From around the country:
Mike Williams of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution filed this from Northern Iraq: "They came expecting to fight a desert war, plodding through dust storms and giant sand dunes in a parched landscape out of the movie `Lawrence of Arabia.' Instead, they parachuted into waist-deep mud on a bone-chilling night with freezing rain pelting a jagged line of nearby mountain peaks that were already covered with snow. For the members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, this war has not been anything like they imagined. In fact, with most of the fighting well to the south of Baghdad, it's not much of a war at all. Instead of advancing across the deserts of southern Iraq, they are digging into positions high in the mountains of Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, 50 miles from the nearest Iraqi lines. Around them, a scenic panorama of mountain valleys and peaks are breaking out in verdant new growth, while shepherds tend flocks and tractors chug through rich black fields. `We jumped into waist-deep mud,' said Pfc. Jaime Hernandez, 21, who calls both San Antonio, Texas and Livingston, Ca. home. `It's nothing like I expected.'"
Robert Hodierne and Riad Kahwaji of the Army Times offered this historical perspective: "The U.S. military calls it the Karbala Gap, a narrow sandy plain between Lake Buhayrat ar Razzazah on the west and the Euphrates River on the east. On Wednesday, American soldiers raced through the gap on their way to Baghdad, facing only minimal Iraqi opposition. To the U.S. military, taking the gap was vital because it provides the most direct access to Baghdad, 50 miles to the north. But to Muslims, this is sacred ground - and the story that is told about what happened here more than 1,300 years ago may offer insights into why there are Iraqis charging Abrams tanks in pickup trucks. In 680, some 48 years after the death of Mohammed, there was a schism over who should head Islam. On one side was Imam Hussein, the prophet's grandson. On the other was Yazid, with a competing claim. The two met on the same sandy plain that Wednesday resounded with the rumble of 70-ton American tanks. In that earlier battle, Hussein and 70 followers were slaughtered by Yazid's army, which numbered in the thousands. Sheikh Hassan Fahs, a Lebanese Shiite Muslim authority and prominent scholar, said Hussein's hopeless battle `was a fight against a tyrant [Yazid] who used devious and corrupt means to get into power. … All Muslim scholars believe Hussein represents the ultimate total opposition to tyranny and corruption.' The story of a virtuous man confronting certain death in a fight against forces he considers evil may inspire some Iraqis to fight against Americans. But, as always, things are more complicated."
Janet Rausa Fuller of the Chicago Sun-Times filed this on a sad homecoming: "`A hero made it home today.' The words, printed on a glossy sheet of paper beneath a photo of Marine Capt. Ryan Beaupre, said it all, though it was not the homecoming the people of St. Anne wanted. The people gathered anyway Tuesday in the gym of the tiny Kankakee County town's grade school, dressed in their Sunday best, to welcome their hero who had grown up in their midst. Beaupre, a Marine pilot, died March 21 -- on the second day of the war in Iraq --i n a helicopter crash in the Kuwaiti desert along with 11 other U.S. and British soldiers. The crash, which is under investigation, was not caused by hostile fire, military officials said. Beaupre was 30. In St. Anne, a town of 1,300, chances are good you knew Beaupre or someone in his family. And so, the lines formed out the front doors of the school and snaked along the sidewalk in the warm afternoon sun. Cars were parked bumper to bumper for two blocks. Nearly 1,000 people showed up for the four-hour wake by one police officer's estimate. They came not just from St. Anne, but from neighboring towns. `Once you met him, you liked him,' said the officer, himself from Aroma County and a family friend. `And if you didn't, it was your problem, not his.'"
Daniel Barrick of the Concord (New Hampshire) Monitor offered this local view: "As of last night, Guy Newbery's son was just miles from Baghdad. Though Bradley Newbery, a 22-year-old corporal with the 1st Marine Division, had already traveled hundreds of miles across the Iraqi desert, his father knew the most difficult stages of the war might still lie ahead. He tried not to think about that last night. `I don't want to worry about something before it happens,' said Newbery, who lives in Concord. `I don't want to think too far ahead. I know he's trained for close-quarters combat. I know it might happen. I just try not to let my mind wander; otherwise, you get worked up needlessly.' Two weeks ago, the 1st Marine Divison, along with the 3rd Infantry Division, was among the first to charge out of Kuwait, across the desert toward Baghdad. As of last night, both units stood less than 50 miles from the Iraqi capital, awaiting the next stage of the American offensive. For parents of the soldiers in these two units, pride in their children's accomplishments is tempered by a hope that they don't risk too much on the front lines. These units have already seen heavy fighting on their advance through Iraq. More worrisome, many parents say, is the idea of an invasion of Baghdad and the urban warfare that would inevitably ensue."
Louis B. Parks of the Houston Chronicle offered this unusual perspective: "In the Civil War, Confederate soldiers bonded to The Bonnie Blue Flag and Dixie, while Union troops rallied to The Battle Hymn of the Republic. World War I sent doughboys Over There, and World War II soldiers will always Remember Pearl Harbor. Every military conflict has had its music, both patriotic calls to arms and anthems to antiwar sentiment. Decades ago, soldiers sang them while marching off. Today, high-tech music fans are downloading them off the Internet as fast as they can be recorded. Check out the downloads on Internet music-sharing site Kazaalite.com. War songs, both pro and anti, are hot. A recent weeknight check found 365 downloads of Tobey Keith's 9/11 vengeance song, Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American), 193 files of Pete Seeger's Where Have All the Flowers Gone and more than 1,000 each of God Bless America and The Star-Spangled Banner. Those numbers reflect only the number of people who had gotten on the site that night. And musicians already are turning out new music addressing the war in Iraq. R.E.M., Lenny Kravitz and Clint Black are a few who have released new songs -- via the Internet. `Music adds a dimension; it's a language to itself,' said Thomas J. Crow, chair of music and associate professor of history at the University of St. Thomas. `It adds connotation you can't get any other way.'"
From around the world:
The Johannesburg (South Africa) Star offered this: "The government has rejected a request from the United States to close Iraqi missions in South Africa, and to expel senior officials. Government spokesperson Joel Netshitenzhe yesterday said South Africa's actions would be guided by decisions taken by the U.N. "Because there has not been any such decision by the United Nations, we do not see any reason to break our diplomatic relations with the state of Iraq. `The U.S. approach was based on the premise that the Iraqi government was illegal and illegitimate, and needed to be overthrown. As I have indicated, we will be guided on this by positions of the United Nations and, most critically, Iraq remains a member of the U.N., and the issue of the legality of the Iraqi state has not arisen there,' Netshitenzhe said. South Africa is one of more than 60 countries petitioned by the U.S. government to shut Iraqi missions, pending the outcome of the war. Netshitenzhe said most of those countries had taken the same position as South Africa."
The Jordan Times provided this view: "His Majesty King Abdullah on Wednesday said the Jordanian leadership and people condemn the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq and that the Kingdom would continue efforts to stop the ongoing war. In an interview with the Jordan News Agency, Petra, King Abdullah expressed his pain and sadness over the rising civilian war casualties. `The Jordanian people, and I am one of them, strongly condemn the killing of children and women. We feel pain and sorrow as we see on our television screens the growing number of martyrs among innocent Iraqi civilians,' he said. `As a father, I feel the pain of every Iraqi family, of every child, and every father,' he added. He reiterated that Jordan which has worked diligently to avert the war was not and will not be a launchpad for attacking Iraq stressing that no country has supported Iraq as the Kingdom did. `Jordan has never been, and will never be, a launchpad for an attack on Iraq. Had our airspace been used to attack Iraq, we would not have allowed civil aviation to pass freely over Jordanian airspace and we would have closed our airspace as other countries did.'"
The London Times reported on the diplomatic side of the conflict: "A new chapter opened yesterday in the battle for control of U.S. policy in postwar Iraq. A U.S. official told The Times that Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, was resisting State Department appointments to the administration-in-waiting, at least one of whom is already in Kuwait. He said that the Pentagon had ruled that Mr. Rumsfeld should personally approve appointments to the temporary U.S.-British administration, `and there are many people who question his authority to take that decision, including, I assume, the Secretary of State.' Of Colin Powell's nominees, he added: `We haven't gotten a no, we just haven't gotten an answer (from the Pentagon).' He said that it was unclear how the row would end as the decision-making process was in flux. `The White House has to step in. One of the variables is Mr. Tony Blair. Once again, he will be a critical voice in all of this,' he said. Barbara Bodine, an experienced U.S. diplomat expected to take the job of administering Baghdad, is in Kuwait waiting to enter Iraq. U.S. officials have said that an inter-agency tussle is going on over whether she should get that job or a national position as coordinator of the civil administration, for which Michael Mobbs, a Pentagon lawyer, was the favourite."
Russia's Tass News Agency looked at how Russians view the war: "Nearly half of Russians are indifferent towards the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, as follows from the results of a national poll held by the Public Opinion fund. Forty eight percent said they were quite indifferent about the Iraqi leader. Another 17 percent do not like Saddam and 22 percent sympathize with him. The number of Saddam's supporters in Russia has been up six percent this year, chiefly with the beginning of the war in Iraq, the polltakers said. In the meantime, the popularity of President Bush has slumped, apparently for the same reason. The share of Bush's critics has been up 1.5 times from 45 percent to 76 percent. A mere 11 percent of Russian men and women like President Bush. A representative sample of 1,500 Russian citizens was interviewed."
Saudi Arabia's Arab News reported this story as an "exclusive": "Two Western journalists have arrived safely back in Kuwait City after being arrested, beaten up and deprived of food and water in Iraq - by members of the U.S. Army's military police. Arab News has learned that Luis Castro and Victor Silva, both reporters working for RTP Portuguese television, were held for four days, had their equipment, vehicle and video tapes confiscated, and were then escorted out of Iraq by the 101st Airborne Division. Despite possessing the proper `Unilateral Journalist' accreditation issued by the Coalition Forces Central Command, both journalists were detained. Their ordeal at the hands of the Americans is in stark contrast to that received by Newsday journalists in Baghdad, who yesterday in Jordan described as `humane' their treatment at the hands of their Iraqi interrogators despite suffering various indignities. `I have covered 10 wars in the past six years - in Angola, Afghanistan, Zaire, and East Timor. I have been arrested three times in Africa, but have never been subjected to such treatment or been physically beaten before,' Castro said in an exclusive interview with Arab News. `The Americans call themselves liberators and freedom fighters, but look what they have done to us,' he added."
Compiled by Andrew Cohen