Editorial Roundup: United States
Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The New York Times calls for an independent investigation into the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh
In her 25 years as a journalist for Al Jazeera, Shireen Abu Akleh covered many clashes between Israelis and Palestinians. So when she went to the occupied West Bank city of Jenin in the early morning of May 11 to cover an Israeli Army operation in a refugee camp, she took all the requisite precautions. She wore a helmet and blue body armor marked “press” in large letters. She stood near the entrance to the refugee camp with a group of other journalists, and her presence was immediately noticed. She was so well known among Arabic-speaking audiences that a crowd gathered to watch her work.
In the course of their reporting, however, the journalists came under fire. Ms. Abu Akleh, an American citizen, was killed by a bullet to the head. Another journalist, Ali Samoudi, who was also wearing a flak jacket marked “press,” was shot in the back and survived.
More than three weeks have passed since Ms. Abu Akleh was killed. Yet, despite a surge of international outrage and calls by, among others, the U.S. State Department, Israeli human rights organizations, scholars and members of civil society for a thorough investigation of her death and of the allegations that she was killed because she was a journalist, no formal, impartial outside inquiry has been started. The world still knows very little about who is responsible for her death. Ms. Abu Akleh’s family, her colleagues and all who care about freedom of the press as a pillar of democracy deserve far more.
The early response to the killing has been alarming. Two days after her death, the results of two preliminary investigations were announced. The Palestinian Authority charged that Ms. Abu Akleh, 51, had been targeted by Israeli soldiers. The Israeli military, for its part, said there is always a risk of noncombatants being hit during an armed clash and said that the fatal shot might have come from indiscriminate Palestinian gunfire or an Israeli sniper. On the day she was shot, a spokesman for the Israeli military implied that journalists were legitimate targets. The Times of Israel reports that the spokesman told Army Radio that Ms. Abu Akleh was “filming and working for a media outlet amidst armed Palestinians. They’re armed with cameras, if you’ll permit me to say so.”
With that comment, Israel seemed to have questioned the very presence of journalists in the West Bank and dismissed the crucial role that brave, independent reporters like Ms. Abu Akleh and others have served in bearing witness to the violence that, in recent weeks, has escalated.
But Israelis should care more about what happened to Ms. Abu Akleh. Democracies require a free press as a prerequisite for informed self-governance. Israel needs to ensure the safety of journalists in the country and in areas that it occupies, to ensure the safety of its own democracy.
The tensions were on clear display two days after the shooting, when Israeli police officers attacked some of the hundreds of mourners at Ms. Abu Akleh’s funeral procession in East Jerusalem, causing the pallbearers to nearly drop her coffin. Numerous videos showed officers attacking mourners with batons and stun grenades. The Israeli police appeared to want to prevent the funeral from turning into a nationalist rally and said the officers had acted against a “mob” that had taken the coffin and was seeking to march on foot, in violation of a previously approved plan.
Attention has now shifted to the forensics of the investigation, and the two sides are at loggerheads. The Palestinian Authority says it has the bullet that killed Ms. Abu Akleh. The Israeli government says it may have the rifle that fired it. An examination of markings on the bullet and the rifling of the gun could determine whether an Israeli fired the fatal round.
On May 26, after a two-week investigation, the Palestinian Authority accused Israeli soldiers of intentionally killing Ms. Abu Akleh. The inquiry concluded that a high-velocity 5.56-millimeter bullet fired by an Israeli soldier “stationed in the middle of the street” had struck her while she was trying to escape from Israeli fire. Israel rejected any suggestion that the killing was deliberate, calling the allegation a “blatant lie.”
In the United States, the State Department has called for an investigation. “It is important to us. It is important to the world that that investigation be thorough, that it be comprehensive, that it be transparent and, importantly, that investigations end with full accountability and those responsible for her death being held responsible,” Ned Price, a department spokesman, said last month. In the House of Representatives, 57 Democrats signed a letter to the secretary of state and the head of the F.B.I. demanding they conduct their own investigation, urging them “to uphold the values that our nation was founded on, including human rights, equality for all and freedom of speech.” The letter continued, “We have a duty to protect Americans reporting abroad.”
CNN and other news organizations have begun their own investigations. After reviewing video footage, witnesses’ accounts and audio forensic analysis of the gunshots, CNN reported that the evidence suggested that “Abu Akleh was shot dead in a targeted attack by Israeli forces.” The witnesses and videos, it said, provided new evidence “that there was no active combat nor any Palestinian militants near Abu Akleh in the moments leading up to her death.”
Israel reacted sharply. In an address to the World Economic Forum in Davos on May 25, President Isaac Herzog of Israel rejected the report, saying it was based on “fake facts.”
That only makes it more important to get a full accurate accounting, and the best possible means of establishing those facts would be an independent investigation conducted by a group with American, Israeli and Palestinian participation.
On May 20, Israel’s ambassador to the United States said in a statement that Israel has, “from the outset, called for an impartial joint Israeli-Palestinian investigation with the U.S. in an observer role.”
Independence in this probe would be, certainly, a tall order. The Palestinians, convinced that Israel would try to whitewash the killing, declared from the outset that they would not cooperate with any Israeli investigation. In Israel, which has faced decades of one-sided condemnations by the United Nations and other international agencies, there is a deep mistrust of any outside investigation. And Israel’s political right does not look kindly on investigating troops.
While the questions around Ms. Abu Akleh’s death may be difficult to answer, that is no excuse for ignoring them. Reporters are aware of the dangers inherent in covering armed conflict, and they know that armies are not keen to have their violent missions exposed to public scrutiny. But the work of journalists is essential to public accountability for the actions of any country’s military. Journalists cannot do their jobs if they are targeted with impunity by any side in a conflict. Even if she was not singled out, Israel still needs to grapple with how this happened and what can be done to avoid similar tragedies.
Knowing what really happened at the Jenin refugee camp is significant far beyond the West Bank; those facts would help reinforce the message, to governments and to troops, that noncombatants in a conflict zone — including clearly identified journalists, medical workers and civilians — must be protected.
Ms. Abu Akleh’s prominence as a journalist and her American passport have served to focus broad attention on her death. But scores of other journalists lose their lives without public notice. According to a database maintained by the nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists, 511 journalists were killed from 1992 to 2022 in crossfire or on dangerous assignments, 347 of them in wars. Journalists are dying in Ukraine, some presumably killed deliberately.
The Palestinian Authority, Israel and the United States would do well to agree on an independent investigator to determine who shot Ms. Abu Akleh and establish whether she was a target because of her work as a journalist. She served as a model of courageous, honest reporting for many aspiring journalists, including many women.
The best tribute to her life and work would be to make sure that her death does not vanish in the fog of hatred and recrimination but serves to guarantee the safety of all journalists who seek to pierce that fog.
The Washington Post says it’s common sense to raise the minimum age to purchase a rifle
The back-to-back massacres at a Buffalo grocery store and a Texas elementary school have brought into sharp focus the disparity in federal gun law that forbids people younger than 18 from buying handguns but allows them to purchase semiautomatic rifles. That someone too young to buy alcohol or cigarettes is allowed to buy weapons designed for war makes no sense. If ever a loophole cried out to be closed, it is this dangerous distinction. Congress must make it a top priority in any package of reforms.
Recent mass shootings — at least seven more occurred over the weekend — have increased pressure on Congress. The House is poised to pass a raft of gun-control measures, including raising the minimum age for rifle purchases, but the Democratic-led package will likely fail because of Republican opposition in the Senate. There is hope — tempered by past failures to enact gun control after other high-profile mass shootings — that negotiations between a small group of senators will result in a modest bill that would include some toughening of federal gun laws along with school security and mental health measures. Key senators, The Post’s Mike DeBonis reported, said a gun deal could be within reach.
Unfortunately, dealing with the danger posed by assault weapons doesn’t appear to be in the mix, a mistake that needs to be rectified. President Biden is right that the best approach would be to ban what has become the weapon of choice of mass murderers, but, failing that, the minimum age for purchasing them needs to be raised. Six of the nine deadliest mass shootings in the United States since 2018, the New York Times reported, were committed by people 21 or younger, a shift from earlier decades when most mass-casualty shooters were men in their mid-20s, 30s or 40s.
Only six states — Florida, Washington, Vermont, California, Illinois and Hawaii — have increased the minimum purchase age for long guns to 21. Florida acted after a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 and wounded 17 more people at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The governor who signed the measure into law was Republican Rick Scott, now a senator. One would have hoped he would be calling for Congress to follow suit, particularly since he was critical of Washington inaction when he signed the law and was running for Senate. “If you look at the federal government, nothing seems to have happened there. You go elect people, you expect them to represent you, get things done,” then-Gov. Scott said. Now, however, he says states should decide the matter.
More encouraging was the support for raising the age to 21 expressed by Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who also said he is open to backing a ban on assault weapons. And in Texas, major Republican donors joined other conservatives in signing an open letter calling on Congress to increase gun restrictions, including raising the minimum age for gun purchases. While Senate Democrats no doubt will have to compromise if there is to be any hope of getting a new gun law enacted, they should not give ground on this common-sense reform.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Biden is using emergency powers and the DPA as an economic band-aid
Donald Trump abused his national security power by slapping tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to support domestic producers. Now President Biden is stealing from his predecessor’s industrial policy guidebook by invoking the Defense Production Act to boost domestic green energy. Don’t laugh—the White House wants to make solar panels and heat pumps to stop Vladimir Putin.
In rare good news, the President on Monday brought a sigh of relief to U.S. solar-power developers by announcing he wouldn’t impose tariffs for two years on imported solar panels from southeast Asia. Domestic manufacturers say their Chinese competitors are circumventing anti-dumping duties, and a Commerce Department investigation threatened to raise costs for solar projects in which U.S. firms add value.
Mr. Biden’s tariff reprieve is good news for consumers, although the Commerce investigation will continue so he can maintain the fiction that it’s not politically influenced. Most dumping investigations are. This one was egged on by Democrats in Congress, especially Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Tim Ryan.
Solar panels became commodities as the Chinese discovered how to produce them at lower cost. Cheap imports have helped boost U.S. solar production but they also create a political and economic paradox for Democrats that Mr. Biden is now trying to solve.
Liberals promise that green energy will create hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs to replace those killed by their war on fossil fuels. But many of those jobs will be in countries with lower labor and energy costs. Hence Mr. Biden is turning to the Defense Production Act to boost domestic companies.
That Cold-War era law gives the President broad emergency powers to mobilize domestic manufacturers to produce goods he deems critical to national security. Mr. Biden ironically claims that the energy problems created by the left’s climate policies are a national emergency that demands a command-and-control solution. Boosting domestic production of solar panels, heat pumps, building insulation, fuel cells and power transformers can reduce “risks to our power grid,” the White House says.
The North American Electric Reliability Corporation recently warned that most of the U.S. could experience power outages this summer. Blame green-energy subsidies that have forced the shutdown of fossil-fuel and nuclear generators that provide baseload power 24/7. Relying on electric heat pumps and solar panels will make the grid less reliable.
Mr. Biden also says the DPA can help rescue Europe from Mr. Putin’s energy extortion. “With a stronger clean energy arsenal, the United States can be an even stronger partner to our allies, especially in the face of Putin’s war in Ukraine,” the White House says. But solar panels and heat pumps won’t keep Europeans warm this winter.
What Europe needs is more natural gas, and what the U.S. needs are more pipelines and terminals to export it. But removing regulatory barriers for building this infrastructure isn’t part of the President’s order. Mr. Biden doesn’t explain how he’ll use the DPA but says he will “convene relevant industry, labor, environmental justice, and other key stakeholders.”
One of those “stakeholders,” climate alarmist Bill McKibben, days after Mr. Putin invaded Ukraine, urged Mr. Biden to invoke the DPA to build green-energy factories as FDR did to build weapons in World War II. Mr. McKibben wants the President “to incentivize domestic manufacturers” and “procure and install equipment in private industrial facilities to achieve the necessary production goals.”
Let’s hope Mr. Biden doesn’t take over petrochemical plants to make solar panels, though that’s what some liberals have in mind. Five Democratic Senators in March urged the President to use the DPA to “mirror the Lend-Lease Act program implemented during World War II, through which the United States sent critical supplies to Allied nations invaded by Germany.”
The DPA is becoming Mr. Biden’s household economic remedy. The constitutional risk is the President will increasingly resort to emergency powers to deputize private industry to do his political bidding. The economic risk is that government will misallocate resources and make the U.S. economy even less competitive.
The Los Angeles Times says Uvalde teaches us about policing in America
Americans maintain a bargain with their police: Officers will run toward danger while the rest of us seek shelter, and in exchange we cede to police enormous discretion, abundant resources and the benefit of the doubt regarding their actions. That bargain is too rarely examined absent a shocking and deadly incident. The police murder of George Floyd was one such breakdown. The killing of 19 elementary school students and two adults on May 24 in Uvalde, Texas, is another.
By any measure, the law enforcement response during the approximately 80 minutes of horrific slaughter at Robb Elementary School was a shameful, abysmal failure. Official accounts of what happened, and when, have repeatedly shifted. But following reviews of audio and video recordings, it’s evident that police waited outside classrooms for more than an hour as the shooting continued inside; during that time local police blocked federal agents from entering the school (federal tactical officers ultimately entered and killed the suspect); terrified students called 911 from inside their classrooms and pleaded for police to enter, to no avail; police outside the school threatened desperate parents with arrest to keep them from entering to rescue their children when the officers would not; and school police and city police communicated poorly, adding to confusion and delay.
There were reports that Uvalde police officers entered the school to retrieve their own children, but it’s not yet clear whether that happened while the shooting was in progress or after it was over.
The lessons we can learn from the Uvalde catastrophe are many, varied and in some cases contradictory, and will be the subject of some contention. Police abolitionists argue, for example, that the deadly failure demonstrates that police don’t actually protect us, so why continue to fund them?
Left unanswered, always, is the question of who would respond, and how in the absence of an armed and trained police force the next time a killer opens fire on a school, a church, a theater, a shopping mall or a hospital.
Likewise, the law enforcement establishment seems to still be grappling with what lesson Uvalde should teach us. There have been some efforts to close ranks around the 19 officers from multiple agencies on the scene as police doing their best while under fire. But there have also been hints of efforts to describe the outrageous failures at Uvalde as an aberration, isolated to a small force. In Tulsa, Okla., following yet another mass shooting, this time at a hospital, on Wednesday, officials were careful to note that local police officers made a quick response, without hesitation. In that case the assailant was already dead by the time police reached him.
Similarly, following the killing of Floyd in Minneapolis two years ago, many law enforcement leaders around the nation separated themselves from Derek Chauvin, the officer convicted of murder in that case. Chauvin was a shameful outlier who unfairly makes the police look bad, many law enforcement officials and union leaders said.
But there have been numerous other horrific and needless police killings not caught on video, or deemed justified because review boards, judges or juries were bound by laws absolving officers of liability if other officers might have acted similarly in those circumstances. That’s the “objectively reasonable” standard of officer conduct at work, as enunciated by the Supreme Court in 1989.
Through their testimony as expert witnesses in use-of-force cases, and in their daily work, police in effect write their own standards of conduct and decide among themselves what the rest of us must accept.
If Uvalde is framed as an outlier or an aberration, it leaves open the suggestion that other police departments would have responded better and more effectively — and that what Uvalde needs now are more officers and a bigger budget.
But the fact is, even police agencies that are ostensibly better skilled and led haven’t slowed the pace of mass killings around the nation. As for increases in crime generally, police argue that they are not ineffective, but that they haven’t been given enough discretion, resources or respect.
Do police need deference? Some, no doubt. There will always be only a few people who want to make their living running toward gunfire and putting their lives on the line. And let’s remember that the greatest danger the police confront is the result of the huge number of guns Americans have allowed on the streets. And much of the police behavior that we find reprehensible, including humiliating searches without probable cause, is conducted to find and eliminate those guns.
But we have largely given police unwarranted veto power over attempts to recraft or even reexamine our bargain. Police union donations dominate many local and congressional elections, and police opposition has stymied efforts to set minimum national standards for tactics and training — of the type that might have come in handy in Uvalde — as well as for hiring, use of force, elimination of bias and other measures of performance that should be set by society as a whole, not solely by police and the officials they put into office.
Following the Floyd murder, the House of Representatives twice passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which contained a host of very modest reforms and standards, including a database of fired officers so that they would not be rehired by other agencies, and limits to qualified immunity, a court doctrine that bars lawsuits against officers for misfeasance or nonfeasance. (The doctrine likely protects Uvalde officers from consequences for their failure to act and for threatening Robb parents with arrest while their children were being slaughtered.) But police interests strongly opposed it, and the Senate rejected it.
The day after the Uvalde shooting, on the anniversary of the Floyd murder, President Biden signed an executive order that adopts some of the measures that the Senate would not. It is an important but exceedingly small step toward remaking society’s bargain with police.
We need police. We also need to question what we demand of police and the power we give them. We cannot turn away from tragic results in Uvalde and in Minneapolis and in the countless other cities and communities in which Americans are insufficiently protected and improperly served.
China Daily says U.S. allies are snooping, putting lives at risk
Canada and Australia, both allies of the United States, are clearly birds of a feather. Both have taken turns lately to smear China by accusing Chinese fighter aircraft of putting lives at risk by intercepting their military aircraft.
To justify their groundless accusations, both have deliberately played down the locations of where the encounters happened, never mind admitting what their militaries were really up to.
Perhaps even Ottawa and Canberra may feel embarrassed to admit the truth, which is their surveillance aircraft were poking their noses around China’s territorial waters. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has twice complained about Canadian patrol planes in the East China Sea being buzzed by Chinese fighter jets in recent days, claims the Canadian surveillance was to monitor the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s compliance with sanctions.
Yet as a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said, the United Nations Security Council has never green-lighted any country carrying out military surveillance in the seas and airspace of other countries in the name of enforcing sanctions.
As for the similar close encounters between Chinese and Australian planes, the responsibility for any mishap would lie on the Australian side: On May 26, contrary to the disingenuous claims of Canberra that the plane was engaged in “routine maritime surveillance activity” in international airspace, an Australian P-8 anti-submarine patrol aircraft repeatedly approached the Chinese airspace around the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea for close-in reconnaissance despite repeated warnings from the Chinese military. The People’s Liberation Army’s Southern Theater Command mobilized naval and air forces to identify it and warn it off.
Such activities have indeed become routine, and China has good reason to ask what Canadian and Australian military craft are doing on its periphery so often. Such dangerous encounters would not happen if the Canadian and Australian militaries did not provocatively and irresponsibly come to ferret around China’s periphery. It is extremely troubling that the two U.S. allies in their enthusiasm to curry favor with Washington have heightened the frequency with which they engage in such risk-laden acts of snooping.
The shamelessness of their hypocritical cries of foul play is only bettered by the recent bleating of Canberra at the sighting of Chinese naval vessels sailing through international waters off the Australian coast.
Should China choose to conduct so-called freedom of navigation operations near the territorial waters of the U.S. and its allies, it is not hard to imagine the uproar that would ensue.
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