Most European papers supported the U.S.-British airstrikes against Afghanistan. Spain’s El País dubbed them a “legitimate” act of defense, while Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noted: “Now, the Taleban is no longer writing the script in a conflict for which they are in no small part responsible. After weeks of uncertainty, the first strikes … signal a shift from an almost unrealistic phase of animated suspense to concrete action.” Le Temps of Switzerland warned that military action must be swift:
If successes don’t come quickly and Bin Laden is allowed to thumb his nose at his enemies, as he did on the evening of the attack, the risk of the Muslim world seeing him as a hero and a martyr increases. … There is no doubt that some of the regimes currently allied to the West could collapse if the conflict is drawn out.
Libération of France said the United States and its allies shouldn’t be motivated by revenge, but admitted it was “completely unrealistic to exclude the use of force, a priori, against a ‘tentacular’ organization dedicated to violence.” However, it continued, “But please don’t tell us that a country as devastated as Afghanistan still has thousands of targets that require massive and prolonged bombing. That would inevitably victimize people who for too long have been held hostage by both outside powers and its own warlords.” Granma of Cuba deplored the inequality of the warring parties:
No matter what the pretext, this is a war with the most sophisticated technology aimed at people who don’t know how to read or write … a war that will be transformed, for economic, cultural and religious reasons, into a war of the former colonizers versus the formerly colonized, of the most developed versus the least developed, of the richest versus the poorest, of those who call themselves civilized versus those who the “civilized” consider backward and savage.
Britain’s Independent was unhappy with the allies’ coupling of the bombing with airdrops of food aid. It announced: “[I]t is disingenuous and unnecessary to dress up what is eminently justified retaliation and reprisal as something else. … The military attacks are a response to a terrorist atrocity, they have no need to be covered with the veneer of a humanitarian operation; that can—and should—come when the bombing is over.” The Guardian reported that the United Nations suspended its food aid to Afghanistan once the bombing began, but agencies told the paper that air drops of the kind the United States is currently conducting are “risky, random, expensive, and likely to meet only a fraction of the need”—in other words, they’re “virtually useless” as a humanitarian aid strategy. The charities called for the United States and Britain to assign “clear corridors” on the ground to allow safe passage, and they expressed concerns that charity workers would be at risk if food aid is viewed as part of the military effort.
There’s no doubt that the Brits got a kick from playing Robin to the United States’ Batman. Some London papers acted like crushed-out teen-agers who’d finally been noticed by the cute kid in class. An op-ed in the Independent crowed about Britain’s bond with America, “At moments like these, the so-called ‘special relationship,’ which some claim no longer exists, starts to look like a pillar of the world order, an alliance between the country which controlled the largest empire in history, and the superpower which, after 1945, assumed Britain’s global mantle.” Similarly, the Daily Telegraph gushed:
How good it is … to hear Mr Bush celebrating in time of war the bond between our two countries which sometimes seems to weaken in time of peace. It is not a coincidence that this alliance works so smoothly in a crisis. It is based on more than the shared intelligence which is so vital to military success: it depends upon a shared culture, a common language and a common belief in the active defence of freedom.
The Independent on Sunday noted that suspected terrorists extradited from Britain to the United States under new “fast track” rules will not face the death penalty for their involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks. Under European human rights legislation, suspects cannot be sent to countries where they face “torture or other forms of persecution.”
More Musharraf: This weekend, Pakistan’s military leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf indefinitely extended his term as army chief, which was due to expire Saturday. The Frontier Post of Peshawar was not surprised by the extension—but worried that it makes his promise to restore democracy by October 2002 unlikely: “The crisis in Afghanistan … would have persuaded most people that this step was in the nature of the inevitable. What is troubling about General Musharraf’s extension under the present circumstances is that it appears to be open-ended.” Pakistan’s News International sighed, “The recent turn of events, after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, have made [his] continuance as leader of Pakistan almost a fait accompli, at least until the world again turns its screws on Pakistan to demand a civilian, democratic set up. And that is not going to happen any time soon.”
Royal target: On Saturday, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported that a cell linked to Osama Bin Laden plotted to kill the Jordanian royal family as they vacationed on a yacht in the Mediterranean in the summer of 2000. According to the story (click here for an unofficial English translation provided by the Jordan Times), the plan was to hit the royal yacht with an explosives-packed speedboat piloted by suicide bombers—the method used to attack the USS Cole in October of last year. The Jordan Times said the revelations left the country “appalled and even angrier” and wondered, “Will the world and the too often misled international public opinion now finally see that Arabs and Muslims are themselves targets of terrorists?”