The British papers sense flagging support for the bombing campaign against Afghanistan. An Independent storysays a recent Tony Blair speech acknowledged growing anti-war sentiment within the Labor Party. Blair offered an olive branch: “All these concerns deserve to be answered. No one who raises doubts is an appeaser or a faint heart.” A Daily Telegraph essay says the British public is losing resolve, as the campaign draws out and civilian casualties mount, because the government is not properly making its case: “For a Government that prides itself on presentation, it has appeared to be losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the British people.”
London’s Guardian says Blair is taking a big political risk. A victory in this war won’t win him much politically, while if it turns into Vietnam it will finish him. It’s especially treacherous because he’s not even in the driver’s seat—Americans are. Another Guardian essay says we ought to be conducting a targeted police action against Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist group, not fighting a large-scale war. The current campaign is like fighting cancer with a “blowtorch.” And a third Guardian piece urges America to become a formal, not informal, imperial power. It always worked better for Britain that way. Instead of dithering, we should now become an unapologetic “global hegemon.”
The Independent reports that British Muslims who fight for the Taliban will face treason charges. Several men, mostly with Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds, have joined Taliban forces. Muslim extremist groups in Britain claim 600 Britons have gone, and they are recruiting even more. A separate Independent piece argues that these men should not be tried for treason—a move that could stir up Muslim anger—but should be stripped of their British citizenship. It’s a fitting punishment for warring against British troops.
Nearer the battle, an essay in Pakistan’s Dawn says it’s time for Karachi to reconsider its relationship with the United States. At first obliged to cooperate, Pakistan now watches refugees flood its borders and grows wary of any postwar Afghan government. At the very least, Pakistan should demand full compensation for U.S. use of its facilities and call for more restraint in the bombing campaign.
Two faraway papers run provocative but unproven stories picked up from the French press. A Sydney Morning Herald story says France’s Le Figaro and Radio France International are reporting that Bin Laden went to Dubai in July to receive medical treatment for a “serious kidney infection” and that while there he met with a CIA agent. Bin Laden later had a portable dialysis machine brought to Kandahar, acccording to the reports. And the Tehran Times says the French daily La Libération has reported that the United States is using chemical weapons in Afghanistan. Evidence offered: zero.
What some people won’t do for a book contract. Asahi Shimbun reports on a Japanese man now in custody of the Taliban. He is likely a 37-year-old free-lance writer who entered Afghanistan on his own in hopes of finding book material. A previous story (which wrongly identified the detainee as a missing free-lance photographer, who has since turned up) examined the delicate position of free-lancers covering war zones. They are on their own in determining risks, yet prospective employers demand daring reports and photographs.