Today's Papers

To Air Is Human

Everybody leads with one war development or another. USA Today goes with the plight of the refugees. The Los Angeles Times goes with the Clinton administration’s preparations for a major escalation–possibly to include a call-up of U.S. air reserve units. The Washington Post leads with yesterday’s hour-long raid of an Albanian village by Yugoslav forces and concerns that it might presage the widening of the war into neighboring Balkan countries. The Wall Street Journal says the raid objective was Kosovar guerrilla training compounds. The New York Times lead is the NATO commander Gen. Wesley Clark’s first comprehensive assessment of the war, in which he said every sector of the Serb military has been damaged but that Slobodan Milosevic seems determined to “ride out the air war.”

The LAT says that President Clinton was buoyed after a meeting with some members of Congress and was satisfied with the war’s progress, saying that NATO’s airstrikes are “diminishing and grinding down” the Yugoslav military. The paper’s lead also reports that the Pentagon has approved the NATO commander Clark’s latest beef-up request, including 300 more planes, bringing the war’s air armada to about 1,000 planes (the NYT lead has this as well), about, notes the LAT, half that used in the Gulf War. The paper says that “several hundred to several thousand” reservists could be called up. The WSJ says “several thousand.” The WP, in its mention of reservists, eschews quantification. The papers should have added this context: a significant call-up would indicate that the military is poised for a quantum leap of commitment. Major reserve call-ups augured the Berlin crisis, the Cuban Missile Crisis and America’s deep involvement in Vietnam.

The LAT lead notes that the Vatican has criticized a UN agency for its plan to distribute emergency reproductive health kits among refugee women that include “morning after” pills to be taken by rape victims. Concerned that readers won’t follow this, the paper adds: “The Roman Catholic Church fervently opposes abortion.”

The NYT lead includes what it calls Clark’s “remarkable personal aside” during his briefing in which he claimed to have realized last October that the Serbs would target the general Kosovar Albanian civilian population as part of its campaign to suppress the Kosovar military insurgency. The Times also keenly seizes on something else Clark said: of NATO’s 5,924 missions so far, only 1,687 have been bombing missions. The paper explains that a lot of the total sorties have been flown by refueling aircraft and by fighters. A further factor not mentioned: the number of electronic warfare and command and control missions that have to be flown in support of the bombers.

The Times runs a story inside saying that Clark’s briefing was part of a Pentagon effort at being more forthcoming, and included video clips of some of the successful NATO bombing attacks carried out this week. Now, the LAT front today features a Pristina dispatch from Paul Watson describing how NATO bombs and missiles have been hitting residential neighborhoods. Is there video from these missions too? So here’s a line of questioning for the next military briefing: “Are there nose-cone videos of *misses* that you’re not showing us? How many?” The WSJ and NYT offer the most detail on Gen. Clark’s account of Monday’s bombing of a Yugoslavian passenger train, according to which the pilot used his state of the art avionics to accidentally hit the train twice. (By the way, Today’s Papers erred yesterday in saying that every paper gave more front-page coverage to the Pulitzers than to the train bombing. There was one exception–the NYT.)

The WP lead waits until the fifth paragraph to mention something that should have been played higher and in more detail: It is likely, says the paper, that several thousand additional troops beyond the 2,800 the Pentagon has already announced will be in Albania soon.

Now he tells us The NYT and WP fronts, and a reefer at the LAT say that Ken Starr will testify against renewing the independent counsel law that made his entire investigation possible.

In Michigan, Dr. Jack Kevorkian was sentenced yesterday to 10 to 25 years in prison. The NYT front runs a picture of him smiling at the news. The story is also on the LAT and USAT fronts. How can the WP keep this story off the front page? Doesn’t anybody over there have a miserably lingering parent or grandparent?