From the November 2001 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 48, No. 11)

Zimbabwe’s Fears

Busani Bafana, World Press Review Correspondent, Harare

As the outpouring of grief continues from all parts of the world over the terrorist attacks on the United States, Zimbabwe’s press has not been left out of the global scoop. It has published mixed opinion on whether the United States should exercise restraint or immediately take up arms and trigger World War III. Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, was the first to offer the country’s condolences to the people of the United States. Mugabe, in comments carried by the press and state television, put aside the differences between Harare and Washington over a number of issues such as human rights, land, and political violence to embrace the rest of the world in mourning the United States.

The official Herald (Sept. 14) paddled the diplomatic approach to the bombing and called for restraint. “The United States has not—as some may have expected—lashed out with military force at vague suspects for the murders....A single bomb will be neither an effective nor a correct response,” The Herald said in its editorial.

While the loss of lives in the United States has sparked international sympathy, there is growing consensus that the country should exercise caution in retaliating before it has conclusive evidence, as the current global sympathy could turn to outrage. “The people who sent suicide bombers hurtling into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon most certainly deserve severe punishment, as do the countries which aided and abetted them,” the Daily News (Sept. 14) commented. “But if the retaliation causes the same massive losses of civilian life that were witnessed on Tuesday, then the world will not have learned anything from the unbridled use of power.” The privately owned weekly The Zimbabwe Standard (Sept. 16-22) called the attack on the United States an attack on civilization and said the world would never be the same again. In the same comment The Standard said the adversary must be tracked down, positively identified, brought to justice, and punished.

As the United States issued pledges to find the chief suspect behind the bombing, Osama bin Laden, dead or alive, there were some voices calling for widening the net of possible suspects. “Is Osama bin Laden the only person in the world who may want to bomb the World Trade Center? What about the extremist wings of the growing anti-globalization movement for whom the World Trade Center must be the very symbol of global imperialism?” asked columnist Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem in the independent Daily News (Sept. 19). “The response may satisfy the clamor for revenge, but it will not guarantee that more attacks will not follow. Defeating terrorism requires not military might alone. The United States must come to terms with the fact that there are many people in the world who hate what it stands for, and they are not only outside the United States.”

Writing in the opinion page of the government-owned Sunday Mail (Sept. 16), Elliot Mahende said the United States cannot put out fire with paraffin because the attacks show that global security does not lie with high-tech armaments but with justice and fair play. Mahende felt that the U.S. government should use might to seek justice in relations between Israelis and Palestinians, Europeans and Africans, Muslims and Christians, and between the developed and developing countries. “The political and diplomatic elements of [Colin] Powell’s approach should be about engaging the so-called terrorists and their backer in dialogue,” said Mahende. “Talk to them and have a hard look at their grievances. Bombing them to smithereens will not guarantee security because ideas and beliefs can withstand even nuclear blasts, and who knows...the terrorists may soon be attacking with tactical nuclear weapons.”

Talk peace and not war was the suggestion from the government-owned and Bulawayo-based The Chronicle. “The fact that the latest attacks occurred in spite of America’s military might and the advanced technology at its disposal points to the need to go back to basics—dialogue—to convince those behind international terrorism of the inhumanity of their approach,” The Chronicle said in its comment (Sept. 17). The million-dollar question is whether it will be the voice of the international community or its traumatized citizens that will stop George Bush from unleashing the dogs of war.

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