Today's Papers

An Unlovely War

The papers continue to cover the mess in Yugoslavia, but there’s not that much actual news–bombing will continue, the refugees are still suffering. The New York Times lead says NATO thinks the bombing has not yet run its course; use of ground troops is still “not being seriously considered.” The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times stress instead a nearly 20 percent increase in the U.S. contribution to the NATO air forces, up to a total of almost 600 war planes.

The word from refugees coming out of Kosovo is dismal. Based on accounts from the displaced, the NYT’s John Kifner reports that inside Kosovo, “the Serbs are still able to move and mass troops on the ground and appear to be digging in against any possible ground attack. The accounts also suggested that the Serbs have created such widespread destruction that it will be difficult for the refugees to ever rebuild their lives there.” And the tens of thousands of refugees who disappeared earlier this week still have not been found, though what are apparently new ones are suddenly being allowed to cross out of Kosovo again. Some of these, the Post reports, seem not to have been abused, and still have their identity papers and money. “It appears to be a civilized cleansing,” says one monitor. The main LAT story on the war, however, says that the Serb position is not so strong. NATO leaders, the paper says, contend that the army has “suffered such military damage that many units can do little more than hunker down and try to hide from the bombs.” The paper’s Washington bureau also chimes in on a continuing story: finger-pointing in the administration over who got Kosovo so wrong.

The WP fronts two war features. The larger, heavily reported, makes the argument that the Serbian onslaught into Kosovo was well planned and organized. The Serbs took records and key documents and even religious icons and artworks out of the province earlier this year. Once hostilities began, country was cleared to create a passage to Kosovo’s southern borders. Then, in city after city, residents were terrified and then driven away in a uniform style, suggesting a systematic strategy of expulsion. The account also makes the point that the weeks of NATO ultimatums gave the Serbs time to build up forces in the province – which Slobodan Milosevic (correctly) figured he could use to disrupt the Kosovars unimpeded by NATO ground troops. Uncomfortable history pops up several times in the story. Commenting on the way the Kosovars were used to create a humanitarian crisis to distract NATO, one official says, “They were pointed decisively towards Macedonia, in a very intentional way, like the old Westerns where they used to send a cattle stampede against the Indians.” Another cites a similarly scorched-earth routing of Albanians by the Serbs in 1912; it was chronicled in a Ukrainian journal by one Leon Trotsky.

The second Post feature is a color piece written from aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, detailing life during wartime, millennium style; as Tomcats land and take off above, crewmen below watch Top Gun on the ship’s 3,000 TV sets.

The NYT’s off-lead points to a potential embarrassment for both New York Gov. George Pataki and NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who are spatting over how to split the state’s spoils from the national tobacco settlement, though “spat” might not be the word for a dispute over as much as $25 billion. The complex deal worked out with the tobacco companies essentially requires both California and New York to have disbursement plans ready before the money is released. California, of course, is unsettled as well; the consortium of attorneys general who prosecuted the case are thus looking at New York.

The Post fronts an analysis of Elizabeth Dole’s gender appeal. Bill Clinton was elected, the story says, because women voted for him over Bob Dole by a margin of 16 points. Right now, Elizabeth Dole leads the likely Democratic nominee, Al Gore, among female voters by 12 points. “Kiss that [Democratic] gender gap goodbye,” says one of Dole’s aides. But George W. Bush has even better support among men, and that’s whom she has to beat for the Republican nomination.

An LAT front-page feature looks at a feud between two of Minnesota’s most prominent residents: radio host Garrison Keillor and pro wrestler-cum-governor Jesse Ventura. Keillor has taken to skewering Ventura on A Prairie Home Companion. (“If you were any dumber, we’d have to water you.”) Ironically enough, today’s NYT Magazine, in a story about another public-radio show, This American Life, mentions in passing that NPR originally passed on Keillor. Then-president Frank Mankiewicz saw the seeds of Ventura-bashing many years ago. “I didn’t like it–and I don’t like it now. It mocks the values of Middle America; it’s obnoxious and elitist.”