Today's Papers

Temporary Husseinity

Everybody leads with the deployment of more U.S. forces to the Persian Gulf, as the Clinton administration–via remarks not just by President Clinton, but also by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Secretary of Defense William Cohen and Chairman of the JCS Gen. Hugh Shelton–once again warned Saddam Hussein to accept weapons inspections or else. Yesterday’s military moves: ordering stealth fighters and B-1 and B-52 bombers to the region along with anti-missile missiles and 3,000 Army troops. Another development that has in the past served as an immediate warning of U.S. use of force: the withdrawal of nonessential State Dept. personnel and their dependents from embassies (in Israel and Kuwait), and of U.N. inspectors and humanitarian aid workers from Iraq. None of the papers mentions that such evacuations not only serve the obvious purpose, but also reduce Hussein’s ability to deploy foreign “human shields.”

The New York Times points out that, unlike the previous go-round with Iraq last winter, neither Russia nor France is currently attempting to find a diplomatic way out for Hussein. But the Washington Post reports that in a closed-door meeting at the U.N. yesterday, Russia continued to argue against using force. And USA Today says that Russia has been joined in this position by Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The Times says that the targets would be Iraq’s weapons plants and depots. The >WP’s columnist Jim Hoagland agrees and adds that the White House has prevailed over the Pentagon in insisting on a “substantial air campaign.” The Los Angeles Times passes along former Bush national security advisor Brent Scowcroft’s suggestion: take out one target a week, until Hussein grants inspections. But the paper points out current U.S. officials acknowledge that no bombing campaign, no matter how extensive, can be expected to eradicate Hussein’s covert weapons development efforts. The NYT points out that neither the Gulf War nor subsequent strikes in 1993 and 1996 significantly eroded Hussein’s interest in or capability for weapons development. And, adds the LAT, the U.S. is bedeviled by Hussein’s way of interpreting events–after all, he has told his citizens that the Gulf War was a great triumph for Iraq.

The NYT leads stresses in the first paragraph that the U.S. is prepared to strike with no further warning. How soon? Well, the Times notes that Madeleine Albright is planning to fly to an economic summit on Friday, not in her regular plane, but in a special airborne command and control craft known as the Doomsday Plane. The same plane, the paper reminds, she used while traveling last August just before U.S. cruise missile strikes into Afghanistan and Sudan.

The fronts at the LAT and NYT report that the Israeli cabinet has ratified the Wye pact with the Palestinian Authority. The Times reports that the U.S. hailed the ratification as an important step, but both papers stress that the Cabinet salted its approval with enough conditions requiring specific prior actions by Yasser Arafat to produce at the very least delay if not an outright breakdown in the peace process.

An inside piece at the WP reports that a Communist member of parliament, Albert Makashov, has called for quotas on the number of Jews in Russia and denounced a television correspondent as “worse than the worst of the yids.” In a speech, he also told Boris Berezovsky, one of the nation’s tycoons, “Don’t behave as a yid.” Makashov defended his use of the phrase by citing the writings of Pushkin, Dostoevsky and Gogol. The Post says anti-Semitism had been rare in post-Communist Russia before the country’s economic swan dive last August.

The Wall Street Journal reports that FAO Schwarz now offers something called “The Ultimate Sleep-Over Party” in which groups of kids can “camp out” in its stores for just $17,500. The paper further press releases that “some proceeds go to charity.” It would be nice if the Journal made sure this item was more than just free advertising for the shi-shi toy store by following up to see just how much of those 17K checks actually ends up going to those in need.