Today's Papers

The Books of Exodus

Refugees and their stories continue to pour out of Kosovo. The Washington Post lead grimly announces that NATO “has not made a perceptible dent” in the Yugoslav drive to depopulate the region of Kosovar Albanians; the paper’s off-lead is the gutwrenching testimony of the survivor of a mass execution. The Los Angeles Times lead reports that the latest wave of refugees, who have been living in shelters or in the open air since being ejected from their homes, are even feebler than their predecessors. The New York Times carries its accounts of the refugees inside and leads with the collapse of India’s ruling parliamentary coalition.

The WP relays that Gen. Wesley Clark has been chafing against NATO’s belabored, communal decision-making style (“I’ve got two arms and one leg tied behind my back”). But an LAT front-pager compliments NATO’s efficiency, claiming that “critical decisions have sailed through [NATO’s] 19-member governing board in a matter of hours,” and that it’s the U.S. command structure that has been equivocal. Clark, says the WP, has been handed more autonomy; he must check only with NATO Secretary-General Solana before ordering strikes on Belgrade, industrial targets, and civilian-heavy areas.

WP and NYT front pagers diagram the Clinton’s administration decision to use force in Kosovo. The WP story quotes a 1992 memo from then-Secretary of State Eagleburger to Milosevic threatening military action “in the event of conflict in Kosovo caused by Serbian action.” Warren Christopher reiterated the warnings twice in 1993, but the threats stood idle until the grisly Jan. 15 massacre in the Kosovo village of Racak spurred a shift from a policy of containment to one of active intervention. Both papers note that early this winter, Western intelligence officials noted Serb military forces circling around Kosovo. The Germans predicted that the operation (dubbed with the code name “Horseshoe” in Serbian) was specifically intended to eject Albanians from Kosovo on a mass scale.

Both papers note that Albright anticipated–on paper, at least–that NATO bombing could agitate the Serbs into more brutal tactics. “I wish we had moved faster,” she tells the Post. A story inside the Times quotes the contradictory and inchoate predictions made by U.S. intelligence agencies; every few days, analysts recanted their assessments of Milosevic’s ability to withstand bombing. As late as March 24 (the first day of bombing), a classified intelligence document forecast that Milosevic would capitulate at the first show of air power.

The NYT story asserts that Clinton was too preoccupied with Flytrap to pay proper heed to Kosovo (the headline reads, “How a President, Distracted by Scandal, Entered Balkan War”). An unnamed adviser tells the paper, “it was all impeachment, impeachment, impeachment. There was nothing else.” When Bob Dole visited the Oval Office in September to talk Kosovo, the president beseeched him to lobby his former Senate cronies against impeachment. The WP story doesn’t comment on Clinton’s rol–or perhaps it does, but with more subtlety: While the story dwells on Albright’s thinking, the president is barely mentioned in the long and detailed account.

The Times leads with the fall of India’s Hindu nationalist-led government to a vote of no confidence. Sonia Gandhi, leader of the opposition Congress Party, will now scramble to build a new coalition. The story relays that voters abandoned the lead Hindu party because of skyrocketing onion prices “and a general sense that the government had mismanaged the economy.” In that order?

A WP front-pager reports that “sperm washing”–that is, scrubbing HIV-laden cells off of sperm, and then using the disinfected product for in vitro fertilization–is allowing HIV-positive men to impregnate their wives with little risk of infection. The practice has quietly been gaining in popularity. But no one knows how widespread, or how legal, the procedure really is.

The first of six special millennium issues of the New York Times Magazine picks “The Best Ideas, Stories and Inventions” of the past 1,000 years. The introduction defends the concept of ranking (it cuts through late 20th-century “data smog,” and besides, other magazines do it too). Among the other winners: human rights for Best Idea; Celestine V for Best Pope; India for Best Revolution; penicillin for Best Invention; and Lucille Ball for Best Clown.

Maureen Dowd scoffs at the first lady’s plans to pen a book on White House entertaining. The idea “brings to mind old British movies, where characters make insipid, incessant small talk to cover up something awful going on.” Instead of writing about napkin rings and guest lists, Dowd says Mrs. Clinton should share her own family recipes, including Bill in a Stew, Seared Husband, and Grilled Staffers.