John Ashcroft's dirty bomb tricks.

John Ashcroft's dirty bomb tricks.

John Ashcroft's dirty bomb tricks.

What the foreign papers are saying.
June 12 2002 10:51 PM

Dirty Bomb Tricks

As far as the international press is concerned, Attorney General John Ashcroft's announcement Monday that U.S. authorities had foiled a terrorist plot to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the United States is a PR cover. The conservative National Post of Canada dismissed the story as "all hype, no fission," observing, "[T]he timing was suspicious: One wonders whether the announcement wasn't primarily aimed at distracting Americans from recently disclosed pre-9/11 security lapses by the CIA and FBI."

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In Switzerland, Le Temps of Geneva asked why the May 8 arrest of alleged dirty-bomb plotter Jose Padilla was made public with such great fanfare Monday. It concluded there was "one small practical reason"—his transfer from military to civilian custody—and "big political reasons: The confirmation that al-Qaida is still active and that its plans represent America's worst nightmares is a powerful tool to advance the White House's new security plans." It said, "Pucho's dirty bomb [for some reason, Le Temps repeatedly referred to Padilla by his rather jolly nickname] introduces an element of urgency" into Congress' consideration of President Bush's homeland security reforms.

El País of Spain criticized the Bush administration for "feeding public alarm and the fear that has already gripped many citizens. In this way, even without taking action ... Bin Laden and his kind partially achieve their objectives of putting unprecedented pressure on a superpower that feels it is at war." Britain's Guardian agreed, declaring, "By their words and actions, George Bush and senior US administration officials may be doing more to terrify American citizens than the al-Qaida terrorists they have vowed to destroy." The editorial concluded, "Too much of what Mr Bush and his officials say … looks politically-driven, partly by a belatedly rising tide of domestic criticism, partly by a rightwing agenda. Too much of what they do lacks perspective. When fear usurps reason and becomes the ruling principle of governance, terrorism wins."

June Thomas is managing producer of Slate podcasts.