Today's Papers

Axing the Axis

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and USA Today all lead with President Bush’s tough speech marking six months since Sept. 11. USAT succinctly summarizes the talk: “Bush outlined a two-pronged strategy for extending the war beyond Afghanistan. He said the United States will aid countries combating terrorism within their borders and warned that nations seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction must be stopped.” Bush declared, “Our coalition must act deliberately. But inaction is not an option.” The Washington Post leads with word that Afghan troops are gathering in eastern Afghanistan to prepare a final, nighttime assault on al-Qaida forces. The Post also says that “Americans appeared to have tamped down friction” between Afghan friendly forces. 

Bush warned that the fighting now in Afghanistan “will not be the last battle in Afghanistan and there will be other battles beyond that nation.” 

Regarding the speech, the Post says, “Bush did not use his address to articulate a new policy, but instead continued to build a case against rogue states capable of nuclear, chemical or biological attack.” The NYT disagrees, “In a forceful speech, Bush significantly expanded the commitment of the United States to a global campaign against terrorism, saying America would ‘actively prepare’ other nations for the fight.” (Given that the U.S. has already sent advisers to Georgia, the Philippines, and elsewhere, Today’s Papers doesn’t see how that kind of talk signals an expansion.)

Question: Does the Post’sreference to “rogue states” mean that the term is back in vogue?

The papers say that at least 17 Palestinians were killed when Israeli forces swept into Palestinian refugee camps. The NYT says that the people were killed “trying to block the tanks and armored personnel carriers in the predawn darkness.” Were those people armed? The other papers were clearer about this; for example, the WSJ says high up that the people were killed in “a fierce gun battle.”

Everybody emphasizes that as part of the operation, Israel has been rounding up and questioning men aged 15 to 45 in the camps. The papers also note that the Israeli army shelled one of the camps before it entered it, and that Israeli troops moved between houses by blowing holes in the houses’ walls. That way, soldiers could avoid walking in the narrow, sniper-laden streets.

The Post says, “Hundreds of small arms have been confiscated and a number of bomb- and rocket-making workshops have been discovered.”

Everybody notes that many Palestinian gunmen fled the camps before Israeli troops entered.

The papers report that about 50,000 right-wing activists gathered in Tel Aviv to protest Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s policies, especially his recent decision to let Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat travel throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The protestors urged Sharon to expel Arafat and crush the Palestinian Authority. As one poster put it, “Sharon, learn to fight like George Bush—Bomb them!”

The papers report that a small right-wing party has decided to leave Sharon’s coalition government. Analysts cited by the LAT said that the move increases the chances that Sharon’s government could fall, and will boost the influence of the liberal Labor party. 

A NYT news analysis says that Sharon, faced with mounting casualties, is now moving “in opposite directions: toward the left on symbols, like loosening Mr. Arafat’s bonds, and toward the right on substance, like storming the refugee camps.”

The WSJ reports that the Philipine government has suspended peace talks with the country’s largest Muslim rebel army, accusing it of maintaining links with al-Qaida. The move could signal the Philipines’ desire to have the U.S. expand its role in the country. The rebel group, known as Moro Islamic Liberation Front, denied that it has any links to al-Qaida.

The WP off-leads word from “legal sources” that “federal prosecutors have told Arthur Andersen that they intend to charge the firm with obstruction of justice for failing to prevent document shredding” after company officials learned that Enron was under investigation.

The WP stuffs a report that the Bush administration’s nuclear weapons policy review, which has caused an uproar, “follows a pattern set five years ago by a nuclear directive signed by then-President Bill Clinton.” The paper explains that the previous plan also envisioned scenarios in which the U.S. would launch nukes at “rogue” states using weapons of mass destruction. “Nothing has changed,” said one former Pentagon official.

NYT editorial doesn’t mention Clinton’s nukes policies, and slams Bush’s revised vision:

If another country were planning to develop a new nuclear weapon and contemplating pre-emptive strikes against a list of non-nuclear powers, Washington would rightly label that nation a dangerous rogue state. Yet such is the course recommended to President Bush by a new Pentagon planning paper that became public last weekend. Mr. Bush needs to send that document back to its authors and ask for a new version less menacing to the security of future American generations.

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