advantageous. Saying No would impose a price on us, but it would also be principled. Not just cowardly, but at the same time grossly stupid, would be to say, Me-Too, Please Sir. Which is what our government has just done.
Canada, the government announced this week, may after all contribute troops to a U.S. attack on Iraq, even if the United Nations hasn't passed any resolution to legitimize the invasion. Defence Minister John McCallum made this new statement of policy. Following his meeting with U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Washington, McCallum told reporters that, "While some may say `We're doing it only with a United Nations mandate,' we're saying that we much prefer that, but we may do it otherwise."
McCallum preceded this with the usual arm-waving rhetoric about how, "there's no country in the world more committed to the multilateral process than Canada." He then got down to the point of his trip, which was to report that Rumsfeld had been "very, very happy" to hear that Canada was considering contributing to a unilateral attack.
On behalf of the government, McCallum was opening the door, by a good foot rather than just by a crack, to Canadian military involvement no matter what the U.N. does - no matter whether any proof of a Iraqi program of weapons of mass destruction is uncovered by inspectors that could justify an attack under U.N. provisions for a pre-emptive strike to forestall a clear and present danger.
We'd be marching off to Baghdad for a reason that has nothing to do either with security and terrorism or with international law. We'd be marching there because the U.S. is marching there and would like to have Canadians along - not for the sake of their rifles and guns and planes and ships, but because of the Maple Leaf badges on their shoulders.
Since we're now begging the Americans to let us in - Canadian officers belatedly being invited to Central Command headquarters in Florida to co-ordinate our contribution to the American effort - it's a pure policy of Me-Too, Please Sir.
That this new policy is cowardly is self-evident. We're adopting it, not because we're afraid of Iraq and of whatever weapons of mass destruction it may have, but because we're afraid of the U.S. Its gross stupidity is almost as self-evident.
We're signalling our readiness to abandon the U.N. at the very moment when the professionalism of its inspection teams is winning respect. The U.S.'s closest ally, Britain's Tony Blair, is now calling for the inspectors to be given "time and space" to complete their work, a proposal that if adopted would force a postponement of an invasion for many months.
Instead, we've said Me-Too, too late. We're merely tolerated in Washington these days and only because it's still worthwhile - just -for the U.S. to have a few Maple Leaf badges among the troops trudging towards Baghdad.
To have shredded our credentials as international good guys at the same time as we earn no compensating credits in Washington has to be the most inept and morally inert foreign policy that we've executed all the way back to our isolationism in the face of the rise of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.
US CONSIDERS LAUNCHING ARABIC TV CHANNEL
Private American organizations and the US government are considering launching Arabic-language satellite channels as part of efforts to improve the US image in the Arab world.
Senior US envoy Christopher Ross said here Friday that a private initiative to launch a satellite channel in Arabic, called Al-Haqiqa - Arabic for "The Truth" - was "an effort to address a perceived need to add an American dimension to the Arabic-language satellite programming that now exists."
Ross, along with Richard Murphy, the former assistant secretary of state for Near East and South Asian affairs, was speaking during an open discussion on the US image in the Arab world at the Azarieh headquarters of the Beirut Press Club.
"Al-Haqiqa," Ross said, "has decided, in the first instance, to try and help create some programming from the United States that would be of interest to the existing Arabic-language satellite stations ... That's where they are putting their first efforts," he said.
"I am not aware that (former) President (George) Bush Senior is behind this (initiative)," Ross said in response to a question that suggested US President George W. Bush has failed in his public diplomacy and that his father came to his rescue with a group of advisers from previous administrations to set up the satellite channel.
The US administration is also studying the possibility of establishing a satellite channel with Arabs as its target audience, according to Ross, who is a senior adviser to the undersecretary of state for public affairs and a special coordinator for public diplomacy.
"There is also within the administration consideration being given to a publicly financed, government-operated 24-hour, seven-days-a-week Arabic-language satellite station in the name of the US government," said Ross.
REPORT: RUSSIA IS NOT SAFE FOR PRESS
As press freedom watchdogs sum up 2002, they agree that the past year was not the best for Russian journalists but one goes so far as calling Russia the world's most dangerous place to be a journalist.
In saying this, the Paris-based international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, is basing its rating on the number of journalists killed in the line of duty, which it says is four. Other press freedom watchdogs, however, have far different numbers and also question the correlation between the number of journalists' deaths and the state of the media.
Putting Russia directly after two continents -- Asia with 11 killed journalists and Latin America with nine -- the RSF report, called "Annual Roundup. World Political Tensions Eroded Press Freedom in 2002" and posted Monday on the organization's web site, says that "underworld and local officials" were behind the four murders or journalists in Russia.
The report also says that "in Europe increased censorship was most noticeable in Russia" and gives one example: the Federal Security Service's confiscation of the muck-raking weekly Versia's computers in November, accepting its editor's allegation that the raid was connected to the paper's coverage of the Dubrovka hostage crisis, which the FSB denies.
The heads of Russia's two best-known press freedom advocacy groups, Alexei Simonov of the Glasnost Defense Foundation and Oleg Panfilov of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, agree that censorship is growing but say the RSF report does little to shed light on the problems.
For instance, they point to the greater degree of censorship in the regions. Panfilov gave the example of the Politicheskaya Kukhnya current affairs show anchored by Valentina Buzmanina on Nizhny Novgorod's state-owned NNTV local channel, which he said was taken off the air 15 times in 2002.
The biggest trend in the increase of censorship, Panfilov said, is the growing number of criminal cases launched against journalists.
"The number of criminal cases opened against journalists in three years of Vladimir Putin's rule is more than the number during the entire 10 years of Boris Yeltsin's reign," he said. In 2002, his group registered 27 criminal cases opened against journalists.
Some of them are dropped after protests from advocacy groups or when local bureaucrats realize they would be laughed at, Panfilov said. Others end in suspended sentences.
In some cases, a newspaper is de facto shut down by law enforcement officials, who seize its computers as collateral against any future fine.
Another traditional way of getting at unfavorable media is to unleash health or fire inspectors on them, as in the case of web studio Penza Online, which was shut down last year because the temperature in its offices was 2 degrees below the norm.
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© 2003, Gloria R. Lalumia, firstname.lastname@example.org
for Progressives at
otherwise noted, all original