Today's Papers

Guns and Better

The papers all lead with the war, emphasizing NATO’s capitalizing on the improved weather over Yugoslavia Tuesday to step up the air attack on Serbian installations and forces, and to start food and supply flights coming in to Albania and refugee evacuation flights going out. There is other news everybody covers today: USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post front the Supreme Court’s radical expansion of police powers in an automotive search by saying that a cop with reason to suspect that the vehicle contains drugs or weapons can search everything in the car, including the passengers’ belongings. (But not the passengers themselves.) And the two Libyan suspects in the 1988 Lockerbie airplane bombing were finally, under a deal that lifts the UN’s economic sanctions against Libya, handed over to the UN as the first step towards their bombing trial before Scottish judges.

Everybody reports that the Clinton administration now expects that having almost completely rid Serbia of Kosovar Albanians, Slobodan Milosevic will soon offer “hollow” cease-fires, which the White House will view as not acceptable. The official position is that the bombing will now continue until the hundreds of thousands of expelled Kosovar Albanians are allowed to return. “Our plan is to persist until we prevail,” is the Clinton quote on this that makes all the papers.

The papers give good details on the stepped-up bombing. The WP says that because the Yugoslav troops in Kosovo are well spread out, allied bombers have gone instead after military bases and supplies, particularly fuel. The New York Times, after somewhat churlishly noting that “the Pentagon and NATO refused to specify their targets,” reports that there were bomb explosions yesterday in the second and third largest cities in Yugoslavia. The NYT also reports that an Air Force plane broadcast radio and TV propaganda transmissions into Yugoslavia, while other planes dropped leaflets. The Wall Street Journal reports that NATO has not destroyed Yugoslavia’s television transmitters even though they broadcast propaganda, because they are providing NATO with the only reliable picture right now of bomb damage.

The WP and NYT report that the heretofore quiescent Yugoslav air defenses put up a significant fight in the most recent night of bombing, with pilots reporting ferocious anti-aircraft artillery and several SA-3 surface-to-air missile launches. But no NATO plane was hit.

The LAT front runs a NATO surveillance photo released Monday that purportedly shows Serb armored forces herding residents from their village and said other pictures showed those homes being subsequently destroyed. The NYT and WP run stories inside on this, with the NYT noting that the government, without saying why, refused to release the other pictures. The LAT front also reports that the cost of the air war may have already passed $500 million and could top $2 billion.

The WSJ describes the U.S.’s contemplated use of Apache helicopters and missile batteries once they show up in Albania. The idea, explains the Journal, is for the missiles to shatter Serb air defense radars and batteries, thus opening up an “air corridor” for the helicopters to fly into Yugoslavia, hitting tanks. The paper mentions that the plan’s risks include the possibility that Serbian return fire might fall on refugees, and that the whole scheme might draw Kosovo’s neighboring countries into the conflict. What the story does not mention is the “Gulf of Tonkin” possibility: that the Army troops in Albania could be hit by Serb fire. This is the sense in which the helicopter/missile basing plan is much more than what the Clinton administration has described as a simple extension of the air war.

Underscoring just this sort of widening danger to U.S. ground forces, the WSJ reports that the Pentagon now believes that the three U.S. soldiers in Serbian custody were abducted from Macedonia.

The NYT has the most sensitivity to yesterday’s administration comments as spin, even claiming that President Clinton’s remark that “The ethnic cleansing of Kosovo cannot stand as a permanent event,” evoked the line George Bush used to muster public support for his response to Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War.

A WP letter to the editor raises a fair question about Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s murder conviction last week. How, the writer wonders, can Kevorkian have been found guilty of murder but not first-degree murder? Surely he planned, that is premeditated, the death he caused, no? So if not that, he suggests, why was his action murder at all?