International Papers

Saddam Tries His Hand at Journalism

Despite the return of Monica, whose photograph in a baseball cap competed with that of the pope in a Mexican sombrero for front-page display around the world, the main story across Asia and Europe Monday was the Olympics corruption scandal. In Australia, where the subject is particularly sensitive because of the doubtful means by which Sydney won the right to host the 2000 Olympic Games, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age of Melbourne both used editorials to call for full exposure of the truth.

“The more closely Sydney’s campaign to win the right to host the 2000 Olympics is examined, the more unpleasant it looks,” the Herald said. “That is no reason, though, to try to hide or avoid facing a full examination of the Sydney bid. On the contrary, the sooner the air is cleared the better. The Games themselves must be able to proceed unclouded by unresolved scandal.” The paper added that however dismaying it was to discover that Sydney might not have won the 2000 Olympics on merit alone, the task now was clear: “All details in relation to the Sydney bid should be disclosed. This disclosure should be part of Sydney’s commitment to the full reform of the IOC itself, so that it becomes a modern organisation designed to be open and accountable, not the cosy, corruption-prone ‘family’ it has been.”

In an editorial titled “Honesty is still the best policy,” the Age deplored the efforts of Australian Olympic officials to keep details of their Olympic bid secret and said that the principal issue is one of transparency. While it is entirely appropriate that international delegates should be treated to a high standard of accommodation and dining and receive some token gifts, it said, “the test, surely, is whether those giving or receiving the gifts would want it publicly known.” It added, “The possibility that it might become public is a great deterrent to bribery, which is why the media, often criticised for its ‘let’s catch them doing something wrong’ mentality, is so essential.”

In Japan, Asahi Shimbun said Monday that the Salt Lake City investigation seems to only scratch the surface of corruption in the International Olympic Committee. “Revelations that more than 10 percent of the IOC is corrupt is truly disappointing, but the number probably does not stop there.” It went on, “With Sydney and Nagano also under suspicion, there seems to be no light at the end of the corruption tunnel.” In London, the Financial Times called Monday in its main editorial for “radical reform” of the whole Olympic system, because “if the public ever came to doubt how the medals were awarded, the Games would be deservedly finished.”

The FT said that calls for the head of IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch are “surely justified” and went on to propose that the choice of the host city should in future be entrusted to “professional consultants.” It said, “Let a reputable firm draw up a short list based on published findings. … Then let a small group of IOC members make their choice on equally public grounds.” The Times of London ran an eight column, front-page headline “Betrayal of the Olympic Ideal” above photographs of the nine IOC officials who have resigned or been expelled.

In Israel, a Gallup poll published Monday in Ma’ariv showed the Labor Party’s Ehud Barak as the favorite to be Israel’s next prime minister. In the first round of voting, the poll predicted the following results: Barak 34 percent, Benjamin Netanyahu 33 percent, Yitzhak Mordechai 20 percent, Benny Begin 7 percent, and “Don’t Know” 6 percent. In a runoff, Barak would defeat Netanyahu by 47 percent to 43 percent, with 10 percent undecided. And if Mordechai were the contender in the second round, he would defeat Netanyahu by 49 percent to 37 percent, with 14 percent undecided.

In Iraq, Saddam Hussein turned his hand to journalism for the first time with a bylined article in Iraq’s Al-Jumhuriya blaming Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for all the predicaments of the Arab world. In his article, published shortly before the start of the Jan. 24 meeting of Arab foreign ministers, he charged the Saudis with granting the United States a monopoly of the production and marketing of their country’s crude oil. But Egypt’s Al Gomhoureya commented that Saddam should blame himself for wasting Iraq’s oil wealth on devastating wars, instead of using it to build an advanced society.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s semi-official Al Ahram daily lashed out at Madeleine Albright and Bill Clinton who, “though up to his neck in his impeachment trial, has once again affirmed America’s resolve to have the ruling regime in Baghdad removed. … No longer does the U.S., the Big Power, care if it is charged with interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries; no longer does it care if it violates the Charter of the United Nations.” It concluded, “A new U.S. policy is now at work where international legality is flagrantly compromised, and where illegitimate methods are used to achieve the country’s goals.”

In an editorial on the impeachment trial Monday, the Financial Times said that the case should not be dismissed but that the Senate should now vote on the articles of impeachment without calling witnesses. “If the Republicans use their majority to drag the trial on, they will inflict further political damage on themselves, regardless of any damage they hope to do to the President,” it explained.