International Papers

Newts and Parrots

France’s most influential newspaper, Le Monde, launched a ferocious attack Thursday against Newt Gingrich for sabotaging the Middle East peace process in defiance of his own country’s foreign policy. During his recent visit to Israel, Gingrich had made it crystal clear that he sought to align the United States unconditionally with one camp–“not that of Israel but that of the Israeli far right,” the paper said in an editorial. His only message had been that “whatever he does, [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu will always have the backing of the Congress of the United States.”

Thanks to Gingrich, Netanyahu “is himself a player in Washington’s power games, participating in the definition of American Middle East policy,” Le Monde said. It described Gingrich’s exploitation of his domestic political power to make his own foreign policy as “an unprecedented, unhealthy and dangerous situation,” and added that by fighting against his country’s diplomacy, he had “forfeited the right to be considered a statesman.” “If he should one day take his chance in a presidential election, it should be remembered that he tried–and, alas, with partial success–to align American Middle East policy with the positions of an ultranationalist Israeli party.”

There was another attack on Gingrich in the liberal Guardian of London, which linked him with the recalcitrant Northern Irish Protestant leader, the Rev. Ian Paisley, because both are “distinguished members of the international loony tendency.” In the last few days they have “tightened the noose of ridicule around themselves completely unaided”–Paisley by calling Britain’s Queen Elizabeth her government’s “parrot” for welcoming the Northern Ireland settlement, and Gingrich by calling Madeleine Albright “the agent for the Palestinians” in the Middle East peace negotiations. But at least, said the Guardian, Gingrich has refrained from taking the parrot’s name in vain. Parrots might repeat what other people say, it explained, but “Mr. Paisley, Mr. Gingrich, and other mega-bores of the ultra-right merely repeat themselves, again and again and again.”

Gingrich was favorably mentioned, however, by the Times of India as a supporter of India’s right to conduct its own nuclear tests. In an editorial Thursday attacking America’s intimacy with China, the newspaper said “President Bill Clinton’s biggest problem today is that he cannot keep his private connections private–whether these be of the more personal Monica Lewinsky variety or the scandals breaking out on the foreign affairs front.” It said that his “soft policy” toward China was continuing “despite Beijing’s repeated violations of international treaties on transfer of nuclear and missile technology to countries like Pakistan and Iran.” That was probably why “the initial rush of condemnation of India’s recent nuclear tests has been followed by a chorus of voices in Washington in support of New Delhi’s actions.” (The editorial was written before Thursday’s news of Pakistan’s nuclear tests.)

An op-ed article in the Financial Times of London said that “Chinagate” could turn into “the most serious domestic scandal to hit Bill Clinton, US President, so far” and could seriously damage the forthcoming summit in Beijing “that the White House believes is vital to US-China relations.” The FT’s main editorial Thursday was about the financial crisis in Russia, saying that a devaluation of the ruble should be avoided if at all possible and that “the IMF could use this crisis as an opportunity to impose stricter conditionality on Russia and to demand greater involvement in its attempts to reform its public finances.”

The Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta said, “Russia is begging for money” and quoted a source in the Kremlin as saying that President Boris Yeltsin might visit Germany on June 8 or 9 and ask for a loan of several billion German marks. The paper said that if the International Monetary Fund and World Bank credits Russia was seeking were not obtained, the government would have no other option but to devalue the ruble and set the new rate somewhere between 7 and 8 rubles to the U.S. dollar. It added that the best scenario for Russia would be to get credits and conduct a devaluation at the same time.

After the Japanese media had almost ignored the protests against Emperor Akihito on the first day of his state visit to Britain, Japan’s largest newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, expressed understanding Thursday of the grievances of the British ex-prisoners-of-war who turned their backs on the emperor during his public appearances. In an editorial, the paper blamed Japan for the ill feeling it continued to generate in the countries it fought in World War II.

“For many years after the war, the government and people of Japan made no real effort to understand the wrenching experience of war and the anguish of those in other countries,” it said. “That is the main reason the problems linger.” Asahi Shimbun added that if Japan had tried to resolve these problems a little at a time, “those who felt themselves victimized by Japan might have felt at least somewhat mollified”; but that “with the passing of time while we do nothing, however, discontent and ill will can coalesce into bitter enmity.”

Areport from Phnom Penh in the South China Morning Post quoted the Cambodian Ministry of Health as saying that traffic accidents now outstripped land mine and other war-related injuries as a major cause of death in Cambodia. Injuries in traffic accidents had doubled between 1996 and 1997. “One of the main problems is that Cambodians do not know how to drive,” a Transport Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying.