Today's Papers

Ground(s for) War

The Washington Post leads with a tale of two wars: the high-tech air campaign and the low-tech terrestrial campaign. A reporter escorted on a road trip to southern Kosovo, by a regime keen to display the carnage of a civilian convoy purportedly bombed by NATO, depicts the haunting images of a land emptied of its ethnic Albanian inhabitants. The New York Times leads with an overview highlighting NATO’s success in the air (57 targets hit) and worsening conditions on the ground (new atrocities detailed). The Los Angeles Times breaks ranks with a lead on the L.A. school district’s curtailment of plans to end social promotion due to lack of funds and space for remedial education. The paper’s off-lead focuses on the worsening plight of the refugees.

The expulsion of ethnic Albanian Kosovars has been accelerated, according to all papers. Yugoslav troops are sweeping the mountains to root out refugees and are deploying artillery and heavy weaponry against civilians in villages. Expulsions have been stepped up, causing a back up of an estimated 50,000 refugees at the borders. This exodus marks the first time large numbers of civilians have been driven from northern areas of Kosovo, indicating that Yugoslav forces might have moved on to depopulating the north after successfully sweeping the south. The NYT reports that rows of freshly dug mass graves have been spied from satellites, and refugee accounts corroborate the photographic evidence of executions.

The Post’s lead on the reporters’ odyssey describes Serbian forces roaming freely. Uniformed soldiers in civilian cars were frequently sited, and it was clear that the Yugoslav forces were well dug-in. A similar NYT story recounts evidence of the ethnic purging: Serbs mark their homes to avert the destruction of property that scars the province. Houses are “invariably burned out.” In some cases walls were crushed, as if run over by a bulldozer or tank. An eerie absence of people, fallow fields, and aimless farm animals were noted along the way. The Times writes that although the Yugoslav authorities controlled access and intended to overwhelm journalists with the horrific carnage that resulted from Wednesday’s convoy bombing, the evidence of an organized campaign of forced depopulation was the “overpowering impression” of the journey. The scale of destruction “was unmistakable” and gave lie to the various Yugoslav explanations for the refugees exodus, which have included: fear of NATO bombs, fear of KLA terrorists, and flight purely to provoke international sympathy.

The papers continue to struggle with the dearth of NATO information and the wealth of Serb propaganda regarding the attacks on refugee convoys. The LAT fronts a speculative dispatch which claims that bomb crater evidence and shrapnel suggest that the Kosovars might have been hit by U.S. cluster bombs designed to destroy tanks. Witness reports of overhead explosions are consistent with this hypothesis. The Post’s seems to backtrack from the assumption in yesterday’s lead: that NATO’s error was responsible for the scores of civilian deaths in southeastern Kosovo. Today the paper reports: “[I]t remains unclear exactly how they were killed.”

The Pentagon announced that the KLA has turned over a captured Serb army officer to Albania, which in turn surrendered the solider to U.S. military authorities. The LAT notes that the capture of the Serb officer indicates that the secessionist army has not been decimated, as had been widely reported. The papers note that the officer’s capture raises the prospect of a prisoner exchange to win the release of the three American soldiers currently held by the Serbs.

The Post fronts an exclusive on administration plans to propose legislation that would make parents “a protected class” with respect to employment discrimination. The piece notes that the same coalitions are lining up behind the pro and the con of this proposal as arrayed themselves for and against the Family and Medical Leave Act. The article quotes a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official, who suggests that Clinton is merely trying to build on the political success of family leave, even though no further protection is warranted. The article fails to note that the Chamber marshaled opposition to leave guarantees and pushed President Bush to twice veto leave bills. The administration’s plan does make one wonder who other than able-bodied white Anglo-Saxon Protestant childless men under the age of 65 an employer may discriminate against with impunity? Oh, of course, homosexuals!

Enrollment is starting to rise at Catholic seminaries, according to a NYT story. The rise is attributed to the recruiting work done by bishops and the development of pre-theology programs for people who are unsure whether they hear the calling. The article does not mention that 13 days ago the Times magazine cover story reported a threatening decline in the number of Catholics entering seminary.

The Post fronts a 2,588 word report on what will seem like old news to any cynic and all District residents. Our nation’s capital is infested with rats. This extensive story is hooked to today’s “Rat Summit” in Washington. A list of attendees is not provided.