Today's Papers

Talks Bomb

All the majors lead with the breakdown early today of the talks between NATO and Yugoslav military officers that were designed to implement the agreement reached last week to end the war over Kosovo. British Lt. Gen. Michael Jackson, the leader of the NATO delegation, announced that in response NATO’s bombing campaign will intensify. The New York Times and Washington Post fronts report that bombing had been continuing apace through the weekend, while the Los Angeles Times says it had been ratcheted back. USA Today has fresh polling data indicating there is deep support for more bombing: 63 percent of its respondents favor bombing until Slobodan Milosevic is driven from office. Meanwhile, both the WP and LAT report widespread Serb looting of homes over the weekend in a Kosovo city.

Several of the talks’ different sticking points are mentioned in the coverage. USAT, the WP, and NYT say the Yugoslavs want more than the previously agreed-upon seven days to pull out of Kosovo. (The NYT adds that they want two weeks.) And USAT and both Times say that Yugoslavs offered a proposal that neither guarantees the safe return of the Kosovar Albanian refugees nor full withdrawal of Serb troops. The WP stresses that the Yugoslavs want a bombing halt first, whereas the NATO position is that solid evidence of a withdrawal must come first. And the WP and NYT report that the Yugoslavs say they don’t want to clear mines. Also, the Yugoslavs are arguing that they could completely withdraw their forces only after the U.N. Security Council approves a resolution setting out the terms of the peace accord. The LAT is alone in claiming that the text of the terms agreed to late last week appears to support this position, and goes on to explain that this strategy would give Russia or China a chance to stop the deal, through the use of a veto.

The coverage of the weekend meetings, with some particularly good insider reporting at the NYT and LAT, makes it clear that the Yugoslavs went from a disagreement on details to a rejection of the entire concept of the peace agreement their leader and parliament had already agreed to. The LAT reports that the Yugoslav representatives interrupted the talks at some points to consult with Belgrade. The WP and LAT suggest the motivation for the Serbs’ delay is to complete its offensive against the KLA. Nobody mentions the similarity between the Serbs’ behavior at the talks and that of the Iraqis at all those meetings with U.N. weapons inspectors. Which could be important, because it’s now well known the Iraqi tactic was usually undertaken to hide something. What, the papers should be asking, are the Serbs hiding?

The WP’s Al Kamen has a terrific suggestion about how to respond to China’s demands for a full-scale U.S. investigation into and apology for the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade: Fine, if you’ll do the same regarding Tiananmen Square.

And the WP’s David Ignatius points out something that got a little lost in last week’s announcement by Merrill Lynch that it was launching its own low-cost e-brokerage operation: that it was fundamentally changing its full-service business too. Under the new plan, ML will start charging a flat annual fee for account management, but stop charging altogether for individual trades. In short, Ignatius says, ML will remove its long-standing incentive to churn accounts.

Despite acknowledging the late-breaking disintegration of the talks, the Times’ William Safire presses on with “Lessons of Kosovo.” The lessons include “Never tell the criminals what you will not do.” Hmmm … hasn’t the U.S. long told its enemies that it would not mistreat prisoners or use biological or chemical warfare? That it will not assassinate their heads of state? Does Safire disagree with all of these positions? Then there’s “Committers of atrocities are rarely brave professional soldiers.” Ever hear of the Nazis or the Viet Cong, Bill? Instant lessons are to lessons as instant coffee is to coffee.