Editorial Roundup for Thursday — September 22, 2005

• Attack in Basra; North Korea


Attack in Basra; North Korea

The Sunday Times, London, Wednesday, Sept. 21

The first thing to say about Monday’s horrific attack in Basra is that the British soldiers caught up in it performed with courage and skill. Two soldiers in a blazing Warrior combat vehicle first tried to maneuver it to safety, then made their escape, one with his uniform on fire, the other under a barrage of rocks from a hostile crowd. Two soldiers, held by Iraqi police, and facing the likelihood of kidnapping, torture or death at the hands of the mob, were rescued thanks to a military assault involving tanks, helicopters, regular troops and special forces. It was massive, swift and effective.

No lives were lost. I suspect we know less than half of what actually happened outside the city jail that day. But if the first duty of any officer is the protection of his own men, this must count as a brilliant operation. Enough British soldiers have died recently for us to offer thanks that four of them, on this occasion, were saved. …

No one suggests that the situation in Iraq is other than grim, the daily statistics of death and destruction so shocking that we find it hard to absorb them, the life of its people a constant struggle for survival. …

This is not an argument about the rights and wrongs of the invasion of Iraq, about neoconservatism, al-Qaeda or the politics of oil. It is about the fate of a people who were promised a bright future and who have seen their country reduced to a battlefield. It is about the responsibility of those who took it upon themselves to offer democracy and have delivered barely a shadow of it. It is about the hope that thousands of Iraqis expressed when they exercised their right to vote.

It is, finally, about the principles that our soldiers still believe they are defending and for which, as we have been so graphically reminded, they are prepared to risk their lives. They are principles that we should take as seriously as they do.

Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo, Tuesday, Sept. 20

Representatives of the six nations taking part in talks in Beijing over North Korea’s nuclear development have finally issued a joint statement, the product of extremely hard labor.

The biggest news for Japan and the rest of the international community is that the joint statement contains North Korea’s promise to abandon all of its nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.

But the road ahead will no doubt be bumpy.

The six countries did nothing other than broadly agree on the future goal of negotiations. But no agreement was reached on how to reach that goal. The latest accord means that the six countries have come to the starting line. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to underestimate the accord.

The understanding of the current stalemate by the countries concerned must have prompted mutual concessions for the latest agreement.

Steady steps forward must be taken on the basis of this agreement. The first thing that must be done is to stop the nuclear facilities now in operation in North Korea.

Now that a foothold has been established for bilateral talks between Japan and North Korea, it is hoped that a forum will be reopened for comprehensive discussions of Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development and the problem of abducted Japanese citizens.

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