The New York Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and Los Angeles Times all lead with Iraq catch-alls emphasizing the non-news that President Bush said he didn’t agree with the huge crowds who recently protested against an invasion. “I welcome people’s right to say what they believe,” said Bush. “Evidently some of the world don’t view Saddam Hussein as a risk to peace. I respectfully disagree.” The Washington Post and USA Today both lead with the after-effects of ElBlizzardo Diablo. A few planes are still stacked up at airports, some schools are still closed, etc.
The NYT off-leads FrenchPresident Jacques Chirac’s dissing of Central and Eastern European countries for their support of potential war with Iraq. He accused them of being “badly brought up,” and said they missed “an opportunity to keep quiet.” He also suggested that their pro-war stance will hurt their chances of being invited into the EU club.
The LAT and WP both front something the NYT went high with yesterday: Turkey wants a lot more cash before it’ll let itself become a launching-pad for any invasion—and Bush ain’t interested in giving it. The Post says 20 to 30 U.S. ships are already hanging around off the coast of Turkey. “We’re out of time,” said one Pentagon official. “The force needs to get off someplace.” “Relations between Turkey and the United States are basically heading south,” one unnamed administration official told the LAT.
A front-page LAT piece highlights a security gap: foreign airports, many of which aren’t up to snuff. “There is nothing out there to negate a recurrence of 9/11,” said an airline pilot association rep, “provided terrorists do it at the end of the flight instead of the beginning.”
Most of the papers reefer the arson attack in a South Korean subway yesterday that killed at least 120 people. Apparently a mentally ill man spread paint-thinner in a subway car, then lit it. The LAT goes highest with details on the subway’s substandard safety features: It didn’t have back-up power or fire extinguishers and much of the material in the subway cars—the seats, the ceiling, the floors—was flammable and toxic.
The LAT catches late-breaking word that Israeli tanks and helicopters launched a big raid on Gaza last night, killing at least 11 Palestinians, including some civilians. Hamas says they destroyed an Israeli tank during the battle; Israel disputes that.
The Post fronts word that former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun yesterday hopped into the field of Democratic contenders for president and announced that she’s forming an exploratory committee. Moseley-Braun, who was the country’s first and so far only black female senator, described herself, pretty accurately, as a “budget hawk and a peace dove.” She lost her bid for re-election in 1998 after she faced various ethics imbroglios, including the apparent misuse of campaign funds. (The Post, unfortunately, leaves the charges vague and doesn’t explain whether they panned out.)
In a strong column, the NYT’s Thomas Friedman says he thinks the Bush administration is right to confront Saddam. The problem, he says, is that the White House “is big on attitude, weak on strategy and terrible at diplomacy.” And it lies. “There is simply no proof” that Saddam is allied with al-Qaida. “Tell people the truth,” says Friedman. “Saddam does not threaten us today. He can be deterred. Taking him out is a war of choice—but it’s a legitimate choice. It’s because he is undermining the U.N., it’s because if left alone he will seek weapons that will threaten all his neighbors, it’s because you believe the people of Iraq deserve to be liberated from his tyranny, and it’s because you intend to help Iraqis create a progressive state that could stimulate reform in the Arab/Muslim world.”
A whole other blizzard … From USAT’s Walter Shapiro: “The weather produced something real to worry about—a storm that made venturing out for a quart of milk seem like a Presidents Day re-enactment of George Washington’s ordeal at Valley Forge.” From the WP’s op-ed page: “Nature has done to us what terrorists have not: stopped us dead in our tracks.” From USAT’s Craig Wilson, “After all the warnings last week about an imminent terrorist attack, it was Mother Nature who finally succeeded in shutting down Washington.”