The Guardian, London, Aug. 21: As the flood waters in Germany subside they reveal an altered political scene as well as a damaged physical landscape. The disaster has been good for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and bad for his Christian Democrat rival Edmund Stoiber, who until recently seemed to have a very good chance of winning in the German elections in five weeks. Schroeder, who came to office pledging to revitalise the German economy, has failed even to stem its decline or to contain the ever rising unemployment figures which earlier this year reached four million. Once-impregnable German firms have been faltering and failing, one in 10 of the working age population is out of a job, and the slogan which the Christian Democrats bannered across their Berlin headquarters -- How many more jobless, Herr Schroeder? -- seemed for a while to be all that the party was likely to need to reach out for victory.
But the chancellor, so vulnerable on economic policy, has responded by stressing other forms of security that are equally important to Germans. By ruling out participation in an Iraq "adventure," he took Germany out of the firing line in the event of a Middle Eastern conflict, and by his reaction to the floods he reminded citizens that there are times when a nation needs swift and efficient action in the face of natural calamity. Central government, regional authorities and the military have worked together in an impressive way, and the chancellor has looked like a leader who knows how to cope.
The floods have even given the chancellor cover for a decision he would probably have had to make anyway, which is to postpone tax cuts that were due to come in next year.
The Belfast Telegraph, Aug. 20: While President Bush still threatens war against Iraq, there is mounting evidence of disagreement among America's Middle East experts, as well as in the nations that would be expected to join any military coalition. If he is sincere about consulting his closest allies, including Britain, he will postpone any offensive until he can prove to them -- and the United Nations -- that Saddam Hussein is an imminent danger to world peace.
Only British Prime Minister Tony Blair is visibly on America's side, and even he is having to cope with dissension in the ranks. Labor has traditionally been an anti-war party, because of the inevitable effect on ordinary people, and it would be surprising if splits in the Cabinet did not re-surface at the up-coming party conference.
Some worry that Mr. Blair might commit British troops in support of Mr. Bush without recalling Parliament, but he would know how grave the consequences could be. The British public is by no means convinced that Iraq under Saddam is about to take on the world or that military action could guarantee that a more West-friendly regime would replace him.
La Stampa, Turin, Aug. 20: The dog shown on CNN whilst it was being poisoned is the first known victim of Al-Qaida's weapons of mass destruction. After the missile airplanes of Sept. 11, these are the new frontiers of terror: chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons designed to strike houses, neighborhoods and entire cities.
The Bush administration maintains that these pose a real risk for the U.S. and the entire Western World. Thus is born the strategy of preventive attack -- in place of Cold War deterrence -- which is used to legitimize military action.
Before attacking Iraq and Saddam Hussein, Bush will have to win over public opinion in the U.S. and allied countries. The only way to do this is to show that America's enemies possess the most terrible weapons.
The harrowing agony of the dog is the first evidence that such weapons exist, and that they belong to Al-Qaida.
As for Saddam, there are the satellite pictures of the chemical plants, destroyed by 1991 raids but now completely rebuilt at Habbaniyah, but it is unlikely these will be enough to convince the Russians, the Europeans and the Japanese. If Washington has other proof, it must share it with its allies; if not, it must go and get some from under Saddam's nose.