From around the country:
Scott Bernard Nelson of the Boston Globe filed this: "Not all the contacts between Americans and Iraqis on the front lines along the Tigris River yesterday took place at the point of a gun. Along the eastern bank of the river, tanks and infantry moved from the city of Kut toward Baghdad to the northwest, sweeping towns and villages looking for elements of Iraq's Republican Guard. They met pockets of resistance and drew mortar fire from inside some of the towns. Plumes of black smoke could be seen as the tanks returned fire. But the day was quieter on the western side of the Tigris, where thousands of Marines moved steadily northwest to secure key bridges and blow up others they couldn't use. They moved to within 40 miles of Baghdad without firing a shot. At one farmhouse about 60 miles from the capital, an Iraqi family spread carpets in the grass and invited a dozen Marines to sip Indian coffee and get out of the hot sun. Temperatures soared to nearly 100 degrees on the hottest day yet of the two-week-old campaign, making the offer of coffee especially welcome. "I tell you what, they're great people,' Corporal Brandon Roy of Coventry, R.I., said of the civilians. 'If I knew their address, I'd write them [after the war]. They showed us a lot of hospitality.'"
John Daniszewski of the Los Angeles Times filed this from Iraq: "Everybody in the room at the Palestine Hotel knew that U.S. forces had arrived on the outskirts of Baghdad. In fact, they were about to seize Saddam International Airport. Information Minister Mohammed Said Sahaf, in his crisp, olive-green uniform and black beret, was having none of it. 'They are not even [within] 100 miles,' he proclaimed at his news briefing Thursday. 'They are not near Baghdad! Don't believe them!' He portrayed the Americans as being on the run across Iraq, mired in 'traps' laid by loyal troops and paramilitary fighters. 'They are trapped in Umm Qasr. They are trapped near Basra. They are trapped near Nasiriyah. They are trapped near Najaf,' Sahaf said. 'They are trapped everywhere.' To which a British correspondent asked coolly: 'Are they also trapped near the airport, sir?' By early today, it must have become impossible for Sahaf and fellow members of the leadership to maintain their disbelief about the rapid U.S. thrust pointed at President Saddam Hussein's capital."
Juan Tamayo of the Miami Herald filed this from Iraq: "The Iraqi man who tipped U.S. Marines to the location of American POW Jessica Lynch said Thursday he did so after he saw her Iraqi captor slap her twice as she lay wounded in a hospital. 'A person, no matter his nationality, is a human being,' said a 32-year-old lawyer whose wife was a nurse at the hospital, during an interview at Marine headquarters, where he, his wife and daughter are being treated as heroes and guests of honor. 'He is an extremely courageous man who should serve as an inspiration to all of us to do the right thing,' said Lt. Col. Rick Long, spokesman for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. After he saw Lynch slapped, the lawyer slipped into her room at the Saddam Hospital in Nassiriyah and told her, 'Don't worry.' Then he walked six miles to the nearest U.S. Marines and told them where she was. He later returned to the hospital, at the request of U.S. commanders, to map the facility and count how many Hussein loyalists were there."
Jim Sheeler of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver offered a portrait of grief: "Thomas Slocum's mother has one rule for anyone entering her house. 'The first tear you shed, you're outta here,' she said. 'I can be strong for me, but I can't be strong for you. You shed a tear, and then I'll start.' In the past 10 days, Terry Cooper has summoned a strength she says comes in part from her son, in part from the community where he grew up. It's a strength she knows can't last. Slocum was killed in action in Iraq on March 23 — the first Coloradoan to die in the war — but his body has yet to be flown to the United States. He died along with nine other Marines who may have been involved in an ambush by Iraqi troops pretending to surrender. Military officials say they continue to investigate the incident. In a room at Olinger Highland Mortuary on Thursday, the 22-year-old Marine stared out from a table, in a photo where his eyes are barely visible under his visor, his face fixed into a cold stare. As always, his mother saw right through it. 'I can still see his smile," she said, after a press conference at the mortuary. 'It's a smile he could never hide. I can see it in his eyes. A mother can see it.' Though she prides herself on her toughness — after joining the Marines, Slocum called her "Gunney" (for gunnery sergeant) when she'd lay down the rules — Cooper says that she needs to see her son. She needs to break her rule about tears. 'When (the funeral) is over, that will be my time (to cry),' she said. 'I'll probably close my front door and just lose it for awhile.'"
Ron Judd of the Seattle Times looked at local reaction to the war: "It's corny, and everybody here knows it. The darn thing is made of fiberglass. Battered by winds over the years, it leans a bit to the south. A really close look reveals cracks in the shell. None of which will stop local folks from getting a bit misty-eyed when the town landmark — optimistically described as the World's Largest Egg — winds up wrapped with a yellow ribbon big enough to diaper a woolly mammoth. Big-city folks probably won't get this. Gracie Barnes did. When she drove down the hill the other day into the long-since-dethroned Egg Capital of the World and saw the bow, she was thankful nobody was following close behind her pickup. She lost it. 'I just sat and cried.' The egg, perched atop a steel pole in Vern Zander Memorial Park like a Volkswagen-sized golf ball awaiting Paul Bunyan's tee shot, already had been re-striped in red, white and blue after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks a continent away. 'God Bless America' was inscribed on the egg's east end at the same time. The finishing touch, a yellow ribbon, is a lot like a million others hung from trees, fence posts, car antennas and mailboxes across America after the war in Iraq began half a world away two weeks ago. But in this rural Lewis County town, it wasn't a hollow memorial to nameless faces trudging through the sand past Basra. It was a civic hug, to a sizable chunk of the town's extended family. People who stop by for floor wax or Turkey Spam at the Cedar Village IGA can't miss the rows of bright, young faces in military uniforms, smiling proudly in pictures aligned neatly in a display near the store's Lotto machine. Two of the faces are Barnes' kids. Both Marines — one an MP, one a counter-terrorism trainer in Russia. They're not in the fight yet, but probably on the way."
From around the world:
The Australian offered this view: "Former prime minister Bob Hawke yesterday called on the Howard Government to bring the Australian troops back from Iraq. Mr. Hawke, launching a biography of Gallipoli veteran Alec Stewart by The Australian's Jonathan King, said the war had increased the risk of terrorist strikes against Australians at home and abroad. 'I wish the Prime Minister and the Government would consider the position and understand that the stated objective of the war, to increase security of Australia, is not only not being achieved, but the opposite,' Mr. Hawke said in Sydney at the launch of 'Gallipoli: Our Last Man Standing.' 'This is the judgment of significant sections of the intelligence community. Australia should never have been in, and should be out.' Asked whether a troop withdrawal would result in loss of face for John Howard and Australia, Mr. Hawke said: 'On the balance of things, where does the security of Australia at home and abroad stand compared with the possible loss of face?' He did not believe in the 'fashionable' idea that there were just wars. 'I certainly don't think that any war is a just war. I do say, however, that some wars are necessary. It was necessary to fight against Hitler,' he said."
Bahrain's Gulf Daily News reported on local reaction to the war: "About 300 Bahraini public figures last night strongly condemned the U.S. and British-led aggression against Iraq. In a statement distributed following a meeting at the Bahrain Society of Engineers in Juffair, participants emphasized their support for the Iraqi people in their resistance to the invasion. They also called on religious figures to issue a call for 'jihad.' The statement called on Arab leaders to halt all kinds of assistance, direct or indirect, being offered to the U.S. and British troops that are attacking Iraq from bases located in their countries. It also called on Arab nations to use oil as a weapon against countries involved in the war and shut down British, U.S., Australian and Spanish embassies. The National Forum, as the meeting was called, was organized by the Civil Committee for the Support of the Iraqi People and was attended by national, religious, and other well-known Bahraini figures. 'The statement issued by the forum is a historical political document that outlines the opposition of Bahraini people to this aggression against Iraq. It demonstrates the public's opposition to this war,' committee chairman Dr Hassan Al A'ali told the GDN. 'The aim of this forum is to strengthen public opposition to the U.S. and British-led aggression against Iraq and gather more support for the Iraqi people,' he said.
Kuwait's Gulf Times newspaper reported this: "U.S. missiles damaged a Red Crescent maternity hospital in Baghdad and other civilian buildings yesterday, killing several people and wounding at least 25, hospital sources and witnesses said. The attacks, which took place at 9.30 a.m., caught motorists who had ventured out during a lull in the bombing. There were at least five burned-out and twisted cars halted in the middle of the road. Witnesses said the drivers burned to death inside. U.S. planes pounded central Baghdad, striking at least three times a compound where President Saddam Hussain's son Qusay has his headquarters and sending thick smoke into the sky. Qusay commands the Republican Guard. Besides the hospital being damaged, residents said the nearby Baghdad trade center complex and offices housing the Pharmacist and Teachers' Unions were struck during a raid by U.S. planes on the Mansour area. In Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross said one of its doctors in Baghdad had visited the maternity hospital. He said it had not taken a direct hit but was damaged by the blast from a missile that hit a building across the street."
The Ottawa Citizen reported on Canada's reaction to war developments: "The Liberal government, through Deputy Prime Minister John Manley, appeared to reach out to the Bush administration yesterday, saying the federal government supports the U.S. offensive against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and is hoping for quick victory. The statement by the cabinet's most pro-Washington minister came in response to a Canadian Alliance motion urging the Commons to apologize for some of the comments Liberals have made over the last month. Liberal MPs who have criticized the United States over Iraq have 'every right' to express themselves, even though some of their comments about President George W. Bush and Americans in general have been regrettable and disrespectful, Mr. Manley said yesterday. He said that despite criticism against the U.S. from Liberal MPs, 'let there be no mistake...as to the sympathies of Canadians and their government at this time. Our friends are at war. Our friends are putting their lives on the line for their beliefs. I want it understood with absolute clarity that Canada stands with its friends, even if we cannot engage with them in this conflict.' Plans are apparently developing for Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to clarify yet again Canada's reasons for not participating in the war. PMO [Prime Minister's Office] officials say such a message would be delivered in the next few days and would include an expression of support for Britain and the United States."
Compiled by Andrew Cohen