Front Page: Iraq, March 23, 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 reported on an anti-war demonstration in that city: "Don McDaniel stood on the side of Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta watching the afternoon buzz around him. The 36-year-old tax manager looked like any other downtown employee — except he held a blue and white sign that read 'War Is Not the Answer' in the middle of a late afternoon war protest. 'I was kind of looking to see if there were more people who looked like me,' McDaniel said. 'There are a few.' Since the war in Iraq started last week, the local peace movement has gained steam with marches getting larger, louder and more diverse. An anti-war gathering Thursday on Peachtree and Marietta Streets attracted college and high school students as well as people coming from work. Saturday's demonstration attracted at least 400 chanting and flag-waving protesters. Screaming slogans like 'Support Our Troops, Bring Them Home,' protesters forced the Atlanta Police Department to close down streets and flood downtown with extra officers."

The Chicago Tribune offered this editorial perspective: "The question, from a 14-year-old, was a simple one. Can Saddam attack us? The teen was worried that with the start of the war, Iraqi warplanes would soon be overhead, bombing American cities. Even after she was assured that Iraq has no such capabilities, the 14-year-old's anxiety did not seem to ease. In that way, she reflects a large number of Americans, who have watched the opening days of this war with a level of anxiety unlike the first Gulf war or any other in recent memory. Along with the natural concern for the soldiers in danger, there's something new: a sense of vulnerability. Not since World War II fears of a Japanese invasion of the West Coast have Americans felt threatened on home soil in wartime. Korea, Vietnam, the first Gulf war — all were half a world away, with little or no fear that somehow the fighting would spill onto American soil. But in the aftermath of Sept. 11, that confidence is gone, replaced instead by nervous anticipation. This war, the first pre-emptive war in United States history, is also the first that brings the heightened threat of terrorist attack."

Steve Raabe of the Denver Post provided this look at those who fight oil well fires: "Hellacious infernos of raging flame. Unexploded cluster bombs and mines. Waves of toxic gases. With a handful of Iraq's oil wells aflame, Ronnie Roles hopes he is headed for Hades on the Euphrates. And he can't wait. Roles' firm, Cud Pressure Control of Houston, is one of three U.S. oil-field specialty firms preparing to send crews to Iraq to put out oil well fires. Battlefield reports of burning oil wells verify what military experts long have suspected: Iraq has placed explosive charges on many of its 1,700 wells, just as it did in 1991 when retreating Iraqi soldiers blew up 700 wellheads in Kuwait. U.S. and British forces have captured all major facilities in Iraq's southern oil fields, saving them from Iraqi sabotage, the chief of Britain's defense staff said Friday, although northern oil fields were not yet secured. Roles well remembers the searing heat, the flames and the noon-turned-to-night smoky pall that enveloped his teams as they labored to put out the Kuwait fires. Now he's ready to go back for more. 'It's hot and dangerous, but it's very thrilling and satisfying to me,' said Roles, a veteran of 26 years in the business. 'You're doing something that not a lot of other people do.'"

This is how Sam Howe Verhovek and Mark Magnier of the Los Angeles Times started their report from Safwan, Iraq: "Amid the jubilation here as convoys of American and British troops streamed north, a panicked woman waved her arms and wailed in grief as the battered pickup in which she was riding skidded to a stop on the dusty street. On the floor of the truck were two dead men, their blood splattered over women supporting their limp bodies. 'It came from the foreign helicopter,' one of the women said. 'It came right into the house.' As the world watches the relentless U.S. and British advance through the desert, the view from this small corner of the conflict suggests that some Iraqis may pay a far higher price than advertised for regime change. Claims of a dozen civilian deaths, and several times that many injuries, over the last three days could not be confirmed, nor could one report by a villager who said a helicopter opened fire in response to gunfire from an Iraqi rifleman. With many roads still mined, subject to sporadic gunfights or clogged with tanks — along with no functioning police force — getting to the truth will take time. In this southernmost region of Iraq, there has been unexpected and persistent resistance to American and British troops."

Bob Woodward of the Washington Post provided this background about the star of the war: "When President Bush huddled with his senior national security team Wednesday afternoon to consider fresh CIA intelligence that President Saddam Hussein and other key members of the Iraqi leadership were spending the night at a complex in southern Baghdad, the Bush team was aware of another, perhaps even bigger secret. Under the official war plan, designated 'OPLAN 1003 V' and approved by the president, the war with Iraq had already begun. A little more than two hours earlier, at 1 p.m., Washington time, 31 Special Operations teams — about 300 men — began pouring under cover of darkness into western and southern Iraq. Joining smaller contingents of U.S. Special Forces and CIA paramilitaries already in Iraq, the special operators fanned out to sever communications, take down observation posts and position themselves to prevent what the Bush administration most feared — moves by the Iraqi high command to use chemical or biological weapons, attack Israel with Scud missiles or destroy the country's oil fields. The plan anticipated a 48-hour window for the special operators to carry out their missions before the official start of the war, set for 1 p.m. Friday with massive air strikes against Baghdad and other cities. Soon afterward, the president was to announce the start of the air war, and conventional ground forces were to cross the Kuwait border into Iraq nine hours later."

From around the world:

Britain's Guardian newspaper offered this perspective: "A few thousand miles away in the upstairs drawing room of 1 Carlton Gardens, London, Robin Cook, former Cabinet member, former Foreign Secretary and the first person to resign from Tony Blair's Cabinet on a point of principle, sat and considered the wreckage of a political career...Cook's position is based on more than a disagreement over whether and when military action should have been taken against Saddam. He questions the legitimacy of the war, arguing that with more time for inspectors it could have been avoided. But there is also the larger issue of America's role in the world and how Britain should relate to the elephant over the water. Cook believes he is seeing a crisis in the world order, once based on an acceptance that the U.N. was the ultimate custodian of international law and now replaced by the desires of the world's first hyper-power. 'America is a hyper-power, it can afford to go it alone,' Cook said. 'Britain is not a superpower. It is not in our interests to contribute to a weakening and a sidelining of international bodies like the Security Council. The Security Council and the system of world order governed by rules has been badly damaged."

The Jerusalem Post reports on a successful Allied raid: "About 30 Iraqi troops surrendered today to U.S. forces of the 3rd Infantry Division as they overtook huge installation apparently used to produce chemical weapons in An Najaf, some 250 kilometers south of Baghdad. One soldier was lightly wounded when a booby-trapped explosive went off as he was clearing the sheet metal-lined facility, which resembles the eerie images of scientific facilities in World War II concentration camps. The huge 100-acre complex, which is surrounded by an electrical fence, is perhaps the first illegal chemical plant to be uncovered by U.S. troops in their current mission in Iraq. The surrounding barracks resemble an abandoned slum. It wasn't immediately clear exactly which chemicals were being produced here, but clearly the Iraqis tried to camouflage the facility so it could not be photographed aerially, by swathing it in sand-cast walls to make it look like the surrounding desert. Within minutes of our entry into the camp on Sunday afternoon, at least 30 Iraqi soldiers obeyed the instructions of U.S. soldiers who called out from our jeep in loudspeakers for them to lie down on the ground, and put their hands above their heads to surrender."

The Sydney Morning Herald reported this on the death of an Australian journalist killed Saturday: "Paul Moran, 39, was a fearless war correspondent who modeled his two-decade career on the legendary Australian combat cameraman the late Neil Davis, who feared the agony of dying more than death itself. Like Davis — who was gunned down in crossfire during an attempted coup in Bangkok in 1985 — Paul Moran died instantly, when a taxi drew to a halt next to him and exploded. His mother, Kathleen, said from her Adelaide home yesterday that Mr. Moran, the father of a one-month-old baby, had finished filming for the day and had just removed his flak jacket when the taxi pulled up. Mr. Moran's devastated wife of two years, Ivana, 40, was yesterday making her way from their home in Paris to northern Iraq, escorted by another ABC journalist, to retrieve his body. Mr. Moran died along with three Kurdish fighters, known as peshmergas, becoming the second Australian cameraman in as many years to die in a war zone."

The Yemen Times reported on the effects of an anti-war protest there: "An 11-year-old Yemeni boy plus three more Yemenis were killed on Friday in a shootout between police and anti-war protesters in the Yemeni capital San'a, security sources said. The sources said three policemen and at least two more civilians were hurt in the clash that erupted after police blocked about 3,000 protesters from marching on the U.S. embassy in the Arab state. Witnesses said the demonstrators set tires and garbage cans alight while chanting: 'Oh youth of Islam, say no to war and yes to peace' and 'No to U.S. hegemony and hypocrisy.' Yemen has seen some of the largest anti-U.S. rallies in the Middle East over the Iraq crisis. Anti-American sentiment has been running high in the impoverished Arab state, which is seen in the West as a haven for Islamic militants, including members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. Yemen, bin Laden's ancestral home, has closely cooperated with the U.S. war on terror since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks which Washington blames on the al Qaeda leader. At several San'a mosques, preachers denounced the war on Iraq in fiery sermons, with some accusing Washington of trying to seize control of 'all that is sacred to Arabs and Muslims.'"

Compiled by Andrew Cohen