Baaths Take Bath

Baaths Take Bath

Baaths Take Bath

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 17 2003 6:54 AM

Baaths Take Bath

Everybody leads from Iraq with the allied rethinking of the post-war order. The New York Times reports that Iraqi self-rule has been delayed indefinitely, reversing the original plan, which was to have an interim government in place by the end of this month. Coverage in the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post focuses on "de-Baathification," as one U.S. official puts it (in the WP). As many as 30,000 ranking Baath party members will be barred from holding jobs in the new government. 

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The big brass—Paul Bremer, other U.S. and British diplomats, and Iraqi political figures—met on Friday in Baghdad, where it was announced that U.S. troops will remain in place and allied officials will remain in charge, thereby delaying Iraqi self-rule for the time being. The allied rationale, according to the NYT¸ is that an interim government would not have the strength and resources to rule effectively at present—and that its failure would tarnish the allied victory. 

Iraqi opposition leaders, though "very respectful" to Bremer, reacted with surprise and disappointment, the NYT reports. "I don't think they trust this group to function as a political leadership, and for us it is very difficult to participate in something that we have no control over," an Iraqi attendee says in the Times. "Nobody is thrilled with this," says another, in the WP.

The "de-Baathification" appears to be in response to organized efforts by Baath party members to undermine the new social order, according to the LAT. This, too, is a policy reversal by the allies, who were initially only interested in banning the party's most senior officials. The Post reports that all Iraqis who work for the government will be forced to sign "some form of denunciation or renunciation" of the party, as a senior U.S. official put it. More than 50 aspiring bureaucrats have already signed.

The NYT and the LAT off-lead the coordinated suicide bombings in Casablanca late Friday night. At least 24 people were killed, including the 10 attackers, who used car bombs and "detonated another device to strike Jewish, Spanish and Belgian targets," according to the NYT. "The attacks left body parts strewn over the streets of the coastal city," the LAT reports. The chief suspect is obviously al-Qaida, though the Moroccan interior minister said only that the attacks "bear the hallmark of international terrorism." (NYT) Hours before the Casablanca attacks, the FBI sent 60 agents to Riyadh to investigate the suicide bombings that killed 34 there on Monday.  

The failure to dig up weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has done nothing to damage President Bush's appeal, according to a front-page "analysis" in the WP. In a May 1 Gallop poll, 79 percent of Americans said the war was still justified. Democrats critical of Bush before the war have experienced a radical change of heart, placing them in sync with public opinion. Nancy Pelosi, who accused Bush of exaggerating Iraq's nuclear capabilities, said, "I salute the president for the goal of removing weapons of mass destruction." Tom Daschle gave the president "great credit" for winning the war. 

Bush filed his papers with the FEC yesterday, becoming an official candidate for the presidency in 2004, according to another Post fronter. A million or so fundraising letters go out on Monday, as Bush, in the Post's words, gets "his campaign rolling in the tailwind of wartime popularity." He hopes to reap a record $170 million. (He will not accept federal matching funds and so will not be bound by spending limits.) The Post notes that Bush's current 71 percent overall approval rating in the latest WP poll falls short of the 77 percent his father achieved after his gulf war. A perplexing 52 percent approve of George W.'s handling of the economy. 

The NYT fronts the futility of drug testing in high schools and middle schools. A study by researchers at the University of Michigan shows that testing has about the same affect as just leaving those kids alone, i.e., not testing. For example, 37 percent of seniors at schools that test used marijuana in the last year, compared with 36 percent at schools that don't—a statistically insignificant deviation. The Supreme Court has twice empowered schools to test for drugs. In 1995, Justice Antonin Scalia described the "efficacy of this means for addressing the problem" of student drug use as "self-evident," according to the Times.

"Every meeting, from umbrellas to pants, now turns into a discussion about SARS. The apparel world has been instantaneously changed." That's fashion designer Cynthia Rowley with the NYT's quote of the day. Bans on travel, shipping delays, and "worries about what the future" have disrupted the clothing industry, which does much of its business in China and Hong Kong. But some companies are finding ways around the problem. "When we need to touch and feel, well, that's why God invented Federal Express," says a Federated exec.

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