Today's Papers

1,001 Arabian Naughts

Saudi Arabia’s hesitance about involvement in any U.S. military action against Iraq is the top story at USA Today, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. The USAT headline stresses the Saudi balk, while the headlines at the Post and NYT focus on the U.S. acceptance of it.

USAT, like the other dailies, passes along the statement made Sunday by the Saudi defense minister to the effect that while his country supports Saddam’s compliance with the U.N. inspection effort, it does not favor an attack on the nation or the people of Iraq. But unlike the Post and the Times, the paper doesn’t illuminate this comment by describing the cold, hard military consequences. Those papers point out that the U.S. decision not to press the issue has meant that it has amassed much striking power elsewhere. The Post gives this order of battle: “F-117 stealth aircraft and A-10 fighter jets at Kuwait’s Jabir Air Base, B-1 bombers and F-16 and F-15 fighter jets at Bahrain’s Sheik Isa Airfield, F-14 and F-18 fighter jets on two carriers, cruise missiles on a number of other ships and B-52 bombers on the British island of Diego Garcia.” (Wonder if this means anything to the average reader. Wonder if it means anything to the Post: the A-10 isn’t a fighter and the F-18 is a fighter-bomber.) The Post further explains that the Saudi stance is also a diplomatic blow, denying the U.S. a potential signal of allied unity.

The Post says the Saudi stance has to do with its aversion to involvement with any U.S. attack that doesn’t have the objective of eliminating Saddam. But the paper delays explaining the logic until the story’s 15th paragraph: The Saudis are afraid that a mere air campaign will leave behind a Hussein vengeful towards Gulf neighbors that supported it.

The NYT points out Saudi Arabia will probably grant fly-over privileges to American bombers taking off from elsewhere.

The Times states that likely U.S. strike targets include Republican Guard bases, military command centers and suspected weapons factories and stockpiles. Also, the paper reports an apparent shift in U.S. policy about Israeli self-defense against any Iraqi attacks. Last week, it notes, Secretary of Defense William Cohen urged Israel to refrain from retaliating, but Sunday he was quoted as granting Israel the right of self-defense.

USAT reports the next phase of the Starr investigation: talking to current and former White House interns as a check on Monica’s story. The WSJ says it’s very unlikely Starr will bring criminal charges against President Clinton while he’s in office, but that he will probably dump the matter into Congress’ lap as a potential impeachment case, thus plunging the country into a “wrenching political dilemma” given the president’s surging popularity. The Journal goes on to note that Starr in on record with a rather loose interpretation of what counts as an impeachable offense, reporting that he once argued before the Supreme Court that poisoning the neighbor’s cat might be impeachable.

The Journal reports that the FTC is set to end decades of leniency regarding cigars. Apparently, the agency is moving towards requiring stogie makers to report their ad and promotion budgets. And is considering further steps such as: requiring cigar ads to carry a Surgeon General’s health warning.

Sunday’s Los Angeles Times reports that according to a recently released man, Iraqi prisons have been the site of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of executions of political prisoners and common criminals in the latter part of 1997.

The NYT, in the wake of the Karla Faye Tucker execution, ran in Sunday’s “Week in Review” a brutally reported and mug-shot illustrated piece by Sam Howe Verhovek on some of the other women waiting on America’s Death Rows. The piece convinces the reader that Tucker’s pickax is not an anomaly: “Among the ways condemned women have killed in this country are shooting with an AK-47, slicing with a box cutter, injecting with battery acid, and beating with a baseball bat. One drowned her paralyzed son by pushing him off a canoe on a family outing, leaving him and his 50 pounds of metal leg braces to sink to the bottom.”

The WP says that the Paula Jones trial judge has had an interesting prior run-in with Bill Clinton. Seems that in law school, she was a student in a course on admiralty law that Clinton taught. And he lost a bunch of exams including hers. Kind of amazing those exams didn’t eventually turn up in the private quarters at the White House.