Tue, 12 Aug 2003

China's missiles

The United States has both a legal and moral obligation to defend the democratic government of the Republic of China on Taiwan from attack from Chinese communists.

That commitment has kept the peace across the Taiwan Strait for 50 years, blocking aggression from the communist Chinese government on the mainland.

However, the status quo of 50 years might soon be challenged by the communists, if current trends continue. ...

The communist government of mainland China is adding as many as 75 missiles a year to its arsenal of 450 already aimed at Taiwan, the report said. Further, the missiles are more sophisticated and accurate than before, with China's army developing longer-range models capable of reaching as far as Okinawa, Japan, where U.S. Marines are based. China also is spending far more on its defense budget than it has acknowledged.

Chinese belligerence is a grave threat to world peace. The U.S. government should do everything it can to dissuade the Beijing gang from this reckless and destabilizing policy.

-- The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Colin Powell

If the speculation that Secretary of State Colin Powell would resign if President Bush is reelected was meant as a trial balloon, it flopped horribly.

Powell has disputed the rumors, which were trigged by a report in The Washington Post on Monday. The Post reported that Powell's deputy, Richard L. Armitage told National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that he and Powell will leave on Jan. 21, 2005, the day after the inauguration, quoting "sources familiar with the conversation."

The Post said: "Rice and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz are the leading candidates to replace Powell."

The report triggered feverish speculation. ...

The fact remains that Powell is a pillar of credibility in the administration's foreign policy, despite his appearance Feb. 5 at the U.N. Security Council in which he cited the administration's specifics of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that have since not proven to exist.

Even a hint of Powell leaving has negative repercussions, which the administration must note with some gravity.

-- The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Mississippi

Pedophilia in the Catholic Church

For the longest time after the pedophile priest scandal erupted in the Catholic Church, we heard that it was an aberration, just isolated incidents here and there. That other denominations had their skeletons, too.

They do, but that doesn't make the recent report from the Massachusetts attorney general any less damning. The result of 16 months of investigation, the report says more than 1,000 people were molested by priests and other church workers over the last six decades in the Boston Archdiocese alone. ...

... In any event, there's nothing anyone can do to erase the past. The future is another matter. As of last week, Boston has a new archbishop, Sean Patrick O'Malley, who is known as a "Mr. Fix-It" and has been meeting with victims.

Given everything the Catholic Church stands for -- the well- being of children near the top of that list -- we would hope its leaders do as they advise their parishioners: confess their sins, and commit themselves wholeheartedly to doing whatever it takes to ensure that this sorry chapter in the church's history does not repeat itself. Never, never again.

-- Journal Star, Peoria, Illinois

Amrozi, damned and condemned

Justice under Indonesian law has been done. After a swift investigation and an open and fair trial, the first of the Bali bombers has been condemned to die by firing squad. That is a closure of sorts. But it is by no means the end of the Bali tragedy.

Amrozi's defiant pride in his role in the Bali deaths and his odious gloating over this week's Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta has provoked deep, unhappy emotions in Australians and Indonesians alike. At a personal level, there will be those who draw comfort from knowing that Amrozi, who learnt his fate yesterday, has been shown no mercy. Others, who oppose the death penalty under any circumstances, will see the sentence as a futile instrument of revenge which can offer no real solace to those who lost loved ones in Bali on Oct. 12 last year.

The court's decision has brought Amrozi -- and by legal precedent his co-accused -- one step closer to death. His sentence, however, is only one factor which will determine his fate. How swiftly Amrozi is now executed, or whether he is executed at all, is uncertain. This doubt is inextricably linked to the wider danger posed by radical Islam to the Indonesian state and to foreigners in that country.

Amrozi, who yesterday said he would appeal, had previously declared his enthusiasm for a "martyr's death". His execution will in no way deter those similarly prepared to commit, and to confess to, heinous crimes. The possibility that the Marriott Hotel blast was detonated by a suicide bomber -- and linked to the Jemaah Islamiah terrorists responsible for the Bali blasts -- reinforces this truth. JI has not been broken. It remains a potent threat. For operational reasons Amrozi may be more useful to investigators alive, in custody.

Indonesia rarely executes its citizens, even for the serious drug trafficking offenses which routinely attract the death penalty in other countries of South-East Asia. When it does so, the process is excruciatingly slow. The handful of prisoners executed since 1990 had spent up to 25 years in custody. There are presently serious political and security considerations which might encourage Jakarta to hold Amrozi on death row.

The recent rise of radical Islam in Indonesia followed decades of brutal political repression. Under the authoritarian regime of the former president, Soeharto, Islamic political parties were banned. But much popular resentment was quietly channeled into the mosques, where it festered. When Islamic political parties were legalized after Soeharto's fall in 1998, Muslim groups were emboldened to demand a greater role in the nation's affairs.

Democracy has since disappointed many Indonesians by failing to curb official corruption, combat poverty or improve the delivery of basic services. The Indonesian people have suffered greatly at the hands of terrorists, and deplore their actions. Radical Islam, however, continues to offer the determined few a dangerous vehicle for opposition. Amrozi's execution may go ahead. But the fear then must be that the martyr's death he craves may simply help rally more zealots to his bloody cause.

-- The Sydney Morning Herald