Today's Papers

Three Men and So Little Maybe

The papers lead with the White House’s announcement that President Bush will meet this weekend in Azores with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar. The purpose of the summit, says the New York Times, is to “determine if there is a last-ditch way to bring the United Nations together on an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein.” The Washington Post leaves no room for last-minute diplomatic epiphanies, saying the three will “discuss their failure to achieve United Nations approval of a resolution authorizing war and to set a course toward imminent military action.” The Los Angeles Times agrees, saying in a news analysis that the meeting (along with the other big news story of the day—President Bush’s pledge that he will release a “road map” for a Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement) signals the “breakdown of diplomacy on Iraq.” In its headline, the WP puts the word “options” in quote marks, both to reference White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer’s comment that Bush would meet in Azores to discuss “all final diplomatic options,” and also to highlight the paper’s belief that what options exist are extremely limited: either submitting a U.N. Security Council resolution that will be defeated or withdrawing the resolution introduced late last month. Both paths would lead to war. The papers bury Chile’s proposed compromise of allowing Hussein three more weeks to meet five tests of disarmament. Fleischer called it a “nonstarter,” and the NYT reports that other undecided members on the council started distancing themselves from it immediately. The WP says President Bush “yielded to pressure from key foreign allies” in announcing the “road map” to settle longstanding Palestinian-Israeli tensions. All the papers note that this plan has been in development for about a year by the Quartet—the U.S., Russia, the European Union, and the U.N.—and that the seven-page document has been ready for a few months. The NYT stresses in two stories that Bush’s move came after Tony Blair’s insistence and that “moments after Mr. Bush announced his acceptance of the plan, Mr. Blair emerged to hail it.” As for what the peace plan looks like, the WP says both the Israelis and Palestinians will be presented with “parallel requirements that would end in a final deal three years later.” There will be three phases of required cooperation; among the first things sought will be security cooperation, Palestinian political reform, the withdrawal of Israeli troops to pre-Sept. 2000 positions, and a freeze on Israeli settlements. The LAT, which seems to be the only major paper to seek Palestinian reactions to the plan, says Palestinian officials want more pressure on Israel. The NYT reports that Israelis don’t want the “same people who think Iraq is cooperating with arms inspections to determine whether Palestinians are easing up on attacks on Israelis.” The WP fronts news that “the Bush administration has all but given up on persuading Turkey to let U.S. forces use its territory to invade Iraq. Instead, it is now focusing on ‘discouraging and deterring’ the Turkish government from sending troops across the border.” The LAT picks up another reason that Washington doesn’t want Turkish troops to come into Iraq from the north: If that happened a “war within a war” could break out with Kurdish separatists. The Bush administration was willing to risk that until Turkey refused to allow their country to be a military base. The WP notes that Turkey’s non-cooperation will also have economic repercussions: Even if the Turkish government allows the use of its airspace, it still won’t get the $6 billion in aid that Washington had previously promised. The WP fronts news that Rep. James P. Moran Jr., D-Va., has decided to give up his House leadership as a result of reactions to remarks he made March 3rd about the Jewish community’s support of a war on Iraq. Moran says he will still seek re-election in 2004. The papers report that NASA may be ready to launch another shuttle as early as this fall. The NYT says the shuttle may not be in operation for another 18 months, but NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe said the agency wouldn’t wait for the review board’s final Colombia report. The papers all front word from a Salt Lake City sheriff that Brian David Mitchell, the accused abductor of Elizabeth Smart, will also be charged with the attempted kidnapping of Elizabeth’s 18-year-old cousin, Jessica Wright, whose bedroom window screen was said to have been slashed seven weeks after Elizabeth’s disappearance. The papers say this second kidnapping may have been part of a plan by Mitchell to acquire multiple wives. One note of caution, however: The information is all third-hand. The WP and the LAT trace the polygamy charge to “authorities” or “police and media reports.” The NYT says this is what Mitchell’s wife says, as reported to the paper by the executive director of the Utah chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. The NYT also gets into the business of psychoanalyzing the 15-year-old Elizabeth, suggesting that experts say she may have suffered Stockholm Syndrome. Question to the NYT: Where’s this expert and where’s the evidence? Although the LAT today says Smart wasn’t brainwashed after all, they too should be wary of making hasty assumptions on psychological matters.