All the papers lead with another fractious day at the U.N., as Hans Blix delivered a somewhat rosier—though still mixed—assessment of the situation in Iraq. In response, Colin Powell put aside his prepared notes, according to the New York Times, and pleaded with the Security Council to get behind the idea of military action. The NYT called the confrontation "frontal and impassioned."
But not persuasive. Powell met with deep resistance, even from countries—like rotating council members Guinea and Chile—believed to be sympathetic to the administration's cause, the Washington Post reports. France—that old stick in the mud—voiced the loudest and most eloquent opposition. "In this temple of the United Nations, we are the guardians of an ideal, the guardians of conscience," the Foreign Minister said, as reported in the NYT. "This onerous responsibility and immense honor we have must lead us to give priority to disarmament through peace." He drew uproarious applause.
As the Los Angeles Times notes, the Blix report was something of an inkblot, a make-of-it-what-you-will. "Knowing perhaps that this time a negative report might mean the end of inspections," the LAT chides, "Blix scrupulously stuck to the facts …" He did call for the destruction of the Al Samoud 2 missile—the one that exceeds the legal limit of 90 miles—and in so doing "set in motion a series of events that could produce an unarguable, visible violation by Baghdad," according to the WP.
The LAT reports that Washington will present a pro-war resolution to the Security Council by next week, risking veto from the permanent members and/or a "coordinated abstention" from the rotating members. A resolution must receive nine votes and no vetoes to pass. France proposed reconvening the council on March 14—a timeline the Bush administration will surely oppose, though, as the NYT points out in a news analysis, U.S. and British troops will probably require until then to get in position.
The NYT and the Post run remarkably similar, get-tough editorials expressing frustration with the U.N. "The Security Council doesn't need to sit through more months of inconclusive reports," the Times writes. "It needs full and immediate Iraqi disarmament. It needs to say so, backed by the threat of military force." "Even if others lose their nerve," the Post concurs, "the United States must ensure that this time the dictator suffers the 'serious consequences' that are due."
On the home front, the president and his Homeland Security secretary tried to take the edge off some of the fears they helped create, according to the Post's off-lead. Tom Ridge said he didn't really want people to seal their windows and doors; he only meant that duct tape and plastic sheeting should be part of every family's emergency disaster kit. The NYT goes to the trouble of quoting/ridiculing Bill Frist, who told his Senate colleagues to relieve stress—to "play cards, play bridge or take part in something that's larger than just yourself. Exercise regularly, eat well and get a good night's rest." Unnamed sources in the Post say that if we make it through this holiday weekend, the alert level is likely to drop back down to a more manageable yellow.
A Colombian soldier and an American civilian working for the U.S. government were found shot to death after their plane crashed in Southern Colombia, the papers report. Three other Americans who were on the plane were presumably kidnapped by leftist rebels. It's unclear what the Americans were doing when the plane went down—working on an anti-drug operation for the Pentagon, according to the WP, while the LAT has them "intelligence-gathering" for the "U.S. Southern Command." The leftist group—FARC—"has announced a policy of kidnapping prominent Colombians to force the government to release an estimated 3,000 imprisoned guerrillas in return for the captives' freedom," the LAT explains. "Recently, FARC told some local leaders that it was planning to begin seizing foreigners because the Colombian government had not responded to the pressure for an exchange."
Finally, the LAT fronts the rejection of Kobe Bryant, not by Yao Ming—though his popularity may have had something to do with it—but by Reebok, which dropped the Lakers forward from its roster of stars. According to unnamed sneaker experts, Kobe doesn't know how to hang—he's "lived overseas and speaks Italian," the LAT reports, and he "is perceived in some quarters as being too suburban, too aloof." Bryant tried to boost his street cred by recording a hip-hop album, to no avail. "His rap was whack," says one disbeliever. "When he put out that CD, nobody bought it. And you know why nobody bought it? Because nobody bought him."