Today's Papers

Negotiate This

Everybody leads with NATO’s authorization Tuesday of airstrikes against military targets in Yugoslavia, after its president, Slobodan Milosevic, refused NATO’s last ditch attempt to install 28,000 peacekeeping troops in Kosovo. The fronts at the NYT, LAT and USAT feature a picture of a gun-toting Serbian soldier walking past a burning house. The WP front goes with a picture of President Clinton, teeth set, one hand in a fist, referring to Churchill and Hitler in a speech to a labor group to justify and explain the U.S. pro-airstrike position. The Senate voted last night, 58-41, to support the action. As if further dramatics were necessary, the papers report that when Vice President Gore passed word about the imminent combat to Russia’s Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, aboard a plane already halfway to the United States for an official visit, Primakov registered his displeasure by immediately canceling the visit and turning the plane around.

The WP points out that one of the reasons the Clinton administration didn’t seek the blessing of the U.N. Security Council in this action is that right now, the Council’s rotating presidency is occupied by China.

The fronts of the NYT and LAT feature pieces about the NATO war plan. Both papers edu-guess that the attack will begin after Yugoslavian nightfall. This squares with recent history–Desert Storm and Desert Fox started at night–and with U.S. combat advantages– U.S. forces constantly train to do their work via radar, infra red and night vision devices. The NYT, which describes the mood at NATO HQ as “almost jubilant,” quotes one Pentagon official confidently describing how U.S. forces will track down any Serbian mobile missiles even if they move, but the paper doesn’t comment on the dubious record American forces compiled against mobile Scud launchers in the Gulf War. The WSJ reports that the war plan for the first night has grown more ambitious in recent days. The idea of a short “demonstration strike” has been dropped in favor of heavy bombing and missile strikes from the get-go. And, says the paper, Belgrade, where Milosevic is, could be a first-night target. “It won’t be a love pat,” one NATO official tells the Journal. (“Then I’m out,” must have been the reaction of General David Hale.)

Nobody in a position of authority is talking ground troops in Kosovo yet, but nonetheless the WP has some potentially relevant news from the urban wargame just completed in Oakland, California. The verdict on the tiny experimental computers for viewing the battlefield and calling in firepower the Marine participants used? Back to the drawing board. On the other hand, the cheap off-the-shelf radios they were using worked just fine.

The fronts at the NYT and WP and reefers at the LAT and USAT bring word that finally, Susan McDougal, at her contempt and obstruction trial, broke her long silence about the Whitewater conduct of her former real estate partner, Bill Clinton. Now answering questions that previously refusing to answer got her put in jail, McDougal testified that she didn’t hear anything untruthful in Clinton’s testimony at her 1996 fraud trial.

The WP reports that upon returning from his recent travels, President Clinton handed out gifts to congressional leaders. The trinkets? Cigars.