International Papers

Floyd? It’s America’s Fault

In London Friday, the Guardian blamed Hurricane Floyd on America’s “massive, wasteful consumption of a disproportionate share of the planet’s resources.” An editorial opined, “Brutal though it may be to say so, Hurricane Floyd is a necessary warning to the country which contributes more than any other to global warming.” In an op-ed article, the Guardian’s Washington correspondent asked why disasters in the United States receive so much more attention in the European press than much worse disasters elsewhere. Answer: “The truth is that Europeans–and not just the French, who at least admit to it–positively enjoy transatlantic misfortune. Perhaps, in an era of American global hegemony, we need to have it confirmed to us that our masters are gun-obsessed crazies or that their lovingly constructed Florida beachfront condos can be smashed to smithereens within seconds by some arbitrary force of nature.”

The Independent said that Thursday’s gun massacre in Fort Worth, Texas, “may in some respects have done the country a favour.” It said, “[T]he issue of gun control will certainly have a central place in next year’s presidential election campaign.” But in the Times, columnist Simon Jenkins said that “Britain’s gun control is about as lax as America’s, at least on the non-domestic front.” He said Britain sold arms to at least 30 countries whose human rights records fail to receive the Amnesty International seal of approval and that “British foreign policy has long been a confection of self-interest spiced by opportunism and cling-wrapped in sanctimony.”

In an editorial about an antitrust challenge to the U.S. genetically modified food industry by farmers and pressure groups alleging misuse of intellectual property to restrict competition, the Financial Times took the side of the underdogs. “[T]wo factors make this a special case,” it said in an editorial. “One is the immense speed of scientific advance in GM food technology, and in bio-engineering generally. The other is that control of several important markets for GM products is already highly concentrated, and that industry consolidation appears set to accelerate through acquisitions.” On its front page, the FT reported that lawyers for the Justice Department and 19 states are considering trying to break Microsoft into two if they win their antitrust case against it. “A break-up of Microsoft would be highly controversial and politically contentious, especially in the run-up to a presidential election,” the paper said.

A big story in the British press Friday was the release of MI5 intelligence files showing that P.G. Wodehouse received monthly payments from the Germans during a crucial period of World War II and could have faced treason charges if he had returned to Britain from the United States in the postwar years. The files, showing that Wodehouse received four payments through the German Embassy in Paris between May and August 1944, challenged previous historical judgments that he was a fool lacking in worldly wisdom but in no sense a traitor.

In Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald, noting that the commitment of “a mere 2,000 troops” to East Timor is already seriously straining the country’s defense budget, called for a large increase in its defense capability. “One message coming loud and clear out of the recent flurry of diplomatic activity over a peacekeeping force for East Timor is that, as far as the United States is concerned, Australia is on its own in dealing with such regional problems,” the paper said in an editorial. While Washington eventually agreed to offer “token” logistical support to the peacekeeping effort, it “proceeded reluctantly, refusing to take the initiative from Canberra or even lend it the kind of significant military support it was requesting.”

The Jakarta Post reported that the 8,000-strong, Australian-led force was expected to arrive in East Timor by Monday at the latest. In an editorial, it once again placed all the blame for the humanitarian catastrophe on the Indonesian government. “No matter how they explain it, or what excuses they come up with for the situation in East Timor, the bottom line is Indonesia is responsible for everything that has happened there,” it said. “We have lost East Timor, and nothing we do now can deny East Timorese their well-deserved independence. … By now, we hope our leaders have truly learned their lessons well: that as a self-respecting nation and member of the international community, we must respect universal humanitarian values and live up to our responsibilities.”

In Israel, Ha’aretz defended the police against charges that they are biased against the right because they rushed to investigate corruption allegations against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “If the police force does not rush to investigate suspicions against a former prime minister, it will not have the moral justification to act against ordinary criminals,” the paper said Friday. In an interview with Ha’aretz, former British MI5 agent David Shayler said that as recently as 1995 Britain expelled Mossad [Israeli secret service] agents for operating on its territory without permission. Shayler, whom Britain is seeking to extradite from France for breaches of the Official Secrets Act, said Britain repeatedly turned down Mossad requests to station a representative in London. Even so, “Mossad secretly sent agent operators to Britain to gather information on Arab targets” and “MI5 exposed these undeclared Mossad officers and quietly instructed them to leave the country.” The Israeli Foreign Ministry described Shayler’s claims as “completely baseless.”

Writing in La Repubblica of Rome, Roj Medvedev said that the wave of terrorist bombings in Russia is now shaking the Russian ruling class to its foundations. “With one voice, all the leading political figures are asking [President Boris] Yeltsin to resign,” he wrote. “The government, parliament, and even members of the president’s own office are asking it.” Medvedev said that the country is also being rocked by a flood of compromising documents to the press, among them a recording of a conspiratorial telephone conversation between the media tycoon Boris Berezovsky and the Chechen guerrilla leader Shamil Bassayev. “The conviction is growing in the country’s collective consciousness that its leaders are not just thieves, but men ready to do anything, however bad,” he wrote. Medvedev said Yeltsin has lost control of the country and that “if there is still logic in this world, he should resign as soon as possible, before things go too far.” He added that he believed he would do so.