International Papers

Anything You Can Do Arkan Do Better  

“Who killed the Serb executioner?” was the main front-page six-column headline Paris’ Le Figaro Monday, over a story about the murder of gangster, politician, militia leader, and “ethnic cleanser” Zeljko Raznatovic, better known as Arkan. Arkan, indicted for atrocities in Croatia and Bosnia by the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, was shot several times in the face after lunch Saturday in the Intercontinental Hotel in Belgrade. Most European newspapers encouraged speculation that the professional, gangland-style murder was carried out on the orders of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

The Daily Telegraph of London quoted reports that Arkan’s Anglo-Italian lawyer, Giovanni di Stefano, had recently approached the tribunal to propose a plea bargain under which Arkan would testify against Milosevic and other Serbian leaders in exchange for leniency. “If it [his killing] joins the long list of Serbia’s unsolved murders, the likelihood is that it was Milosevic who ordered the hit,” the Telegraph said. Le Figaro quoted “well-informed sources” in Belgrade as saying that “with the disappearance of Arkan, an important witness against Slobodan Milosevic has left the scene.” Whoever may have killed Arkan, the press everywhere agreed that he was a thoroughly nasty piece of work and would be missed by nobody apart from his own henchmen and family members.

In Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post ran an editorial Monday saying that Arkan’s killers impeded the course of justice by denying his victims the right to see him brought to trial. “Like victims of the Pinochet regime in Chile, the people of Cambodia, the Balkans and other civil wars want to hear from the perpetrators why such things happened,” the paper said.

The victory of Ricardo Lagos in the Chilean presidential election received wide coverage, with El Mundo of Madrid noting Monday in its main front-page article that “26 years, four months, and five days since Salvador Allende committed suicide with a shot in the mouth while Gen. Pinochet’s planes bombed the Palacio de la Moneda, another militant Chilean socialist has become president of Chile.”

The Daily Telegraph lamented the vast legal cost to the British taxpayer of the Pinochet extradition case, which it estimated at around 15 million pounds (about $24 million). Pinochet is expected to return to Chile soon, after the British government decided he is too unwell to stand trial in Spain for torture and other crimes against humanity. Meanwhile, following the arrival in London Sunday of Mike Tyson for a boxing bout with the British heavyweight Julius Francis, the London Evening Standard led the critics of the government’s decision to let him in. In an editorial Monday titled “Tyson should not be here” it said: “The admission of the convicted American rapist Mr Mike Tyson, in defiance of Britain’s immigration rules, deserves to be a lasting stain on the reputation of Home Secretary Mr Jack Straw. The Government’s claim to have acted out of ‘compassion’ for small businesses which could be ruined if the Tyson fight was cancelled are risible. … The truth is simple: the Government is unwilling to upset boxing fans, and perhaps also to rouse the ire of Mr Rupert Murdoch, whose Sky TV is scheduled to screen this odious contest live.”

As the Russians launched what their generals have been calling the “decisive” attack on Grozny, the Chechen capital, the Independent of London reported from Moscow that they are losing the propaganda war. The Russian media have grown deeply skeptical about official pronouncements exaggerating Russian army successes and understating its casualties. “No setback is ever admitted, however strong the evidence,” the paper said. “Official spokespeople lose credibility by the month.” The Independent quoted the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets as saying, “While we are losing soldiers and losing the war, the word will be that we are winning, at least until the presidential elections.”

Meanwhile, in an interview published Sunday in the Islamic Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak, Chechen military leader Shamil Basayev said that recent Russian attacks have been repulsed. “Now they are only shelling and bombing from the air. They are striking day and night with long-range artillery, but they are hitting only civilian targets. They are killing elderly and children.” Basayev claimed that his forces are killing about 200 Russians a day and destroying between 30 and 50 of their tanks. He said they are covering up their losses and trying to conceal the panic among their forces by pulling out survivors of decimated units and replacing them with fresh troops. “This war is a political war. It is intended only to secure the presidency for [Vladimir] Putin,” he said. The Russians are therefore trying to look tough, while in fact they are dominated by fear.

The Financial Times of London said Monday in an editorial that if Microsoft were broken up on antitrust grounds, Bill Gates would “bear a heavy share of the responsibility” because of his “uncompromising, even truculent stand” toward the authorities. “Microsoft has shown itself insensitive to the dangers of market abuse and contemptuous of those who have challenged it,” the FT said. “Now perhaps it has a chance to reform, with Mr Gates concentrating on what he does brilliantly and the rest of the company becoming rather more emollient. If it cannot show a new impetus to change itself, the courts could be justified in doing the job for it.”

Mo Mowlam, the British Cabinet minister in charge of the government’s anti-drugs strategy, was widely praised in the British press for admitting to having smoked cannabis in the 1970s. Mowlam made the confession after a fellow student at Iowa State University said she had once seen her holding (but not smoking) a joint. “I tried marijuana, didn’t like it particularly, and unlike President Clinton, I did inhale,” Mowlam said. “But it wasn’t part of my life.” The press applauded her frankness. Even the conservative Daily Telegraph said Monday in an editorial that it gave her “undiluted support” against calls for her resignation. Noting that Al Gore and Bill Bradley, the chief contenders for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. presidency, have admitted smoking—and inhaling—marijuana as students, the liberal Independent said, “We look forward to the day when an interviewer does not think a question about youthful drug use worth asking.”

Corriere della Sera of Milan ran an interview Monday with Bradley’s wife, Ernestine, in which she was sharply critical of Clinton for endorsing Gore so early in the presidential campaign. “Historically, presidents keep out of the primaries,” she said. “Ronald Reagan didn’t support the then Vice President George Bush until he was absolutely certain he would get the nomination. Clinton’s conduct is unprecedented. That’s why my husband thinks the primaries will be a race between intriguers and independents.”

Ernestine Bradley, who was born in Germany and lived there until she came to the United States at 21, said it took her a while to understand that American political culture expects wives to be involved in their husbands’ political careers, “but my influence is limited above all to advising him about good books to read.” Bradley said that her husband has more money in the bank than Gore and that “the numbers are with us, the trend is decisively in our favor.” But, she said, “the big dilemma is how to get our innovative message to all the voters in such a vast and varied country, in which our competitor Al Gore has had a good seven years to get himself known.”