From around the country:
Jeffrey Cohen of the Hartford Courant filed this piece about a new widow in Enfield, Connecticut: "Ten days ago, she was a mother, a daughter, an Aetna employee and the wife of a U.S. Marine, living in a relatively new town, leading the sometimes solitary life of a military spouse. But since last Monday, when two Marines and a chaplain told her that her husband, Gunnery Sgt. Phillip A. Jordan, had been killed in combat in Iraq, Amanda Jordan has found herself at the center of what for her has sometimes been an overwhelming amount of attention. While sought after by the press, consoled by politicians, and contacted by people she never knew, who want to tell her how much they loved or respected her husband, she mourns. She also has helped plan his funeral, dealt with paperwork, handled the press, and protected their 6-year-old son, Tyler. Today, with the support of her family and the dedication of the Marine Corps to one of its 'brothers,' she will bury him. She has answered many questions both perfunctory and personal. She has picked his headstone and gravesite, settled insurance benefits and completed paperwork, all the while granting interviews. Yet to be answered, though, are her questions about the circumstances of her husband's death. So even though Phillip Jordan is finally home and will be buried today, his wife is still looking for answers on just how, why, when and where he died, friends and relatives said. According to the Marines, that report is not complete."
Mark Coomes of the Louisville (Kentucky) Courier-Journal wrote about good news for a prominent local family: "For seven days, the phones rang so often with such disappointing results that Barry Bingham Jr. was incredulous when he heard yesterday afternoon that his daughter Molly was on the line. 'Honest to God, I thought it was an April Fool's joke,' he said. But the weary voice was that of Molly Bingham, 34, a photojournalist who disappeared from her Baghdad hotel last Tuesday and hadn't been heard from since. She had been held in an Iraqi prison for seven days, along with three other Western journalists, while U.S. officials, news organizations, religious leaders and peace activists urged the Iraqi government to let them go. During a three-minute phone call yesterday from just inside Jordan, Molly Bingham told her father what he'd been waiting to hear: She was safe and sound. So were three other journalists who had been missing: reporter Matthew McAllester and photographer Moises Saman of the Newsday newspaper in Long Island, N.Y., and photographer Johan Spanner of the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten. 'We were pretty stunned,' Molly Bingham's mother, Edie Bingham, said of the phone call. 'And completely overjoyed.'"
Lourdes Medrano Leslie of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune focused on a war tradition renewed: "The red, white and blue banner that Mary Smith taped to the porch window of her St. Paul home last week lets the world know that one of her loved ones fights abroad. The banner — a blue star on a white field, trimmed in red — is just like the banners that the 71-year-old Smith remembers seeing as a child in the homes of aunts and uncles whose sons fought in World War II. As the war in Iraq wears on, these blue-star banners are making a comeback in the Twin Cities metro area and around the country. They were seldom displayed during the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars but were popular in both world wars. The families of military service members first displayed the banners during World War I. Some had multiple stars, one for each family member serving. When a soldier died, the blue star was replaced with one of gold. Smith, for one, is glad the banners are back so she can honor her grandson. Jeremy Smith, 21, a Marine from Coon Rapids, is in the front lines in Iraq. His grandmother believes, judging by news reports about his battalion, that he's in Nasariyah, where there has been heavy fighting. 'It's necessary for people to know and think about our young men over there, and what they're going through,' she said Tuesday."
Anna Badkhen of the San Francisco Chronicle filed this from Irbil, Iraq: "Afrah Abdulrazak looked up from the large pot of vegetables she was stuffing with minced lamb and rice and squinted at Ahmed Shawkat, her husband, a dissident Iraqi writer who has been imprisoned and tortured by Saddam Hussein's regime. Just to make sure he was still there. 'My queen,' Ahmed called out to her, tenderly, as if these words could dismiss the constant fear Afrah has grown to live with in 29 years of marriage. It is a fear horribly familiar to anyone whose loved one refuses to acquiesce with Hussein's government: that any day they may come for him, take him away, torture him, kill him. That he will become one of the estimated 3 million Iraqis executed since Hussein's Baath Party came to power in 1968. That she may never see him again. 'Even now, I cannot believe that he is out of prison,' Afrah said. Ahmed's face lit up with the big, warm smile he reserves for his wife when her spirit is low. Soon, he reassured her, his struggle against the repressive rule will be over. The U.S.-led air strikes that have been shaking their house nightly are bound to end the dictatorship, he believes, finally setting the country free."
Judy Keen of USA Today offered this perspective on the president: "The public face of President Bush at war is composed and controlled. On TV and in newspaper photos, he is sturdy and assured, usually surrounded by military personnel. But those choreographed glimpses of Bush's commander-in-chief persona don't tell the whole story. Behind the scenes, aides and friends say, the president's role is more complicated and his style more emotional. People who know Bush well say the strain of war is palpable. He rarely jokes with staffers these days and occasionally startles them with sarcastic putdowns. He's being hard on himself; he gave up sweets just before the war began. He's frustrated when armchair generals or members of his own team express doubts about U.S. military strategy. At the same time, some of his usual supporters are concerned by his insistence on sticking with the original war plan. Interviews with a dozen friends, advisers and top aides describe a man who feels he is being tested. As might be expected from loyal aides, they portray the president as steady, tough and up to the task, someone whose usual cheer has shifted to a more serious demeanor. Their observations yield a rare inside look at how the president functions in a crisis."
From around the world:
Britain's Guardian newspaper offered this domestic perspective: "Head teachers are warning that the war against Iraq could cause long-term damage to racial and religious harmony in their schools. Heads have reported 'fear, anxiety and a sense of dislocation' among Muslim pupils in their schools under the current political climate. The views came to light at a roundtable meeting of about 20 head teachers and educational advisors from multi-faith and Muslim schools, which had been called by the National College for School Leadership to explore school leaders' roles and responsibilities at this time and to look at strategies for dealing with any tensions that occur in schools and the wider community. The NCSL's Chris Williams, who organised the debate, said the current climate was making many children question their cultural identity. 'Muslim identity in some ways has remained hidden at school. Muslim pupils get on, look and are like all other children. But now they are singled out and there is a feeling of dislocation. There are Muslim children born in Britain asking their parents why they have to live here,' he said."
Pakistan's Dawn newspaper offered this look: "Thirty-three people, including women and children, died and 310 were wounded in a coalition bombing on the outskirts of the farming town of Hilla, 80 kilometres [50 miles] south of the capital on Tuesday, local hospital director Murtada Abbas said. He was speaking at the Hilla hospital where a large number of children lay wounded under blankets on the floor due to a shortage of beds. Fifteen members of one family were killed nearby late Monday when their pickup truck was blown up by a rocket from a U.S. Apache helicopter in the region of Haidariya near Hilla, the sole survivor of the attack said. Razek al-Kazem al-Khafaji, sitting among 15 coffins in the local hospital, said he lost his wife, six children, his father, his mother, his three brothers and their wives. The British and U.S. air strikes on Baghdad accounted for a further 19 people dead and more than 100 wounded since Monday evening, Information Minister Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf said on the 13th day of the U.S.-led attempt to unseat Saddam Hussein and disarm Iraq. U.S. troops admitted killing seven women and children when they opened fire on Monday on a civilian vehicle at a military checkpoint manned by the U.S. Army's Third Infantry Division at Najaf. Reports of coalition forces killing dozens of Iraqi civilians on Tuesday stoked growing international unease at the U.S.-led war."
Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post provided this look at the Coalition advance: "In the war's first major ground battle against Iraq's Republican Guard, the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division and Marines neutralized Iraqi forces around the strategic Shi'ite city of Karbala early Wednesday. The Division's First Brigade destroyed Iraqi anti-aircraft guns, artillery pieces, and a paramilitary force — believed to be 2,000 strong — armed with RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] that was attempting to halt the advance. 'This is what we do best, going on the offensive,' said Lt. Col James Johnson, commander of the 2-7 Mechanized Infantry Battalion. 'It is when we are stationary that we are most vulnerable to artillery, RPGs and to terrorism.' Ahead of the U.S. offensive, which began at 0200 Iraqi time, targets in and around Karbala were bombed for about four hours. U.S. B-52 bombers circled the city throughout the night, carpet-bombing some areas while U.S. Air Force and Navy fighters attacked small targets. U.S. forces then attacked parts of the Republican Guard's Medina Division. Continuing the U.S. thrust northwards to Baghdad, U.S. forces then drove through the Karbala gap, which separates the Shi'ite city from a large reservoir on the west. Their passage was relatively unmolested as the 2-7 Mechanized Infantry Battalion provided cover fire. The 2-7 then took its turn passing through the Karbala gap at around 0600 local time."
The United Arab Emirates' Gulf News offered this: "The apparent attempts of American military officials to de-legitimize the Iraqi resistance by calling the irregular militias battling the U.S.-led forces in the southern part of the country 'terror-cells' or 'death squads' would not change the fact these people have the right defend their homeland, a prominent expert on international law has said. Under the Geneva Convention, the U.S. has legal responsibility to deal with hundreds of Iraqi fighters believed to be under the custody of U.S. and British forces, as prisoners of war, Dr. Najeeb Al Nuaimi told Gulf News. Until Saturday, when an Iraqi suicide bomber blew up his taxi at a Najaf checkpoint killing four American soldiers, the U.S. generals at the media center in the Qatar-based Central Command headquarters were describing the Iraqi irregular forces — Baath party fighters and the 'Saddam's Fedayeen' — as 'death squads' or 'regime thugs.' According to Centcom statements, 'the paramilitary forces are used by the regime to control people and to oppose coalition forces.' But hours after the Najaf car bombing, the generals began to call the irregular militias 'terrorists.'"
Compiled by Andrew Cohen