International Papers

Suffocating the Cat

Slate’s Complete Kosovo Coverage

Gen. Augusto Pinochet made a comeback on Europe’s front pages Friday after British Home Secretary Jack Straw announced that Spanish extradition proceedings against him could go ahead. The Daily Telegraph of London claimed that it would now be “several years” before the 83-year-old former president of Chile would either be sent for trial in Spain or freed. In Spain, the British decision was warmly welcomed. El País said in an editorial Friday that the mere fact that Pinochet is to be subjected to extradition proceedings constitutes “an irreversible victory for the rights of man.” It represents “the birth of an effective universal jurisdiction for dealing with crimes against humanity and, at the same time, an unequivocal warning that the United Kingdom will not be a refuge for blood-stained dictators.”

In another editorial, El Mundo of Madrid said much the same thing, welcoming the arrival of “a supranational judicial structure that will be able from now on to knock down the protective barriers that tyrants throughout the world have erected around themselves.” Both papers welcomed the fact that Pinochet’s friends and supporters–El País named Margaret Thatcher, Henry Kissinger, ex-President Bush, Sen. Jesse Helms, and the pope–had failed in their efforts to get him freed.

In London, the conservative press took the opposite view. The Daily Telegraph called Straw “a straw man” and ridiculed his claim to have made his decision “with an open mind.” The paper said, “The Home Secretary does not allow his open mind to be troubled by the fact that, long after Gen. Pinochet peacefully relinquished power, his former opponents are pleading for his return. Nor does the damage inflicted by the affair on British national interests, already palpable in the Falklands and on our annual exports to Chile of 200 million pounds [$320 million], disturb the peace of the ministerial open mind.” The tabloid Daily Mail quoted Thatcher as saying that Straw had “demeaned his office” with a vindictive decision.

The main story across Europe, though, was NATO’s admission that it accidentally bombed a refugee convoy in Kosovo. This gave rise to much comment that clean wars don’t exist and renewed support for NATO’s decision to continue the bombing. “Wars mean casualties” said the Telegraph, calling once again for the deployment of ground troops. And the liberal Guardian had an editorial saying exactly the same thing: “If Nato is to blame for Wednesday’s carnage, then that has only underscored the inadequacy of air power. Forces on the ground is becoming urgent.” Le Figaro of Paris said the West has no choice but to continue fighting and quoted a Provençal proverb: “Once one has started suffocating the cat, one has to finish it.” The German press reported broad support in the Bundestag for the government’s commitment to the war and noted American reservations about its peace plan.

Corriere della Sera of Milan reported huge flight delays in Italy because of congestion in the skies caused by military aircraft bombing Yugoslavia. Five out of six domestic civilian flights are now departing late, it said. In Britain, the Times reported that the BBC’s world affairs editor, John Simpson, was coming under fierce British government criticism for “Serb bias” in his coverage from Belgrade. “In an astonishing attack, senior officials accused him of presenting at face value claims by the Serbs about damage done by Nato attacks, being grossly simplistic in suggesting that the Nato assault has united the Serb population and Milosevic’s forces, and of swallowing Serb propaganda about the impact of Nato’s air raids,” the Times said. In an editorial, the paper defended Simpson’s reporting from Belgrade, but attacked NATO for being so quick to blame Serbia for the deaths of Albanian refugees in the disputed convoy incident.

“The Pentagon’s inordinately clumsy handling of the news when it first broke must have left Slobodan Milosevic weeping tears of joy,” the paper said. Since the Pentagon had no evidence at that time to show who was to blame, its spokesman Kenneth Bacon “did the credibility of the Alliance nothing but harm by alleging that Serb forces had done the killing themselves to embarrass Nato. … [T]his disastrously gave the impression that Nato might stoop to the black propaganda at which the Milosevic regime excels.”

According to an Australian biologist, certain “rebel” worker bees have found ways of breeding in defiance of the convention that only queen bees are allowed to reproduce. Ben Oldroyd of the University of Sydney told the Sydney Morning Herald Thursday that in normal bee colonies only the queen is allowed to lay eggs, and if worker bees lay their eggs, they are destroyed in seconds by other bees, which can identify the queen’s eggs by a special chemical she marks them with. Because of a genetic mutation, however, certain bees are able to put a fake royal marker on their eggs, making other bees think they are the queen’s. The forgery enables a worker bee’s eggs to survive, thrive, and reproduce, Oldroyd said.