March 19, 2004
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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WORLD MEDIA WATCH FOR MARCH 19, 2004
1//Inter Press Service, Italy--ANALYSIS: FOR U.S.
HAWKS, MADRID 2004=MUNICH 1938 (Warning that the
bombings and the election results in Spain ''have
brought the United States and Europe to the edge
of the abyss'', the co-founder of the Project for
the New American Century (PNAC), whose alumni include
the most powerful hawks in the Bush administration,
poured scorn on European Commission President Romano
Prodi's comment after the attacks that, ''It is
clear that using force is not the answer to resolving
the conflict with terrorists''... But aside from
this rather fundamental disagreement over whether
Iraq is or is not part of the war against terrorism,
the eagerness with which the hawks have taken to
comparing the Spanish electorate's verdict to the
1938 Munich agreement also betrays a basic distrust
of democracy, about which the neo-cons have long
4//The Moscow Times, Russia--ELECTION NUMBERS DO NOT ADD UP (Some 900,000 people seem to have disappeared from the country's lists of registered voters in the three months between the parliamentary and presidential elections, in what appears to reflect a clever effort to boost last Sunday's turnout figures..."It was a statistical trick consciously meant to raise turnout by lowering the number of voters," said Nikolai Petrov, an expert on regional politics at the Carnegie Moscow Center who closely watches elections. In the lead up to the election, the Kremlin worked to ensure high turnout, believing that it would confer added legitimacy on President Vladimir Putin's second term.)
5//eTaiwanNews.com, Taiwan--MAC SAYS CHINA MAY HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO NEGOTIATE PEACE WITH TAIWAN (With March 20 fast approaching, China should seriously consider the peace talks under consideration in Taiwan's first-ever referendum initiated by President Chen Shui-bian, Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said yesterday. When asked at an international media conference if Beijing would be willing to negotiate peace and stability initiatives with Chen if he is re-elected, Tsai said, "My question is whether China has another choice?")
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Press Service March 17, 2004
POLITICS: FOR U.S. HAWKS, MADRID 2004=MUNICH 1938
WASHINGTON, Mar 17 (IPS) - For neo-conservative and other right-wing U.S. hawks, Madrid has suddenly become Munich in 1938 and Spain's Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.
In an extraordinarily unanimous campaign, newspaper columnists and television commentators are flooding the media with cries of ''appeasement'', the dreaded epithet with which Chamberlain was permanently tagged after his meeting in Munich with Adolf Hitler, which permitted the Nazis to slice off a major chunk of Czechoslovakia.
In the hawks' view, the electoral defeat of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's People's Party in the wake of last Thursday's bombings, followed by Zapatero's pledge to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq by Jul. 1, marks a collapse of will by a key U.S. ally in President George W. Bush's ''war on terrorism'' that will only encourage Islamist extremists.
Warning that the bombings and the election results in Spain ''have brought the United States and Europe to the edge of the abyss'', the co-founder of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), whose alumni include the most powerful hawks in the Bush administration, poured scorn on European Commission President Romano Prodi's comment after the attacks that, ''It is clear that using force is not the answer to resolving the conflict with terrorists''.
While some of these commentators conceded that Aznar might himself bear some responsibility for the sudden turn of events -- notably by trying to blame the Basque group ETA even while evidence that the perpetrators were radical Islamists was becoming overwhelming -- the basic thrust of all their comments was that, by supporting Zapatero, the Spanish electorate had lost its will to confront the larger terrorist threat, just as Chamberlain had done in handing over the Sudetenland.
This interpretation of the Spanish electorate's choice and of Zapatero himself obviously ignored a number of factors, among them the fact that the Socialist leader said explicitly from the moment of his victory that he was committed to the fight against terrorism.
That right-wing commentators here generally ignored that vow, or refused to take it seriously, helps illustrate their view -- which they have been hawking since Sep. 11 with great success among the U.S. public -- that Iraq is part of the larger war on terrorism, as opposed to there being two different conflicts.
In the hawks' view, opting out of one war means opting out of both -- a notion that accords very well with their ''you're either with us or you're against us'' political philosophy.
Juan Cole, a Middle East specialist at the University of Michigan, asserted that, by mixing Iraq with al-Qaeda, the neo-conservatives -- in particular -- had made a strategic error in the war against terrorism, which was now coming home to roost.
''Aznar, in supporting Bush on the war against Iraq, was not standing up to al-Qaeda'', Cole wrote, noting that the former prime minister's decision to deploy troops and spend financial and intelligence resources in Iraq meant those same assets could not be used against al-Qaeda, even when it was clear from last May's attack on a Spanish cultural centre in Casablanca that Islamist terrorists had Spain in their sights.
''How much did Spain spend to go after the culprits in Casablanca?'' asked Cole. ''How much did Bush dedicate to that effort? How much did they instead invest in military efforts in Iraq?''
In that respect, Zapatero's pledge to refocus the war against al-Qaeda can hardly be called a ''victory for (Osama) Bin Laden'', according to Cole.
But aside from this rather fundamental disagreement
over whether Iraq is or is not part of the war
against terrorism, the eagerness with which the
hawks have taken to comparing the Spanish electorate's
verdict to the 1938 Munich agreement also betrays
a basic distrust of democracy, about which the
neo-cons have long been ambivalent.
SHOCK AND AWE, FROM MESOPOTAMIA TO MADRID
know they have biological and chemical weapons"
A 450-kilogram bomb ripped apart a hotel in the heart of Baghdad, killing at least 30 and wounding at least 50, all of them civilians: Jordanians, Egyptians, Lebanese, British and most of all Iraqis. In a tragic atmosphere of de facto civil war, this is how the Iraqi resistance/guerrilla/mujahideen chose to celebrate the first anniversary of the US-led operation "Shock and Awe".
Even Adnan Pachachi, a member of the US-appointed and credibility-deprived Iraqi Governing Council, had to admit: "Maintenance of law, order and security is the responsibility of the occupying power." But the fact is, the occupying power is totally impotent to fight the overall strategy of the disparate groups of Arab mujahideen, which is to prevent Iraqis, Arabs, Westerners, and anybody, by all means necessary, from doing business with the American
March 11 changed Europe - and the world - and that's why there was such thundering silence from Washington, now replaced with the infantile hysteria of blaming Spanish voters. It's unbearable for the neo-cons to see there's now a totally different dynamic in the trans-Atlantic relationship. The Blair-Berlusconi-Aznar pro-Washington axis has been reduced to ashes.
The new Spanish prime minister-elect, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, with his name still mispronounced by misinformed White House and State Department officials, has declared that "the war in Iraq is a disaster, and the occupation continues to be a disaster". French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin added that "we cannot but see that today there are two focuses nourishing terrorism in the world: the first is the crisis in the Middle East, and the second is Iraq".
The perception among most European politicians, intellectuals and the overwhelming majority of public opinion is that Washington does not care about what happens in Iraq: the only thing that matters is to repatriate US troops as soon as possible for the electoral benefit of Bush next November. Secretary of State Colin Powell is very much aware of the Franco-German-Russian - and now also Spanish - position on foreign troops in Iraq: a fully sovereign Iraqi government has to request them, and the United Nations Security Council has to approve it.
As well as Tony Blair, Italian premier and "amico di Bush" Silvio Berlusconi, whose credibility is near zero inside the European Union, is now even more isolated. In an interview to the Italian daily Il Foglio - whose owner is Silvio's wife - the premier proposed "a pact" to "exclude terrorism from political debate in Italian democracy". Meanwhile, EU governments are meeting this Friday to discuss exactly how to fight terrorism. Nobody paid the slightest attention to Silvio's "pact".
Italians and Europeans instead are listening to Professor Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission and Berlusconi's chief political adversary. Prodi in essence said that a united Europe has different solutions from the "inefficient" US methods: "The balance is negative. In Iraq and outside of Iraq: Istanbul, Moscow, Madrid ... Terrorism, which should have been blocked by this war, is infinitely more powerful than one year ago."
Asia Times Online has learned that this is how things stand in the European Union headquarters in Brussels. Nobody knows whether the UN will be willing to engage itself in Iraq. Nobody knows whether the UN will give a mandate to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And nobody knows whether a fully sovereign Iraqi government will really come to power next June 30.
Anti-terrorist experts in Brussels are now analyzing mutating strategies that include the jihadi version of a preemptive strike - like the Madrid bombings: carefully timed and calculated attacks bound to alert voters that nobody should be paying the price for US-instigated wars. To make matters worse, these kinds of attacks are dirt cheap. Any financial analyst will compare what benefits Washington reaped with its multibillion-dollar preemptive strike and one-year occupation of Iraq as opposed to a few dynamite backpacks that in four days managed to change not only Europe but the global balance of power.
BRITAIN TO SEND TROOPS TO KOSOVO
Britain will send a 750-strong military force to Kosovo after a day of ethnically fuelled violence in the province which claimed the lives of 22 people and injured hundreds.
Following a request from Nato for extra troops, the Ministry of Defence will deploy the operational readiness force, drawn from the Hounslow-based first battalion of the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire regiment, in the next few days.
An extra 350 peacekeepers, mostly from Bosnia and Italy, have already been dispatched to control what Nato officials are describing as the worst fighting between ethnic Albanians and Serb minorities since the war ended in 1999.
Peacekeepers and police have regrouped after a day of gun battles, street fights and riots that saw homes destroyed, mosques torched and a hospital burned down. Extra units are being mobilised to beef up the 18,500 Nato-led peacekeeping force already in the province.
Lieutenant-Colonel Hans Haakansson, who is deputy head of the Swedish battalion guarding the village of Caglavica, south of Pristina, warned of a "bloodbath" unless Nato peacekeepers and UN police manage to keep Serbs and ethnic Albanians apart.
The province is administered by the UN but remains part of Serbia-Montenegro, with the UN to determine its future. The indecision about its future, as well as the tensions between the two groups, has been simmering for years.
Serbia's senior official for Kosovo, Nebojsa Covic, accused Nato of "dramatic inability" to protect the Serbs in Kosovo, adding: "The entire concept of multi-ethnic life in Kosovo has now collapsed."
Nato secretary-general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer urged all ethnic communities to act with calm and refrain from demonstrations.
ELECTION NUMBERS DO NOT ADD UP
Some 900,000 people seem to have disappeared from the country's lists of registered voters in the three months between the parliamentary and presidential elections, in what appears to reflect a clever effort to boost last Sunday's turnout figures.
Central Elections Commission data from Dec. 7, 2003, indicate there were 108,906,244 registered voters on State Duma election day. Final figures from Sunday's presidential vote will not be available until next week, but according to the preliminary data on the commission's web site, Izbirkom.ru, results are being figured on the basis of 108 million voters -- roughly 900,000 fewer than in December.
"It was a statistical trick consciously meant to raise turnout by lowering the number of voters," said Nikolai Petrov, an expert on regional politics at the Carnegie Moscow Center who closely watches elections.
He estimates that turnout was raised 1.2 to 1.5 percentage points. With 99 percent of ballots counted, the official turnout is 64.3 percent.
Commission member Nina Kulyasova, who is responsible for vote registers, did not respond by Thursday evening to a request for clarification that was faxed to her Tuesday.
In the lead up to the election, the Kremlin worked to ensure high turnout, believing that it would confer added legitimacy on President Vladimir Putin's second term.
MAC SAYS CHINA MAY HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO NEGOTIATE
PEACE WITH TAIWAN
With March 20 fast approaching, China should seriously consider the peace talks under consideration in Taiwan's first-ever referendum initiated by President Chen Shui-bian, Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen said yesterday.
When asked at an international media conference if Beijing would be willing to negotiate peace and stability initiatives with Chen if he is re-elected, Tsai said, "My question is whether China has another choice?"
"In the last four years, they (the Beijing authorities) have isolated the DPP government," Tsai said, "But they should become more comfortable and relaxed with regard to their thinking and policy formulation when the election is over."
Tsai, Taiwan's chief cross-strait policy adviser, blamed Beijing for the political stalemate and accused China of interfering to try to rob Chen of a second term and blockade the referendum.
"Though they are skilled at asking other major countries to interfere in Taiwan's presidential election and referendum, they should, nonetheless, be aware of that their actions are not helpful to the Taiwanese people," Tsai said.
"This is something that will not work in a democratic country," Tsai said, "China made a major mistake by not engaging in talks with the government and people of Taiwan. That's why the people of Taiwan are being forced away from (China)."
Asking that Beijing understand Taiwan's status quo, Tsai reiterated that the referendum is aimed at protecting the island's sovereignty, adding "we have not set any agenda for so-called independence."
According to opinion polls conducted by MAC over the past decade, Tsai said, "the people of Taiwan have consistently indicated that they do not want to change the status quo."
"Chen's peace referendum is aimed at increasing the chances for peace talks, rather than promoting complacency on both sides."
In the referendum, the people's sovereignty is central to Article 17 of the Referendum Law, designed to protect the next generation's freedom to choose their future in the face of oppression from Beijing, Tsai's explained.
Asked if Taiwan actions could threaten regional stability and lead to an extremely dangerous situation of concern to major countries, Tsai said confidently that "we believe we know what the situation is."
"I would not say the situation is extremely dangerous, I would rather say it is a situation that is extremely complicated and difficult to manage," Tsai said, "We will find a way to balance that - including the relationship with China."
otherwise noted, all original