Today's Papers

War Games

All the papers lead with the developments in the Kosovo airstrikes: A U.S. F-117 stealth fighter went down yesterday, the first allied loss since the bombing of Kosovo began four days ago; and NATO officials announce they will escalate air attacks, expanding them geographically and militarily, in response to growing atrocities in Kosovo. A separate New York Times front story explains that the first phase of attacks was aimed at knocking out Yugoslavian air defenses to prevent NATO planes from being shot down (oops). The second will focus on destroying strategic military targets like Serbian command posts and ammunition depots as well as tanks and other heavy weapons. The piece also says that Clinton administration officials are challenging the announcement of this second phase, saying NATO diplomats are raising expectations that might not be met.

The Los Angeles Times lead clearly states the problem with this second phase. That is, it’ll be tough to stop Serb forces from murdering and terrorizing civilians through air attacks alone, but there’s no popular support in NATO for a deployment of ground troops to Kosovo.

In their leads, both Times note that Yugoslavian authorities claim Serbian defenses took the F-117 down. All three papers report the Pentagon confirmed the crash but did not say what caused it–yet the Washington Post’s story says the plane “was shot down.” Both Times report the pilot was rescued six hours after his craft went down and that White House officials are stunned by the loss of the aircraft. This is the first time that an F-117 (cost: $43 million, New York Times; $45 million, LAT) has gone down in hostile action, the NYT reports. The incident, both Times note, means that the stealth plane’s secret technology, which allows it to avoid detection, could be lost to the Serbs. The NYT goes one step farther with this, pointing out the Serbs might then hand the technology over to their friends, the Russians. The NYT says 249 allied planes flew between Friday and early Saturday, which gives some perspective to the loss; it does not say how many of the planes were F-117s.

The NYT lead also notes that, following a series of conversations among the heads of leading NATO countries, French President Jacques Chirac contacted the Russian government to discuss renewing talks with Serbia about diplomatically ending the conflict. It quotes Clinton saying that the attacks will ” ‘continue until Serbia’s leader, Slobodan Milosevic, accepts peace or we have seriously damaged his capacity to make war.’ “

The Post story reports that a presidential aide says Clinton told his foreign policy advisers to focus public attention on what Milosevic has done and argue that the current Serbian crackdown in Kosovo would have occurred irrespective of NATO’s intervention. The piece describes the Kosovo situation as “a military action without precedent: the armed forces of a dozen countries pounding one another with no clear cut definition of victory and no traditional military objective, such as capturing territory.” It also points out that the aim of the attacks has been “murky–and apparently shifting.”

An editorial in the NYT says that the Kosovo campaign “is beginning to define the role for the NATO alliance to play in post-cold-war Europe.” The early indications, it says, are that the recently expanded NATO seems capable of a unified response.

In their leads and other front-page stories, the papers describe the dark and tragic scene in Kosovo. Refugees from the province say ethnic Albanians are being summarily executed. Serbian troops are looting, burning, and shelling homes. Men are being separated from their families and marched off by Serbian troops at gunpoint. Civilians who have been associated with European and U.S. peace monitors are being executed, as are political activists. A front story by the lone reporter in Pristina, Yugoslavia, the LAT s Paul Watson, says five Serbian police officers killed a human rights lawyer and his two sons, aged 31 and 16. The widow asks NATO to “finish the job so that her husband and sons did not die in vain.” A Western diplomat quoted in the Post’s off-lead says “It’s a frenzy. … This is purely a day-and-night attack on civilians.” The phrase “ethnic cleansing” appears in many of the stories and in all of the papers.

Less serious attacks: Don’t open any e-mail with a header that begins “Important Message From,” a NYT “Technology” piece says. Those messages are infected with a virus whose purpose is to interrupt computer networks by overwhelming them with rapidly replicating messages. Two computer software experts say it’s the fastest-growing virus they’ve seen. The story does not consider any of the reasons that the virus might have been created.