International Papers

American Guns Stun Europeans

Slate’s Complete Kosovo Coverage

The school massacre near Denver supplanted Kosovo as the lead story in the late editions of almost all the British newspapers, which carried the usual expressions of European bewilderment over the lack of serious gun control in the United States. In an {{editorial#2:}} Wednesday, the London {{Evening Standard#2:}} said that even the mass murder at Columbine High School was unlikely to lead to any change in the law. “[S]o extravagant is the American concept of ‘freedom,’ and so deep-rooted is the pollution of firearms of all kinds throughout the country, that there is little prospect that even this latest monstrosity will provoke a meaningful shift in public attitudes,” the paper said. It noted that President Clinton had “mouthed the necessary words of horror and condolence,” but commented that it was “hard for the rest of the world to take these entirely seriously, when repetition seems almost inevitable.” The Evening Standard splashed the story on its front page with the headline “They Did It for Hitler’s Birthday.”

The {{Times#2:}} of London observed in a report from Washington that Americans are “frankly disbelieving” when told how Britain outlawed hand guns in the wake of a school massacre in Dunblane, Scotland. “They argue, rightly, that no such sweeping legislation could be passed in America,” it said. The Times also noted that the National Rifle Association faced “the considerable embarrassment” of holding its annual convention next week in Denver, very close to the scene of the tragedy.

NATO’s war with Yugoslavia remains the other main story around the world. Wednesday’s coverage included an interview with Italy’s {{La Repubblica#2:}} by Shimon Peres, the former Israeli prime minister, to mark his arrival in Rome for the first informal annual meeting of past winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. He wrote that he had been asked to be available to mediate in the Kosovo conflict but had replied that he would only do so “if and when the parties are truly determined to seek a political solution.” He said, “It doesn’t seem to me that this is the mood at the moment, but it might be very soon.” Peres called the war an “absurd” one that should never have started, but added, “One can’t deny that its purpose is fundamentally of a moral character. It is not a political or a power game. The civilized world is simply tired of racism, discrimination and atrocities.”

In an interview in {{Corriere della Sera#2:}} of Milan, Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema offered rather qualified praise of Clinton. He is “an intelligent leader,” D’Alema said, but “I don’t know if he saw all the traps that had been set for him in the war.” The prime minister, whose coalition government is divided about Kosovo, said that once the war was over there should be reflection about “the criteria for NATO intervention. … The right of humanitarian interference is legitimate, but we must ask ourselves about its limits.”

Turin’s {{La Stampa#2:}} led its front page with an appeal for peace in Belgrade by the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexis II. It said the patriarch has criticized NATO but has asked “the leaders of Yugoslavia, like those of the Atlantic alliance, to halt military operations.” Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has expressed the hope that the efforts of Russia and its Orthodox hierarchy “may lead to peace and the end of aggression.”

{{Die Welt#2:}} complained Wednesday in its main front-page story that in western Europe only Germany is keeping its promises toward Albanian refugees. “Of the 13,824 refugees who had arrived in Europe by Monday morning, 9,937–more than two-thirds of the total–have come to Germany,” it said. In an accompanying front-page comment, the paper said: “Typically German. Two weeks ago the federal government said it would take 10,000 Kosovo refugees–and today they are here. German generosity? German efficiency? Or stupidity, a continuing feeling of anticipated guilt that other countries quietly smile at and exploit?”

In France Wednesday, {{Le Monde#2:}} led its front page with a question: “A month of war, with what results?” Its answer, in summary, was that the offensive has weakened Serbia’s military potential but has failed to deter Milosevic or prevent “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo. “A third of the population has been driven out, and diplomatic initiatives are at a dead end,” it said. The British press focused again on the prospects of a ground war, with the conservative tabloid the Daily Mail splashing the claim that Prime Minister Tony Blair is now planning for one. It said that for the first time since the bombing began Blair and Foreign Secretary Robin Cook “held out the prospect of British soldiers going into Kosovo before a ceasefire has been agreed with Belgrade.” But it added the rider that “this will only happen when the back of Serb resistance has been broken by Nato’s air power.”

The {{Times of India#2:}} Wednesday condemned the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia for its ecological effects. The paper said in an {{editorial#2:}}: “There is nothing humanitarian or liberating about the intense bombing of Yugoslavia, which has created even more refugees and resulted in widespread ecocide.” The paper devoted its second {{editorial#2:}} to the diplomatic significance of Madeleine Albright’s jewelry. Under the headline “Lapel Diplomacy,” the paper said that “her sparklers–the brooches she wears while negotiating knotty issues of geo-politics–are as much a statement as the press releases after various meetings with, say, the Iraqis, Serbs, Russians, or Israelis.” It went on: “The American eagle brooch says without a word being exchanged that she is in hawkish, combative mood; the cherub brooch betokens the spirit of innocent accommodation; and the red and gold balloon brooch denotes a festive moment. On all other counts, Ms Albright is thought prone to tough-talk, but her brooches seem to tell a different, more nuanced story.”