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Terrorism Next Gen*
10/02/2001 - Updated 11:36 AM ET
Global coalition may carry price
By Bill Nichols, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON Much has been made of the positive changes that might flow from the anti-terrorist coalition President Bush is building. Nations that Washington used to call "rogue states" Iran or Sudan, for example might become allies. The "new world order" promised by Bush's father, former president George Bush, might come to pass. But Bush's coalition-building is also producing unintended consequences that concern foreign policy analysts and some influential members of Congress. They worry that in courting governments long considered unsavory by Washington, the Bush administration will look the other way when it comes to human rights abuses, arms control violations and religious persecution.
"It could have some negative repercussions," says Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del. Biden says he backs Bush's moves fully but admits he's taking a gamble.
"I think it's a risk, but not unlike the risk we took in World War II," Biden says. "It takes some wisdom here, and it takes a little bit of luck."
Administration officials insist they aren't easing up on "rogue states" for the sake of the coalition. "Even though terrorism is a priority for us right now, I can assure you that we are able to cover all the other bases and recognize that the United States has global responsibilities," Secretary of State Colin Powell said last week.
Even so, concerns are being raised that the administration has been too quick to embrace countries it once criticized, and to lessen U.S. pressure on brutal regimes to reform their ways.
The courtship might include financial assistance or U.S. support for loans from international financial institutions to countries Washington once shunned.
Bush said last week that he isn't asking Congress for authority to lift all sanctions against every country needed in the coalition. In fact, Bush's comment came after the White House had asked Congress for that very authority and then backed off when Congress balked.
That incident has fueled fears among experts that the administration's zeal to wage a global war against terrorism might encourage bad behavior by many nations and cause foreign policy problems for years to come.
Tools to fight terrorism, such as shared intelligence, are "morally neutral," says Mark Medish, President Clinton's National Security Council director for Russia. "But will the people you're supplying use them in pro-democratic ways? That is a serious question."
A few areas of concern:
The administration backed a lifting of United Nations sanctions on Sudan last week because of that government's intelligence assistance in tracking Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the attacks Sept. 11. Sudan is one of seven nations on a U.S. list of terrorism sponsors.
The White House also has raised concerns among conservative and evangelical activists by pressing Congress to delay passage of the Sudan Peace Act. The legislation, backed by Christian conservatives, seeks to pressure the Muslim government in Khartoum to end a brutal civil war against Christians and practitioners of native religions.
"We've trotted out Sudan as an ally in the war against terrorism. But they are, and have been, using the same terrorist tactics," says Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., a sponsor of the bill. "Our commitment to the war against terrorism can't take the form of appeasement to terrorist regimes and the abandonment of their victims."
The five former Soviet republics in Central Asia that have offered their support have among the worst human rights records in the world. In Uzbekistan, authorities have imprisoned thousands of non-violent Muslims in recent years for not worshiping in government-sanctioned groups.
Will Washington now end its criticism?
"If an American-led counterterrorism effort becomes associated with attacks on peaceful dissent and religious expression, it will undermine everything the United States is trying to achieve," Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth warns in a letter to Powell.
China has signaled that its modest assistance Chinese anti-terrorism experts had a rare meeting with U.S. counterparts last week will carry a price. Senior officials in Beijing say they plan to crack down on "terrorists" in Tibet, where a separatist movement has enjoyed strong U.S. support.
The administration has called on leaders of Russia's breakaway region of Chechnya to break ties with bin Laden and his network. Experts say Russia will interpret that as tacit approval of its crackdown in Chechnya.
Nuclear experts fear that the lifting of economic and military sanctions on India and Pakistan because of their cooperation sends the wrong message. The sanctions were imposed after they conducted nuclear tests in 1998.
"Pakistan needs to understand that the United States has concerns about its nuclear program," says Lee Feinstein, the former policy planning director for Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. "The message we're delivering should be, 'Now that you've decided to join us, you deserve some compensation ... but don't misunderstand.'
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