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:

David Zucchino of the Los Angeles Times filed this from inside Iraq: "Through the monocle that rested on his cheek, and on the video monitor near his lap, Chief Warrant Officer Jeffrey Lamprecht spotted his target: a row of three Iraqi tanks on the outskirts of the Shiite Muslim holy city of Karbala. Lamprecht was in the front seat, the weapons seat, of an AH-64 Apache gunship early Saturday morning. He was the lead man on the lead Apache helicopter on the very first combat mission for the 101st Airborne Division. He was eager and, he admitted later, nervous. At age 31, he had never before flown a combat mission. Lamprecht felt better when he saw that American rockets had prepped the target area, setting one tank aflame. That prompted him to focus the Apache's nose camera on a point behind the burning tanks, revealing the three exposed tanks. He locked on and released a Hellfire missile. It pierced the tank, which burst into flames. Seconds later, Hellfires ripped into the other two tanks. 'Did we hit 'em?' Lamprecht's pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Duane Crawford, 38, asked a few hours later as he recounted the morning's mission. 'Oh, yeah. We could see the secondary explosions.'"

Roger Roy of the Orlando Sentinel offered this perspective: "The most successful beggars are the children, who are almost all barefoot. One boy of about 10, leading a group of four children, was especially successful when the Marine Transportation Support Group convoy stopped to regroup along a dusty desert road. Within an hour, the boy had several bottles of water, candy, and more bags of MREs (Meals, Ready-to-Eat) than he could carry. None of the Marines that the waif-like child approached spoke Arabic, and his only English seemed to be 'OK,' which he said often, usually while giving the Marines the thumbs up. But the language of hunger is universal. No one had any trouble understanding what he meant. As they journey through the desert, the Marines increasingly encounter civilians. In rural areas, most of the people are poor, living in tents and tending sheep. Many beg for food on the side of the road. The Marines throw bags of MREs, unwanted food or candy. They also give them bottled water, cigarettes and even U.S. dollars, which seemed to puzzle some of the Iraqis. The commanders try to stop the Marines from giving the food away, because it attracts more and more Iraqis to the convoy routes. Aside from security worries, the officers' fear the children will be hit by one of the huge truck tires as they run alongside, hands outstretched to grab the food. The orders go mostly ignored by the Marines, who can't resist the pleas for help. `You've got to give them something,' said Cpl. Nicholas Suniga, of San Jose, Calif. 'Look at them. They don't have anything.'"

Josie Huang of the Portland (Maine) Press-Herald filed this about one of the war's first U.S. casualties: "Two days before a fateful helicopter mission in Kuwait, Maj. Jay Thomas Aubin mailed a letter to his mother, Nancy Chamberlain. 'I want to thank you for everything over the years,' Aubin wrote. 'You always tried your best to put us first at your expense. I wish it had worked out that I was closer to your grandkids. Hopefully,' he continued, 'I will be home soon.' Those parting words pierced through mourners at St. John the Baptist Church on Saturday, as the Rev. Paul Plante read the letter during a memorial service for the fallen Marine pilot. More than 600 people sat in pin-drop silence, feeling the presence of the Skowhegan native who perished with three other Marines and eight British soldiers when their chopper crashed nine miles from the Iraqi border on March 20. The U.S.-led attack on Iraq had just begun when Aubin died, at age 36. He was among the first allied casualties of the war that also included another man with ties to Maine, Cpl. Brian Matthew Kennedy, whose mother lives in Port Clyde. A service for Aubin, who was promoted posthumously from captain, was held last Wednesday at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz., where he lived with his wife and two children before he was dispatched to Kuwait about a month ago."

Sheila Gardner of the Reno (Nevada) Gazette-Journal offered this local perspective: "When Dr. Thom Merry is deployed to Kuwait, he will be carrying a tiny pair of wings that belonged to a World War II pilot and a lucky dollar bill from a 10-year-old patient named Sara. The dollar came with the message: 'I will be worrying about you night and day but with the lucky dollar bill I know youll (sic) be safe. Please be safe, Sara.' As he closed his practice last week to serve as a surgeon for the Marines, Merry said he has cherished his patients' gifts, and their support and that of his wife and two grown children would carry him through tough times ahead. 'I feel like I should be over there,' the Gardnerville doctor said. 'I really want to go do my job.' Cmdr. Merry, 52, a Navy flight surgeon on loan to the Marines, said a sense of duty prompted him to give up his Gardnerville family practice for at least a year and volunteer for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Kuwait. 'The thought of having these young Marines over there and me not there to help them is unsettling,' he said during a break between patients last week."

Alan Bjerga of the Wichita (Kansas) Eagle filed this: "While Americans fight a war in Iraq, Ray Crumbaker may help win the peace with 1,800 acres of wheat. 'If this ends up being humanitarian aid, that's great -- that makes an impact on Iraq, and on farmers right here,' said Crumbaker, who farms outside Brewster in northwest Kansas. In Iraq, a growing humanitarian crisis looms beyond the casualties, the urban confusion and the ever-changing battle plans. An estimated 2.1 million Iraqis are becoming refugees in need of food. And most of the rest -- 25 million-- will depend on food aid when the war is over, the United Nations World Food Program estimates. Besides feeding hungry people, food aid will help determine how peacetime Iraq is shaped and how the U.S. military action is judged. Kansas farmers are central to that effort -- and they stand to benefit from an increased demand for wheat."

And from around the world:

The Japan Times focused on post-war issues: 'Japan can participate, under the current legal structure, in minesweeping operations to help reconstruct a postwar Iraq, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Sunday. 'Even without a new law, operations such as removing mines are possible,' Kawaguchi said on an NHK television program. She was referring to new legislation being debated that would authorize Japan's involvement in the postwar reconstruction of Iraq. The government is expected to submit the reconstruction support bill to parliament after the U.S.-led war against Iraq ends. The bill would allow the deployment of the Self-Defense Forces to Iraq for such operations as transportation, medical care, removing weapons of mass destruction, aiding refugees and engineering, according to Liberal Democratic Party leaders."

The Jordan (Amman) Times provided this perspective: 'Some Jordanian drivers and students returning home from Iraq Friday said they were searched by US soldiers at Kilo-160 in Iraq, an area some 260km from Baghdad, where they were directed to either return to the Iraqi capital or proceed via an alternate route to the border. 'They asked us to produce our travel documents and later directed us to return to Baghdad, saying we should never drive on the highway,' Faris Saad Faek told The Jordan Times. 'They made us get face down on the ground with their weapons drawn,' said Faek, a student at the University of Baghdad, who arrived here late Friday. Abdullah Nabil, a driver who arrived in Amman Friday, said drivers coming from Baghdad were being forced to take another route, driving along less developed roads through the desert in order to reach the border. Nabil said the American soldiers were looking for Iraqi military personnel aboard vehicles. 'They were speaking to us in English and asking if we were transporting any Iraqi soldiers,' Nabil said."

The London Daily-Mirror offered this: "ANGRY relatives last night slammed a pitiful attempt by the Government to apologise for Tony Blair's claim that two soldiers who died in combat in Iraq were 'executed'. Armed Forces minister Adam Ingram would only say: 'If there's hurt from the language used, we regret that. It was never the intention.' No 10 said: 'We have nothing more to add.' Outraged, the family of Sapper Luke Allsopp - who say they were repeatedly told by his sergeant that he died fighting - hit back: 'We're disgusted by Blair. 'The last few days have been hell for us. Our boy died with honour. We accept the Army's word, not Blair's.' Mr. Blair appalled relatives with his shocking claim after the bloodied bodies of heroes Luke, 24, and Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth, 36, were pictured on Arab Al Jazeera TV. A day after the Premier used the tragedy to score points against Saddam Hussein, Mr Ingram said: 'Information available to us did indicate the soldiers may have been executed.' Claiming Mr. Blair's remarks were in the context of what was known about Saddam, he said the language used was 'to point up our knowledge of the depravity of that regime.' He refused to say whether he or the Prime Minister had written to the Allsopps to apologise."

South Africa's Independent newspaper provided this view: "'Every day seems like your last. It was the scariest time of my life and the trip out of Baghdad was terrifying, because we could see and feel the buildings shake when the bombs hit the city as we left.' These were the chilling words of one of the 20 South African human shields who left Baghdad for Jordan on Friday, amid heavy bombardment by American cruise missiles. Co-ordinator for the Iraq Action committee, Abie Dawjee, said the South Africans had played their role in Iraq and were ready to return home. Dawjee and 19 others will catch a flight to Johannesburg and are expected back in the country on Tuesday morning. Speaking to the Tribune on Saturday, from his hotel in Amman, Jordan, Dawjee said that being a human shield was the most terrifying thing he had done in his life."

Russell Skelton of the Sydney Morning-Herald offered this opinion: "It was a performance worthy of any big Hollywood production. In murky green light paratroopers jumping from a C-17 transport to the cries of 'Go! Go! Go!' A 'cam' attached to a trooper's helmet recording the spectacular night descent through driving rain, hundreds of soldiers drifting to a muddy welcome in Northern Iraq. Even the language suggested that the paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade had been dropped into the middle of a combat zone. The press release talked about the operation at Harir airfield as one of 'seize and control'. The images were dutifully flashed across the networks and ever since then Major Robert Gowan, the brigade's Texas-born public relations officer, has been giving regular updates about the paratroop force on CNN…. It is hard to imagine a military operation in this war that may have had more publicity. But there is something distinctly odd about the inordinate amount of publicity being given to the establishment of the U.S. northern front. For a start there was no need for the 173rd to be parachuted in. They could have landed safely at the airstrip and avoided the 'broken legs and other injuries'. There was also nothing to seize and control. The airstrip had been in Kurdish hands for more than 10 years and the nearest Iraqi positions are about 200 kilometres away… But the accompanying publicity and dramatic footage of the night jump raise suspicions that the so-called northern front may be just that: all front and not a lot of action."
Compiled by Andrew Cohen