Front Page: Iraq, March 31, 2003

Newspapers world press
The following is a compilation of today's newspaper reports about the Iraq crisis from around the country and around the world. It is just a sampling of different perspectives, designed to offer additional context into the conflict. Compiled by's Andrew Cohen.

From around the country:

Thanassis Cambanis of the Boston Globe filed this from Umm Qasr in Southern Iraq: "If yesterday's job fair here was any indication, the economic revival and 'de-Ba'athification' of this country will be an arduous task. About 100 men entered the British compound to apply for basic domestic-support jobs for the military, a key component of the transformation from hostile territory into productive port for a rebuilt Iraq. None of them wanted to tell reporters their last names for fear of retribution against family members in Iraqi cities still under Saddam Hussein's control. 'If the Iraqi regime comes back again, all of us are dead,' said Ahmed, 26. He studied English at Basra University. Since finishing his military service two years ago, he said, he has been unable to find a job. Yesterday Ahmed was thrilled at the prospect of working for a few dollars a day in a British Army kitchen. But even though he traveled through the gates of the port camp, Ahmed said that he — along with the other men crouched in the dust by the labor unit tent — was still terrified of the Ba'ath Party members who fled Umm Qasr before the coalition advance. "All of them escaped," he said. 'They could come back.'"

Reese Dunklin of the Dallas Morning News provided this perspective: "Inside a small red-brick congregation within view of Fort Bliss, church members began praying. They lowered their heads, squeezed their eyes shut and asked for the best. 'We pray Lord that these POWs are treated humanely,' said Julia Trawick, her voice wavering as she held back tears. She continued to sob after the service. 'My heart hurts just so much.' In weekend church services and rallies all across this sprawling military city, families and friends of the missing and dead are struggling to cope with last week's ambush of 15 troops from Fort Bliss' 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company. Iraqi fighters executed at least two of them, five others were held as prisoners of war, and several more are missing, including 18-year-old Pvt. Ruben Estrella-Soto. 'I'm kind of sad,' said his brother, Edgar Estrella, 16. 'But he made me a promise: He'd be back.' For decades, combat had spared El Paso. Soldiers went on deployments and, time and again, returned — as if they'd merely been away on a business trip. Yet the war in Iraq has proved the exception."

Coleman Cornelius of the Denver Post focused on a local angle: "Doug Curtis got off an airplane when he returned from military service in Vietnam in 1969, and a war protester confronted him at the Seattle airport. 'I was called a baby killer. I was devastated, just devastated,' said Curtis, 56, who ended his tour of duty as a decorated first lieutenant in the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade. Curtis decided he wanted to do something to support other soldiers and their families during wartime. Now he knows what: The Fort Collins businessman, who sells plumbing, electrical and heating supplies, plans to help northern Colorado military families with home emergencies and repairs during the war in Iraq. 'This is something I can do,' said Curtis, who owns R-N-R Supply Inc. 'It's a very emotional issue for me.' Curtis has formed a volunteer organization called the Northern Colorado Reserve and Guard Family Council. Now he's trying to connect with people who might need help — an estimated 170 families of mobilized National Guard and Reserve members scattered around Fort Collins, Greeley and Loveland."

An editorial in today's Seattle Times started this way: "U.S. military officials, including the civilian commander in chief, are adamant about the outcome while skirting detailed questions about their military strategy. The United States and its allies will win and Saddam Hussein will be removed from power, they say. But it is the details that have become troubling as news organizations are reporting that some field commanders are increasingly concerned about adequacy of the military strategy, including whether there are enough troops, and even supplies. One commander told a Washington Post correspondent that a heavier and longer bombing strategy, discarded before the war, now will be necessary. NBC's Tim Russert yesterday posed a question to Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on behalf of an unnamed military official, asking why the U.S. went to war with inadequate preparation. In the upcoming New Yorker, Seymour Hersh cites a senior Pentagon planner and a former intelligence official saying that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld scaled back war planning against advice from military officials. Military officials surely know the risks of going around their superiors to the media. Can their frustrations be serious enough to warrant such a risky tactic?"

Rowan Scarborough of the Washington Times offered this view: "The U.S.-led air war spared too many targets in Iraq in the war's first days, taking some of the shock out of a campaign billed as 'shock and awe,' say military officials and outside analysts. 'What they announced at the beginning of the war as shock and awe seems to me was largely PR,' said Harlan Ullman, who co-authored the 1996 book, 'Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance.' 'It did not bring the great shock and awe that we had envisaged.' The ongoing air campaign has spared, or delayed hitting, such targets as the defense ministry, Baghdad's telecommunications building, electricity generation and some Ba'ath Party headquarters. In a Feb. 13 article, The Washington Times quoted some Air Force officers as complaining that the air-war target list was too limited. One called it 'timid.' They said planners worried too much about preserving infrastructure and winning over the average Iraqi citizen, as opposed to putting maximum pressure on Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party regime. They also said Gen. Tommy Franks, the allied commander, micromanaged the Air Force's target-selection process. However, senior Air Force officials say they back the plan. They defend the decision to put some dual-use targets off-limits. They say this is a war about liberation and the lives of average Iraqi citizens, and that the task of postwar reconstruction must be considered. Gen. John P. Jumper, Air Force chief of staff, criticized the story in The Times in a letter to the editor as 'based on the musings of a single anonymous source.'"

From around the world:

The Islamic Republic News Agency offered this view from the Iraqi government: "Iraqi Ambassador to Moscow Abbas Khalaf said on Monday that 700 U.S. and British servicemen have been killed and more than a 1,000 have been injured in Iraq since the beginning of war on his country on Thursday, March 20. Khalaf said at a press conference that the invading forces have lost five warplanes, six pilot-less aircraft and six combat helicopters. He said that Iraqis had also managed to capture a helicopter, 74 tanks, 35 armored vehicles and 20 various combat vehicles of the U.S. and British forces. The Pentagon reports that 37 U.S. Marines and 23 British servicemen have been killed. Fourteen U.S. and two British servicemen are missing. The diplomat said Iraqis have begun to bury U.S. and British soldiers killed in southern Iraq because of the shortage of electricity and refrigerators to freeze the bodies. He said that definitely, after the combat actions end, the remains of servicemen will be handed over to the United States and United Kingdom. Khalaf said that the toll among Iraqis, on the lists of killed people are only civilians — 589 are killed and 4,500 are wounded."

The Jerusalem Post reports on the effect of the war on Palestinians: "Palestinians in the refugee camp of Jenin have named their main square after the Iraqi army officer who carried out the first suicide attack against the U.S. Army in Iraq. In the attack Saturday, four U.S. Marines were killed when Ali Ja'far al Na'mani, blew himself up near a military checkpoint on the outskirts of the town of Najaf in southern Iraq. The name of the plaza in Jenin was changed from Mosque Square to the Na'mani Square during a rally Sunday attended by scores of camp residents and Palestinian officials, sources said Monday. 'We want to honor the brave Iraqi officer who carried out the first suicide attack against the American and British occupiers,' a senior Palestinian official in Jenin told The Jerusalem Post. 'We hope there will be more suicide operations in the coming days.' The Jenin refugee camp has been known as a hotbed for extremist Palestinian groups responsible for a numerous suicide attacks in Israel. Camp residents proudly describe the camp, which is home to some 12,000 refugees, as the capital of suicide bombers. The decision to honor the Iraqi suicide bomber comes amid a wave of unprecedented anti-American and anti-British demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip."

The Kenyan Daily Nation provided this editorial view: "The tearful appeals of the anxious families of two Kenyan civilian aid workers held by the Iraqi Army must have touched all those who read or watched the news yesterday. Mr. Jacob Kamau Maina and Mr. David Wachira Mukuria are drivers employed by a Saudi company and were on a mercy mission to take humanitarian aid to Iraq from Kuwait when they were captured. The family of Mr. Maina told the Sunday Nation yesterday that they had little information about his welfare and fate. His employer merely called to say that he had been captured. At the Foreign Affairs ministry, no help was forthcoming either, with an official saying that they were unable to get in touch with the embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to get more information. This is not acceptable. The captives' employer, a British firm identified by the family as Mobarand, has a duty to make representations to relevant international bodies — including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Iraqi Army and the coalition forces — to secure the release of these non-combatants. A key responsibility of the Foreign Affairs ministry is to take care of Kenyans abroad. It, therefore, will not do for the ministry's officials to sit on their hands and turn away suffering families and blame it all on a jammed telephone line."

Russia's Tass News Agency offered this: "Russia's Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi has met with the U.S. Ambassador to Moscow, Alexander Vershbow, whom he handed a list of the most important cultural relics on the territory of Iraq. 'Those monuments belong to all of humanity, not only to Iraq, and we're concerned by their fate,' Shvydkoi said. The list contains several dozens monuments, including the ancient Babylon compound, works of art from Mesopotamia, and cuneiform texts. It was compiled by the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg at the ministry's request. Shvydkoi said Vershbow and he had discussed a wide range of issues pertaining to Russo-American cultural exchanges, which continue to develop despite differences between the two countries over Iraq."

Via the Canadian Press, the Vancouver Sun reported this: "Waving U.S. flags and pro-American signs, about 600 people turned out at the University of Calgary on Sunday for a rally in support of the American-led war on Iraq. It was the second such demonstration in as many days in Calgary, and one of several across the country on the weekend. The supporters carried placards reading 'Chrétien is a Coward' and 'Stop the War' and 'Saddam Murders a Million More,' but organizers insisted they leave them at the door of the MacEwan Hall students centre. Inside, flags from the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia were on sale, with proceeds going to buy phone cards for the troops in Iraq. People were also invited to sign a letter to the U.S. consul general praising his government's 'determination to protect the innocent from the hands of evil dictators and terrorists.' Alberta Alliance MP Myron Thompson, whose 29-year-old son Dennis is a U.S. combat soldier in Iraq, told the crowd Canada should be supporting the U.S. in the war. 'When allies stand together strong as they have in the past, they will overcome," he said. "Let's not turn our backs on them today.' Thompson pointed out that there was no debate and no vote in the Commons on whether Canada should send troops to Iraq. Monte Solberg, another Alberta Alliance MP, called the Liberal government morally bankrupt. 'Jean Chrétien's government wants the shade from the tree but aren't willing to do anything to keep that tree strong,' he said. The other side of the issue was highlighted in downtown Toronto, where NDP Leader Jack Layton and his wife, city councilor Olivia Chow, led an anti-war march to the sounds of bagpipes and beating drums."

Compiled by Andrew Cohen