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Add Logic to List of Casualties
'Top Ten' contradictions leave us baffled
by Linda Diebel
|WASHINGTON If your head is spinning with all the contradictions in the speeding-bullet events of this war on terrorism, you're not alone.
Defy-all-logic statements are coming fast and furious from world political leaders facing their most arduous challenge.
They baffle and confuse and, in the recent reports of anthrax contamination, frighten us half to death. Some make us shake our heads, knowing in our gut they make no sense.
Here's a "Top Ten" list of the most baffling contradictions. They defy the common sense of news consumers who must be wondering whom to believe.
From the top:
1. What's left to bomb?
The Pentagon says there are few "high-value targets" left in Afghanistan. U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the country is "rubble ... pulverized" by years of war.
A week later, bombing is heavier than ever. Yesterday, Gen. Richard Myers, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described targets as Taliban command-and-control sites, airfields and military targets, including missile, vehicle and armour maintenance facilities.
2. Why bomb "fairly empty" targets?
In recent days, Rumsfeld has told reporters that camps belonging to prime terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network are being bombed, even if they "are fairly empty." There's value in that, he says. They hit "classrooms where they discuss training methods, firing ranges," that kind of thing.
3. What does "moderate Taliban" mean?
U.S. President George W. Bush and other leaders have laid out the evils of the Taliban, including the savage treatment of women. Yesterday, Rumsfeld told CNN the regime has killed thousands, saying what they have done to the people of Afghanistan "truly is a tragedy.''
Then, this week, Secretary of State Colin Powell, in Islamabad to meet Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, said a post-regime government could include "political leaders, moderate Taliban leaders, elements from the Northern Alliance, tribal elders ... Afghans living outside the country.''
4. Is the anthrax weapons-grade, or isn't it?
After this week's confirmation that anthrax was sent to the office of Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle, there were leaks all over Washington about its potency. House Minority leader Richard Gephardt told the Washington Post that analysis "led the people who have looked at this to believe it is a higher-grade, weapons-grade, kind of anthrax.''
Fear shot through the Capitol and the nation weapons-grade anthrax would be highly refined and finely powdered, designed to float in the air and infect large numbers of victims.
"I don't think I used the word `weapons-grade,'" Daschle told reporters on Capitol Hill the next day. "Never in the briefings have I heard the term, `weapons-grade.'"
5. If Senate offices on Capitol Hill were contaminated, why did they close the House of Representatives?
The House chamber, which sits on the south side of the Capitol building, is closed. On the north side, the Senate functions. But, so far, there is nothing to suggest the Capitol building itself has been contaminated. Staffers who tested positive for exposure to anthrax work in the nearby Hart Senate office building.
"We will not let this stop the work of the Senate," says Daschle. Adds Senator John Warner of Virginia: "How the Congress of the United States handles this problem will be viewed by the whole world."
"There's a difference between being symbolic and being stupid,'' says J.C. Watts, House member from Oklahoma.
"Wimps," the New York Daily News calls Watts and his congressional colleagues.
6. What about the children of Afghanistan?
Bush urged American children to donate $1 each for the children of Afghanistan, shortly after a Red Cross warehouse, containing food, blankets and medicine, was hit by a stray bomb in Kabul. Aid agencies are pleading for a pause in the bombing to get humanitarian relief into Afghanistan.
"I think we need more clarity from the administration about how we are going to get the food to the people of Afghanistan," said Minnesota Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone.
7. Does the United States now support cheap generic drug production?
Senator Charles Schumer, among other lawmakers, calls for mass generic production of the anthrax-fighting antibiotic, Cipro. The New York Democrat says if the German manufacturer, Bayer, can't make it available quickly and more cheaply, then "these drugs are available in generic form, and are produced by several manufacturers.''
Americans pay roughly $350 for a month's supply of Cipro, while no-name brands sell in India for $10. For the past 20 years, U.S. administrations have backed American pharmaceutical companies in their push, under international trade law, to lengthen drug patents and make generic drugs harder to get. Canada passed tougher patent laws in the 1980s, and Washington has opposed India, Brazil and African countries in their fight to make AIDS drugs cheaper.
8. What about Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's trip to New York City?
The Prime Minister's Office said he couldn't visit the site of the World Trade Center attack as part of his Sept. 24 trip to Washington. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's office said it wasn't a good time, according to the PMO. And Chrétien had a Liberal fundraiser to get to in Toronto. The same day, however, Giuliani welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, saying the visit meant a lot. The week before, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac, among others, made the journey. Chrétien went to New York City four days later.
9. Is the Northern Alliance friend or foe?
Pakistan's Musharraf calls anti-Taliban Northern Alliance forces "butchers" and warns against them taking advantage of U.S.-led bombing in Afghanistan. In Washington, Rumsfeld praises Northern Alliance forces dug in against the Taliban.
"There's no question that there are a large number of people in Afghanistan tribes in the south, the Northern Alliance that oppose the Taliban," he says. "Clearly, we need to recognize the value they bring to this anti-terrorism, anti-Taliban effort and, where appropriate, find ways to assist them.''
10. How much does the health secretary know?
News of the anthrax contamination on Capitol Hill circulated among Washington lawmakers for a full hour Monday before Health Secretary Tommy Thompson was told.
Thompson has had a tough time since he insisted the first anthrax incident, in which a Florida man died, was "an isolated case." In recent days, he has been mercilessly grilled by the media. "I never thought I would end my career being an expert on bio-terrorism and stem-cell research," said the former Wisconsin governor.
As for his government's ability to meet a bio-terrorist attack, Thompson said: "I said we were prepared to respond ... I hope completely.''
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