The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox all lead with Germany, France, and Russia’s joint statement opposing an Iraq invasion, complete with a threat to veto. “We will not let a proposed resolution pass that would authorize the use of force,” said the threesome. “Russia and France, as permanent members of the Security Council, will assume all their responsibilities on this point.” The Los Angeles Times’ lead says the United States is open to rejiggering the wording of the resolution a bit. USA Today leads with yesterday’s Supreme Court decision upholding California’s “three-strikes” law, which gives superlong prison terms for repeat offenders. The court also ruled that so-called Megan’s Laws are constitutional, saying that requiring sex offenders to register with authorities is primarily about safety and not about further punishment.
According to British reports and as the LAT briefly mentions, Britain has floated a compromise resolution that apparently stipulates some sort of short delay between authorizing war and actually heading in.
It’s unclear if the United States will play along. “If there’s something someone wants changed in our draft that locks in a vote, we would consider it,” a “senior State Department official” told the LAT. But check out the preamble: “If (any proposed change) sticks to the fundamental requirement that we stand by the previous resolutions and that we face reality and make a decision because time is expiring or has almost expired, then we’d listen.” One thing the LAT doesn’t ask: The quote comes from the State Department, and it is the only one in the piece giving credence to the LAT’s point that the administration is willing to be flexible—is there any chance that the boss in the Oval Office has a different opinion? Speaking of which, the WP mentions in passing that the administration is not willing to accept “a change in wording to accommodate members’ concerns.” It’s worth remembering, though, that the LAT has a habit of reading the diplomatic winds correctly.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, trying to put to a nice spin on what the NYT calls “the loudest ‘No!’ shouted across the Atlantic in a half century,” pointed out that the countries didn’t actually use the V-word.
In what’s a solid hint for what Hans Blix plans to say during his presentation Friday, the lead inspector told reporters yesterday that he’d just love for inspections to continue. “It seems to me it would be a rather short time to close the door,” he said, adding that Iraq recently has been cooperating “very actively, I would say proactively.”
Secretary of State Colin Powell also leveled new charges against Saddam and indirectly against inspectors, saying that Iraq is continuing to make Al-Samoud missiles even as it makes a big show of destroying them. He also said Iraq has been hiding its chemical and biological weapons near the border with Syria to keep them away from inspectors. The NYT plays up Powell’s knock on the inspectors, saying it’s a sign of the “poisoning of relations between the inspectors and the United States.” What the Times doesn’t do, though, is get Blix’s response. The Post does: “Blix said Powell provided him with no information on new evidence Iraq plans to clandestinely continue production of the Al Samoud-2 missiles, and said only a few U.S.-provided intelligence leads had yielded solid evidence of a secret weapons program.” (Slate’s Mickey Kaus recently wondered if the U.S. isn’t sharing intel with inspectors because it doesn’t want them to find stuff and therefore appear to be effective.)
Everybody notes that Gen. Tommy Franks essentially said the military is now ready to go.
Most of the papers go high with yesterday’s suicide bombing in Israel—the first in two months—which killed 16. The bomber hit a bus filled with high-school students in Haifa, one of Israel’s most integrated cities. Meanwhile, according to late news reports, an Israeli tank in Gaza fired into a crowd of people that had been watching firefighters battle a blaze; at least eight people were killed and about 30 injured.
The NYT goes high with word from Pakistani officials that documents found at Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s hide-out indicate that Osama recently hung out with Mohammed. “There is now no doubt that [Osama] is alive and well,” said one official. The Times also says that authorities have found “much more material” in the raid than has been mentioned publicly.
A Post editorial doesn’t exactly criticize the administration’s policy on North Korea—it says the White House doesn’t have a policy: “As so often on key foreign policy issues, decision-making seems to have been paralyzed by internal disagreements. Passively, the United States now waits for North Korea’s next provocative move, hoping that it will somehow backfire and thus rescue the administration from the corner into which it has painted itself. Talking to this ruthless and untrustworthy regime is surely distasteful, and may well be fruitless. But it is better than doing nothing.” (For more on the administration’s policies on North Korea and Iraq, read Fred Kaplan’s “War Stories.”)