US press: pick of the papers

The ten must-read opinion pieces from today's US papers.

1. A farewell to Newt (New York Times)

Gingrich has no nutritional value, certainly not at this point, as he peddles his ludicrous guarantee of $2.50-a-gallon gasoline, a promise that would be made only by someone with his own bottomless strategic reserve of crude, says Frank Bruni.

2. Monti pulls a Thatcher (Wall Street Journal)

Postwar Italian politics has chewed up more than a few would-be reformers while career politicians and union leaders enjoy the spoils of power, says this editorial.

3. Politicians giving religion a bad name (Washington Post)

They jostle to claim a divine calling. They appear in the pulpit with pastors who talk ignorantly of America as a "Christian nation." Some, when they lose, hint darkly of anti-religious persecution, says Michael Gerson.

4. Step to the center (New York Times)

Let's have another round in the debate about how centralized American government should be. Let's watch liberals and conservatives duke it out, writes David Brooks.

5. The US can make all the difference in Syria (Washington Post)

If the United States finally acts, Russia will throw a fit. Pity. But more importantly, so will Iran. Syria is virtually its puppet state, writes Richard Cohen.

6. Stony Brook calendar change need not fuel rhetoric on religion (Newsday)

In religious matters, all of us -- believers or not -- ought to slow down our I'm-offended reflex and lower the volume of our rhetoric, says this editorial.

7. Time to better secure radioactive materials (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

It is vital that world leaders attending the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul this week agree to strengthen measures to prevent nuclear and other radioactive material from falling into the wrong hands, writes Yukiya Amano.

8. Revoke this license to kill (Miami Herald)

The law is poorly understood, unevenly applied throughout the state and, worst of all, has become a license to kill under a variety of suspect circumstances, says this editorial.

9. Obama's secret plan (Washington Times)

Mr. Obama has dangerous ideas up his sleeve, says Brett M Decker.

10. Hitting reset on the 2012 presidential race (Politico)

Alex Castellanos asks: Why has this been such a pathetically small, soulless, despicable campaign for the Republican nomination?

Newt Gingrich. Credit: Getty Images
FERENC ISZA/AFP/Getty
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This is a refugee crisis, and it has always been a refugee crisis

If your country is in flames and your life is at risk, boarding a rickety, dangerous boat is a rational decision. We need to provide safer choices and better routes.

Even those of us all too familiar with the human cost of the present refugee crisis were stopped in our tracks by the profoundly disturbing images of the dead toddler washed up on a Turkish beach. Whatever our personal view about the ethics of displaying the photographs, one thing is clear: the refugee crisis on our doorstep can no longer be denied or ignored.

For far too long the political conversation in the UK has avoided facing up to the obvious conclusion that the UK must provide protection to more refugees in this country. Ministers have responded to calls to do more by talking about the aid we are providing to help refugees in the region, by blaming other European Governments who are hosting more refugees than we are, and also accusing refugees themselves by claiming the desperate people forced into boarding unsafe boats in the Mediterranean were chancers and adventurers, out for an easier life.

These latest images have blown all that away and revealed the shaming truth. This is a refugee crisis and has always been a refugee crisis. When the Refugee Council wrote to the prime minister in 2013 to call for the UK to lead on resettling Syrian refugees displaced by a war that was already two years old, it was a refugee crisis in the making.

Many people struggle to comprehend why refugees would pay smugglers large sums of money to be piled into a rickety boat in the hope of reaching the shores in Europe. The simple answer is that for these individuals, there is no other choice. If your country is in flames and your life is at risk, boarding that boat is a rational decision. There has been much vitriol aimed at smugglers who are trading in human misery, but European governments could put them out of business if they created alternative, legal routes for refugees to reach our shores.

There are clear steps that European governments, including our own, can take to help prevent people having to risk their lives. We need to offer more resettlement places so that people can be brought directly to countries of safety. We also need to make it easier for refugees to reunite with their relatives already living in safety in the UK. Under current rules, refugees are only allowed to bring their husband or wife and dependant children under the age of 18. Those that do qualify for family reunion often face long delays living apart, with usually the women and children surviving in desperate conditions while they wait for a decision on their application. Sometimes they are refused because they cannot provide the right documentation. If you had bombs raining down on your house, would you think to pick up your marriage certificate?

The time to act is well overdue, but the tide of public opinion seems to be turning – especially since the release of the photographs. We urgently need David Cameron to show political leadership and help us live up to the proud tradition of protecting refugees that he often refers to. That tradition is meaningless if people cannot reach us, if they are dying in the attempt. It is a shame that it had to take such a tragic image to shake people into calling for action, but for many it means that the crisis is no longer out of sight and out of mind.

Maurice Wren is the chief executive of the Refugee Council