10 OCTOBER 2001

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Public support for military action

A CNN web site poll yesterday revealed that the almost 81% of people who took the poll supported the sending of US ground troops into Afghanistan indicating an unprecedented level of support for US military retaliation against terrorism.

A total of 178,375 people voted in the poll and although it is not deemed scientific because it only reflects the opinion of people who bothered to vote, it may be seen as a clear indication of the American public’s sentiment.

The military retaliation kicked off with an unrelenting air campaign utilising fighter aircraft and cruise missiles launched from war ships in the Indian Ocean. But military analysts believe that ground troops would eventually be required to hunt down Bin Laden and his network. There are not that many strategic targets in Afghanistan, which is still recovering from 20 years of war. This will necessitate the use of ground forces to chase the terrorists out of their hiding.

Western public opinion has been rock solid behind the retaliatory strikes and as yet there seems to be no quavering on the possibility of soldiers being directly involved in Afghanistan’s difficult terrain. The situation may however change once the war starts claiming casualties. As yet Britain, Italy, Canada, Australia and France have pledged troops if required by the US.

On the contrary, Muslim and Arab public opinion is strongly divided on the attacks. Bin Laden has called the US retaliation as an attack on Islam, a call that invigorates radical Muslim practitioners.

Moderate Arab leaders have all supported the US attacks albeit with great caution. Nonetheless, numerous anti-US demonstrations were held yesterday in Pakistan, Iraq, Oman, Palestine and Indonesia.

During the demonstrations American flags were burnt and anti-American slogans were chanted. The situation is currently under control but it may yet boil over if US troops eventually enter Afghanistan.

War against terror hurts airline industry

The airline industry continued facing the tune of international instability with Singapore airlines and the Australian carrier Qantas announcing pay cuts at management level, while Air New Zealand cut the number of flights by 10%.

The announcements are the latest in a string of bad news for airline operators all over the world, which saw massive job cuts.

The decisions taken by the three far-east airlines were directly linked to the loss of passenger traffic due to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

All over the world people are scared to fly despite increased security measures at airports. The beginning of military retaliation against Afghanistan and Bin Laden’s pledge to continue hounding the US, have only added to the uncertainty.

European airlines although not as hard hit as their American counterparts also suffered a blow. British Airways, the largest trans-atlantic carrier announced 7,000 job cuts in the wake of the attacks while KLM and Alitalia each announced cuts amounting to 2,000.

The worst hit was Swiss Air, which is only surviving after government decided to bail out the ailing airline. The Swiss carrier brought down with it the Belgian airline Sabena that is half owned by Swiss Air.

Other airlines have announced job cuts or reductions in the number of flights in a bid to stave off the negative trend that has hit the industry.

However, economic analysts point out that the airline industry world-wide had been suffering for more than a year because of increased competition and the international economic slow down. They add that some airlines have used the September 11 attacks as an excuse to get their house in order.

Even so, passenger apprehension of flying continues despite repeated efforts to ensure added security on all flights. And if passengers do not fly there is no way airlines can recuperate.


The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt