International Papers

A Couple of Johns

The international press looks at Kerry and Edwards … and Allawi and Zarqawi.

Much of the international press on Wednesday focused on John Kerry’s choice of John Edwards as his presidential running mate. One issue the two men will have to struggle with if they win in November is Iraq, and many papers also highlighted a major story from there: the formulation of a draft emergency law that the interim Iraq government hopes will help enforce security in the country.

France’s Le Monde suggested that Kerry’s decision to choose the “inexperienced” North Carolina senator was at least partly driven by the polls. The paper recalled that a “poll published last week indicated that John Edwards … was the favorite of Americans for the ticket … 72 percent of respondents were ‘enthusiastic’ about or favorable toward Edwards, clearly surpassing another loser in the [Democratic primary] race, Missouri congressman Dick Gephardt (64 percent).” London’s Daily Telegraph observed that this was the first time since John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson ran together in 1960 that two senators were on the same ticket. It went on to note: “Mr. Kerry kept his deliberations to a very small circle and successfully kept his choice a secret until the last minute. He is believed to have been mortified in 2000 when he learned from a media leak that he had failed to become Al Gore’s running mate.” Meanwhile, under a headline reading “Blue-blooded Kerry Taps Edwards’s Southern Charm,” the Toronto Globe and Mail registered the sour comment of the Republican National Committee, which called Edwards “a disingenuous, unaccomplished liberal and friend to personal-injury trial lawyers.”

As Kerry and Edwards prepare for the (possible) burden of office, British Prime Minister Tony Blair is still trying to shift its ruthless weight, thanks once again to his controversial performance prior to the Iraq war. As London’s Guardian reported, Blair, answering the questions of a liaison committee of select parliamentary committee chairmen before the release next week of the Butler inquiry report into the manipulation of intelligence prior to the war, “admitted for the first time … that weapons of mass destruction may never be found in Iraq, but he refused to apologize for the invasion and would not admit that the absence of stockpiles undermined his case for war.” Lebanon’s Al-Nahar thought this was important enough to turn into its off-lead story. It tied it to a New York Times report on Tuesday that a U.S. Senate committee had found that the CIA withheld information provided by relatives of Iraqi scientists to the effect that Iraq had abandoned programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. The paper described the stories as “the two strongest signs of the possibility that Iraqi [WMD], the existence of which the U.S. and Britain had used as justification to wage war against Iraq” were just not there.

In Iraq, the interim government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi took a significant step in imposing its authority by drafting an emergency law, titled the Law for Defense of National Safety. According to Lebanon’s Daily Star, which obtained a copy of the document, the government has hesitated to pass the legislation, “because of concerns that it grants Allawi too much power.” The prime minister will be able to declare martial law in certain parts of Iraq or nationwide, though he would need Cabinet approval for the former, and Cabinet and presidential approval for the latter. Once martial law is declared, the emergency law would allow Allawi to: “Take command over all police, intelligence, army and other security forces in that area … Create special civilian courts for people accused of ‘major crimes’ … Appoint civilian or military administrators in areas under martial rule. Release any defendant from custody …  Monitor—and restrict—mail, telegrams and wireless communications in affected areas. Freeze the assets of anybody accused of crimes that undermine national security, as well as those who are accused of providing shelter, funding and other assistance to suspected insurgents.”

The Iraqi government may be trying to put on a tough face, but it’s not alone. As the London-based Al-Hayat noted, one of the odder Iraqi news items in recent months came courtesy of a video played on the Al-Arabia satellite station, showing several masked men threatening to hunt down and kill the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who stands accused of organizing a series of bloody attacks in Iraq. One of the men, who belongs to a group calling itself the “Movement of Salvation,” read a statement that warned “the criminal … Zarqawi” to leave Iraq immediately, or pay the price for his “ignominious acts that have killed thousands of [Iraqis].”