Today's Papers

Together We Train

The Washington Post leads with a lengthy article on the reasons–stated and unstated–that U.S. special forces help train foreign troops, even in countries under U.S. sanctions. The Los Angeles Times goes with the increased use of methamphetamines (speed, crystal meth, etc.) in western cities, as documented by a newly released Justice Department report. The good news (which catches an inside headline at the WP) is that cocaine rates are falling nationwide. The New York Times leads with farm troubles in the northern plains, caused by low wheat and livestock prices. There’s no quick fix but plenty of partisan debate–Democrats want to increase farm subsidies, while Republicans want to find new markets. (The Senate just approved the sale of U.S. wheat to Pakistan, which is under U.S. sanctions.)

The WP lead, the first of a three-part series, raises interesting questions about the U.S. military special forces’ overseas activities. A 1991 law allows the special forces to conduct overseas exercises if the “primary purpose is to train U.S. soldiers” (in the WP’s words). Some of these missions involve training foreign troops, even in countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, and Turkey which are under U.S. sanctions or whose militaries have dubious human rights records. Does training foreign troops–and sometimes even financing their participation in the training–genuinely advance the training of our own troops? (Lamest answer cited in the WP: “by training foreign troops, U.S. forces [learn] how to train foreign troops.”) Do we really want U.S. special forces to coach foreign troops–especially in unstable countries–on crackdowns tactics? The sheer variety of rationales for the joint training exercises–as given by officials quoted in the WP–suggests that the original purpose of the 1991 law has been superceded by case-by-case concerns.

The NYT front and WP inside both run stories on the latest political news from Indonesia: an ally of current President Habibie was elected to head the dominant political party. This development should bolster the country’s stability at least for the short-term, though the NYT says that Habibie’s hold on power is still fragile.

Ousted CNN producer April Oliver takes her battle-cry to the WP Outlook section. She defends the retracted CNN story on nerve gas used against American defectors in Vietnam as “solid with the facts,” and alleges that she is the victim of a dark CNN public relations conspiracy.

And Wall Street is getting ahead of itself, according to the NYT front page. Come Monday, it will be December 29, 1999 for test computers, and scripted mock-trading over the next few weeks will preview how the industry will handle the Year 2000 bug. If well-prepared Wall Street trips over the Y2K, then we may all be in trouble.