Front Page: Iraq, March 21, 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:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports this local perspective: "Discussions about the war took on an international flavor as customers from four continents huddled over steaming coffees and frosted donuts at a Dunkin' Donuts in Lilburn. Dzenana and Chris Cruz of Norcross were among those glancing up at CNN updates on the restaurant's twin televisions. Though both fled war-torn lands for America, they don't see eye to eye on their adopted country's war. Dzenana, 19, said she would have ordered an attack on Saddam Hussein immediately after 9/11. The same Muslim aggression that tore apart her village in Bosnia is to blame now, she said. 'I think they should have done it a long time ago,' she said. 'He waited way too long.' Her husband Chris, 23, found himself thinking more about the Iraqi people who might be hurt in the upcoming missile barrage. His family left El Salvador amid guerilla warfare in 1984. 'Not everything is 100 percent accurate on those missiles,' he said. 'If it's off 1 degree, it could strike someone's home.' Sitting one table over was another war survivor, Holland-born Jan Pasch of Lilburn. Pasch remembers waking up to German orders to evacuate his village in 1944. His family packed their belongings onto a bicycle and wagon, then drifted around the countryside for weeks in search of food."

Edwin Chen of the Los Angeles Times provided "back-story" detail: "The stealth bombers were already in the air, bound for Baghdad. After a debate of more than three hours in the Oval Office with his war council, President Bush had just three more minutes to decide whether to launch the war with Iraq or turn the bombers around. One more time, he polled each advisor. He reviewed for the last time an unexpected eleventh-hour intelligence bonanza regarding the whereabouts of senior Iraqi leaders, possibly including Saddam Hussein. Then Bush gave the order. 'Let's go,' the president said. Thus the war against Iraq began. A senior White House official provided a detailed account late Thursday of the tense hours that led to Bush's decision Wednesday night to launch the first attack of the war, an effort to "decapitate" the Iraqi leadership. The official's account not only revealed how he made the decision to take the country to war but also illustrated how deeply Bush, who likes to delegate, has been involved in making the decisions."

Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker of The New York Times offered this tantalizing report: "Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today that allied officials had held secret talks with members of Iraq's elite Republican Guard and Special Republican Guard about defecting or surrendering. Vowing that Saddam Hussein's 'days are numbered,' Mr. Rumsfeld said he was encouraged by signs that the threat of an all-out American attack was prompting many Iraqi military units and their commanders to consider a cease-fire or giving up. Hours after American missiles hit a bunker where Mr. Hussein was believed to be meeting with senior officers, United States intelligence officials said there were indications that the individual on a videotape released after the assault was Mr. Hussein, although no final analytical conclusion had been reached. But Mr. Rumsfeld sounded certain of victory. 'There's no question that the people of Iraq and the people of the region have to know that his days are numbered - he's not going to be there,' he said. 'We are in communication with still more people who are officials of the military at various levels - the regular army, the Republican Guard, the Special Republican Guard - who are increasingly aware that it's going to happen, he's going to be gone,' he told reporters.

The San Francicso Chronicle reported on local anti-war protests: "It took three hours for anti-war activists to cripple downtown San Francisco using hit-and-run civil disobedience tactics to an extent never before seen in the Bay Area. The city that nursed the sit-ins and be-ins of the counterculture protesters of the 1960s was gummed up by a form of demonstration that relies on the whims of small knots of activists, who flitted from block to block instead of lumbering with the predictability of a mass march. Although a loosely-knit affiliation of small groups called Direct Action Against the War coordinated Thursday's demonstration, even its organizers didn't know where the hydra was going. 'We don't really know how many people are out there or where they're going next,' Ladan Sobhani, an organizer with Direct Action Against the War, said shortly before noon. 'People make that decision on their own.' At the 11 a.m. peak of the protests, activists had shut down 30 intersections, blockaded a dozen buildings and forced police to ask motorists not to come into downtown. Fostering this kind of organized chaos was one of the coordinators' goals — and the challenge for police who admitted to being a step slow."

Thomas E. Ricks of the Washington Post offered this political and military analysis: "The war that the U.S. military has launched in Iraq isn't the kind it has been told by Colin Powell and his peers that it should be ready to fight. Since the American policy of gradual "escalation" of military force ended in failure in Vietnam, a generation of officers has been shaped by the notion that when the nation goes to war, it must use its overwhelming power to decisively defeat enemies. But the opening phase of the latest Persian Gulf war has been marked instead by a few sharp, narrowly focused blows aimed at bringing down the government of Saddam Hussein without having to resort to a conventional, all-out attack. Since yesterday, U.S. and British forces have launched about 60 cruise missiles at a few key "leadership" targets, dropped a handful of bombs, and sent Special Operations forces to reconnoiter key targets. Then they accelerated the timing of the ground war, sending several thousand troops across the border from Kuwait. Perhaps most importantly, the United States intensified a months-long psychological operations campaign aimed at turning the loyalties of the Iraqi army, or at least persuading it that resistance is futile. According to a senior Bush administration official, surrender negotiations were underway yesterday between U.S. officials and a number of Iraqi unit commanders. 'What they're trying to do right now is to punish the regime and give forces a chance to capitulate,' this insider said. 'It's a selective use of force to see if you can separate the people from the regime.'"

From around the world:

The Arab Times (Saudi Arabia) led with this: "The Kingdom expressed its 'deep concern and regret' over the U.S.-led military operations against Iraq yesterday. Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal spoke of the 'Kingdom's hope for a quick halt to military action and for the return to peaceful efforts,' according to the Saudi Press Agency. In the first Saudi reaction to the start of the U.S.-led war, Prince Saud emphasized that Iraq's 'unity, internal security and territorial integrity' must be preserved, and rejected a military occupation of Iraq by U.S.-led forces. Prince Saud reiterated that the Kingdom's stance would be 'under no circumstances to take part in the war against Iraq,' again saying that 'its armed forces will not enter an inch of Iraqi territory.' The Jeddah-based Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) also called for an immediate end to the war on Iraq and a diplomatic solution to the standoff. 'The OIC deeply regrets the latest developments in Iraq and for an immediate end to military operations and a return (to diplomacy) to try to find a peaceful solution through the U.N. Security Council,' Secretary-General Abdulwahed Belkeziz said. He also urged the return to Iraq of U.N. weapons inspectors, who were pulled out in the final hours before the United States launched the war earlier yesterday to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein."

The China (Beijing) Daily reported this from its government: "The Foreign Affairs Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC) expressed grave worries Friday over the military actions against Iraq by the United States and a number of other countries, strongly calling for a halt to the operations. In a statement, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the NPC, China's top legislature, said that on March 20 the United States and some other countries launched military actions against Iraq. "We hereby express our grave worries," the statement said. China, as a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations, has always devoted itself to safeguarding the unity, authority and role of the Security Council, it said. China has always stood for a political solution to the Iraq issue within the U.N. framework, and urged the Iraqi government to strictly, fully and earnestly implement relevant Security Council resolutions and to destroy completely any weapons of mass destruction, the statement said. Meanwhile, China maintains that Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity should be respected, it said."

Berlin's Die Welt offered this editorial, translated by the good folks at the Guardian newspaper: "It is unimaginable that Germany remains neutral during the deployment of U.S. troops. The opposite is true: we have to stand firm at the side of the U.S. and its partners...The U.N. Security Council as a whole has failed in the search for a peaceful solution. I am not saying that the American government has done everything right. But the fact that it has not been possible for a new resolution before military action began, is to a great extent the responsibility of the [German] federal government. Instead of looking for a dialogue with the U.S., it actively worked against its allies - the U.S., Britain and Spain - and cancelled all solidarity."

Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency led with this: "Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has described the U.S.-led attack on Iraq as 'satanic' and called for an immediate halt to the invasion. 'Although the attack has started at the American and British will, it is not clear whether the end of the war will also be at their hands if they do not rapidly pull out of this battle,' he said in his Friday message to Iranians on the eve of Norouz which marks the new solar year of 1382. 'The Islamic Republic of Iran, while calling for immediate halt to the war, does not defend the dictatorial Baath regime; it only defends the Iraqi nation and believes that the future of Iraq must be decided only by the Iraqi nation,' the supreme leader said. Ayatollah Khamenei also called on the Iranian youth to stay vigilant against British and American provocations, including their cultural and political war against the Islamic Republic. 'My message to the beloved youth is that they strengthen their resolution and prepare themselves for a brave presence in various scenes. Although we may have no military war, we will definitely have a political and economic, especially a cultural war,' he said. 'This is the unmasked face of America which pays no heed to the world public opinion and defines illegitimate and illegal interests for itself wherever it wishes and creates enormous tragedies in order to achieve them,' Ayatollah Khamenei added."

The Jerusalem Post offered this news about the coming Sabbath: "Israeli Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau urged those Jews who observe the Sabbath to keep their radios on and carry their gas masks to synagogue as Home Front Command has recommended. In matters of life and death, Orthodox Jews are permitted to carry on Shabbat and listen to emergency radio broadcasts, Lau told Israel Radio. 'Anything must be done for the sake of saving life,' he said. He recommended that Israelis tune into those radio stations designated as 'quiet' channels, which will broadcast only in the event of an emergency. Israel is on a low-level alert for a possible strike by Iraq. Although the chances of sustaining an attack are considered low, the Israeli authorities are not completely ruling out the possibility and have urged the public to keep a sealed room or shelter ready and to keep their gas masks handy."

Compiled by Andrew Cohen