While grudgingly admitting that the United States, as the last superpower, is the engine that makes the whole world run, Europeans seem to take consolation in assuming they are culturally and morally superior to Americans.
Take their attitude toward the death penalty, which they claim is a U.S. obsession. Europe seems fixated on the idea that the presence of capital punishment in some parts of America brands the entire nation as barbaric.
This notion manifests itself almost daily in the media overseas, where U.S. executions get much more coverage then they do at home. Students take to the streets in protest about it, and politicans seeking quick publicity regularly cross the ocean to meet with death-row inmates.
It has reached the point that President-elect Bush is chiefly known in Europe not for his business and political success but for being governor of the state that puts the most people to death. Administering Texas, where 150 prisoners have been executed during his tenure, has earned Bush such labels as "the world champion executioner" despite the fact that he played no direct role in the legal process leading to executions.
Whatever one's own attitudes toward capital punishment, European attitudes on this subject are unseemly. The ceaseless press and political exploitation of it appears vulgar, excessive and truly obsessive -- a grisly sideshow for the morbidly curious.
If, as many Europeans believe, the capital punishment issue dogs Bush in the streets and the media every time he ventures overseas during his presidency, most Americans are bound to be resentful. It will drive a wedge between two continents that are supposed to be seeking ways to work together.
The public -- in America and Kenya -- deserve to know more about the investigation in the death of the Rev. John Kaiser.
They deserve to know what Kenyan police, with the FBI watching, uncovered to shift their suspicions that Kaiser's death was not the murder of a human-rights activist but an "unresolvable" killing, or worse yet, a potential suicide.
Such initial investigatory findings, which should go to Congress this week yet won't be officially complete for up to another year, must be made public so people can judge for themselves what exactly happened.
To keep them private, to classify them or to hide them tarnishes the good name of Kaiser and furthers the suspicion that Kenya's government -- along with the FBI -- is covering up what really happened.
Likewise, the U.S. Congress must not simply accept the FBI's initial report. It must dig deeper.
Sen. Paul Wellstone's staff said Monday the Minnesota Democrat, who called these early findings questionable, wants to meet with FBI officials to get more details.
That is a good next step for government. That, along with continued public pressure in both countries, is the best strategy to force the truth to come out.
Media reports from Kenya and the United States have indicated from the start that the truth is most likely murder.
For example, media reports say Kaiser died of a gunshot wound to the back of the head. He was found next to his vehicle. Local police initially said it was obvious someone tried to make the death look like a suicide but failed.
In addition, Kaiser's valuables were untouched and Kenyan media reported that documents found on Kaiser's body linked two unidentified Kenyan Cabinet ministers to violent clashes that coincided with national elections. Kaiser apparently intended to hand over the documents to a government commission investigating the fighting.
There also are reports that Kaiser's vehicle had been hit by another vehicle, possibly to get Kaiser to stop. Those reports make it even harder to believe someone like Kaiser, known widely as an outspoken human rights activist, would commit suicide. In fact, Kaiser's friends and acquaintances have said the 67-year-old priest showed no signs of depression, something suicidal people often convey.
The Rev. William Vos is also quick to point out that today's clergy are more focused on trying to help despondent people than condemning suicide, and that the church offers many resources for assistance.
Kaiser would have known that, just as he was aware that his human-rights activism and willingness to name high-ranking Kenyan officials suspected of human-rights abuses could put him in danger. Just two days before he was found dead, he told followers he feared for his life.
In looking at all this information, it is indeed hard to fathom how such a death could be "unresolvable," much less suicide. So what exactly did Kenyan police and the FBI see to lead them in that direction? The public has a right to know.
--St. Cloud Times (compiled by Associated Press)
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