Rice Fields

Rice Fields

Rice Fields

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Nov. 16 2002 8:26 AM

Rice Fields

The New York Times and the Washington Post lead with a Palestinian ambush in the West Bank city of Hebron that left 12 Israelis killed and at least 15 wounded. The Los Angeles Times fronts the ambush, but, in its top national story, goes with an insistent Condoleezza Rice, defending the administration's war on terror.

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Jewish settlers walking home from Sabbath prayers in Hebron were ambushed by Palestinian snipers, according to the leads in the Post and the NYT. Twelve were killed, some civilian, some security guards and soldiers who were drawn into what the NYT says may have been a "carefully planned trap." At least three Palestinians—the snipers, according to Israeli soldiers—were killed in response.

The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility—over mosque loudspeakers in Gaza City no less—and Israeli leaders blamed Yasser Aarafat. "The pattern is very clear now," a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry says in the NYT. "Every time either an American emissary comes to achieve a cease-fire or Israel eases up on the conditions to make life easier for the Palestinian population, there is a terrorist attack. The Palestinian leadership is holding its own citizens as hostages in order to implement its political aspirations."

"He does not begin his day on Iraq," Condoleezza Rice says of President Bush, as quoted by the LAT. "He begins his day on the war on terrorism and the threat levels, and the threat information that we have about the United States." The recent flurry of al-Qaida activity—including the apparent re-emergence of Osama Bin Laden—has put pressure on the administration to appear still vigilant. Rice ticks off the small victories and ongoing difficulties in the war on terror. A new al-Qaida higher-up has been captured this week, according to officials, but no one's saying who he is.

The Post off-leads talk of a new U.S. domestic spy agency. Rice and others (Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, etc.) celebrated Veteran's Day with a discussion of a new counterterrorism group that would take spying responsibilities away from the FBI. Tom Ridge has already made the trip to London to study up on MI5, the fabled British spy agency. Robert Mueller III, FBI director, demurs, insisting the bureau can make the transition from law-enforcement to counterintelligence. On Thursday, the FBI warned of "spectacular" attacks planned by al-Qaida against the U.S. There were no specifics.

Hans Blix says his people will begin work by Nov. 27, 10 days before Iraq's "full, accurate and complete" declaration of its weapons program is due, according to a NYT fronter. The chief U.N. weapons inspector and his team will be in Baghdad by Monday, reclaiming the offices, helicopters, and vehicles last used by inspectors in 1998. "We will have to make sure that the pigeons that have broken through the windows will be chased out," Blix says. Regarding Western intelligence on Iraqi weapons, he says, "we cannot exclude the possibility that Iraq has such weapons, and we are not saying that all the intelligence is wrong—it may be right—but we are not also confirming it."

Bill Keller, in his NYT op-ed column, warns that Blix will be in no rush. Keller calls him a "confrontation-averse Swedish diplomat who likes to remind people that it took him three years to investigate South Africa's nuclear program—with the South Africans' full cooperation. ... By the time the inspectors have set up shop, looked around a little and made their first report to the Security Council, it could be nearly March. By April temperatures in Baghdad are in the 80's and climbing fast, making an inhospitable climate for soldiers in hazmat suits. So unless Saddam does something reckless or the White House has a case of post-election overreach, we are not going to war just yet. We are going to inspect."

The Post fronts Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward's new book, Bush at War, an exhaustive retelling of the administration's decision to go to battle in Afghanistan. The revelation is Woodward's suggestion that payments to Afghan warlords (about $70 million) played a huge part in defeating the Taliban. But it's the dish on Secretary of State Colin Powell and his many enemies that will sell the book. During the 2000 election, Karl Rove detected, in Woodward's words, "a subtle, subversive tendency, as if Powell were protecting his centrist credentials and his own political future at Bush's expense."

Finally, the LAT invites us to mock the work of someone named Keith Edmier and his "muse," Farrah Fawcett, who are featured in an exhibit at the L.A. County Art Museum that "examines the relationship between celebrity and art." (He sculpted her, she him.) And mock it we do. Edmier had one of those Farrah posters in his room back in the '70s ("That image was the most beautiful picture I'd ever seen. It was pure.") and he read in an old Dynamite that the former Angel studied art at U.T. Austin. And there you go. "We basically just started pushing clay around, talking," Edmier says. All art is difficult—Farrah had never sculpted male genitals before; their first piece blew up in the kiln—but the pair persisted. Even writing the press release was tricky. "We'd get as far as, 'Keith and Farrah intend ... ' and he'd get hysterical laughing," Fawcett recalls.

Bill O'Brien is a freelance writer living in Manhattan.