Everybody leads with Slobodan Milosevic’s unilateral declaration of a cease-fire and NATO’s decision to reject it and press on instead with its widening air war. The papers’ consensus is that the Serbian offer was evidence that the Serbs are beginning to feel the pain of two weeks of explosions and that they feel they’ve almost completely accomplished their goals of ridding themselves of Kosovar Albanians and their military arm. The Wall Street Journal adds that U.S. and British officials expressed relief at the content of the offer–which they had been bracing for–because it fell so far short of NATO demands for a total withdrawal of Serbian military forces and an internationally monitored repatriation of Kosovo’s Albanians that it didn’t sow NATO dissension by tempting some members of the alliance to support it. The Washington Post lead makes a similar point.
The papers report that some 20,000 NATO troops are helping with relief efforts in the teeming refugee camps in Albania and Macedonia. It is reported that many of the refugees taken to Turkey and Norway in the first evacuation flights did not want to go. USA Today’s front features a shot of Kosovar Albanians boarding a plane from Macedonia to Turkey, apparently against their will, as they use their arms to make what the picture caption explains is the “symbol of loss of freedom.” The Los Angeles Times sees an indication that the NATO campaign will be a long one in the administration’s revelation that it will take 45 days to transport the 20,000 Kosovar refugees it has agreed to temporarily house at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Journal says Navy fighter-bombers from the carrier just brought in to the theater stand ready to participate for the first time. The New York Times says they’ve already done so. Everybody says that the continued clear weather has made for lots of successful bombing sorties against military and industrial targets, but also notes that the Pentagon concedes the Serbs’ tactics of hiding their tanks and armored personnel carriers near civilian buildings is making it hard for pilots to hit them.
The papers also report that NATO officials have apologized for an off-course laser-guided bomb that hit an apartment building in a mining town 100 miles from Belgrade. The Yugoslavs say twelve people were killed. NATO says four.
A WP front-pager traces the U.S. position on the ability of air power alone to resolve the Kosovo crisis to Madeleine Albright’s belief that Slobodan Milosevic would probably back down after a few visible targets were hit. She held to this position, says the Post, despite hesitance expressed by senior Pentagonists and the CIA director.
The NYT reports that last night’s bombing runs included a series of hits in the capital of Montenegro, the smaller Yugoslav republic. Given that the democratically elected president of Montenegro has criticized Milosevic for pursuing a catastrophic policy, the reader could have used a little explanation from the Times about the relationship between the two republics and regarding whether Serb forces are indeed operating within Montenegro.
The WSJ’s new poll shows that now 64 percent of Americans approve of the air campaign, with 27 percent opposed.
The WP runs an editorial, “Where are the Apaches?” which decries NATO’s “strangely lackadaisical handling” of the NATO commander’s request for the helicopters and wonders how a military that is designed to fight two large wars simultaneously lacks the airlift to move tents for refugees and attack helicopters at the same time.
The LAT says that Jesse Jackson met in New York with Yugoslavia’s ambassador to the U.N., seeking visas for himself and some other religious leaders in order to go to Yugoslavia to negotiate the release of those three Army POWs. “So long as these soldiers are there, they are war bait. They are our new Pvt. Ryans,” Jackson is quoted as saying. The paper doesn’t mention that, actually, Jackson has a bit of a track record in this area: In the early ‘80s, he successfully negotiated with Syria for the release of a downed U.S. Navy flight officer.
Maureen Dowd is the first in the national press to lift the veil on George W. Bush’s rumored carefree youth, and the episode she lights on was first described over 30 years ago in … the NYT. The original story was about physically branding new members of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity at Yale, and it quotes the response of Bush, the chapter’s former president, to charges about the practice: The resulting wound, he explained, “is only a cigarette burn.”