Grim in Gaza

Grim in Gaza

Grim in Gaza

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Oct. 16 2003 6:52 AM

Grim in Gaza

The Los Angeles Timesand Washington Post lead with essentially follow-ups on yesterday's bombing of a U.S. convoy in Gaza that killed three Americans. As the papers emphasize, there's little doubt the convoy was purposely hit: It was easily recognizable as American and the bomb appears to have been a remote-controlled. "Of course (the Americans) were targeted," said a Palestinian police commander. The attacker "was waiting for them, or he had information that they were arriving." The New York Times and USA Today lead with a ferry accident in New York City that left 10 dead and dozens injured. The ferry hit a Staten Island pier at full speed. The pilot fled and attempted suicide.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad both said they had nothing to do with yesterday's attack. As everybody notes, President Bush largely blamed Arafat. "Palestinian authorities should have acted long ago to fight terror in all its forms," Bush said. "There must be an empowered prime minister who controls all Palestinian security forces, reforms that continue to be blocked by Yasser Arafat."

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The papers all notice that after the blast a group of young Palestinians at the scene started demonstrating and stoned Americans investigators and reporters. "America has to pay for its foreign policy, which is against Muslims," said one. The Post, in a sentiment echoed in the other papers, says, "Palestinians have grown increasingly angry with the U.S. government for offering no criticism of Israel." As the LAT reminds, in the past few days Israel has destroyed about 100 homes in Gaza (Israel said the operation was to destroy tunnels and weapons caches), and the United States didn't comment. Here's a PBS interview with the NYT's John Burns about being confronted by the crowd.

As the Wall Street Journal says up high, the United States continued to tweak its proposed U.N. resolution on Iraq. And as the WP emphasizes inside, the White House now appears to have Russia's vote, leaving only Syria, France, and Germany as likely abstentions.

Still, the resolution won't mean much. "Even if the measure passes," says the Journal, "it represents only a symbolic call rather than an obligation for U.N. members—or even the organization's own staff—to assist the U.S. in Iraq. Diplomats say more-substantive U.N. support would require conditions Washington has ruled out." Slate's Fred Kaplan details how the resolution leaves the United States in near-complete control.

As one analyst told the LAT, "The U.N. will has been pronounced on Iraq three times and in none of the three instances has the resolution brought the U.N. closer together or helped to internationalize support for the reconstruction."

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Despite all this, the WP calls the United States' apparent winning of Russia's vote an "important victory" for the Secretary of State Powell. Which, of course, it is—in some extraordinarily narrow sense.

That's emblematic of the Post's recent U.N. reporting. All week, the paper has been focusing almost exclusively on horse-race style coverage: Which countries are leaning which way, what the current head count is, etc. That stuff is certainly news. But it also needs to be contextualized. Namely, what is or could be the substantive result of all the jockeying? Otherwise, except for Kofi and other diplo-jocks, who cares?   

The WP fronts conclusions of a survey taken by the semi-official Star and Stripes military newspaper showing that, out of about 1,500 soldiers questioned, half said their unit's morale was low. Here are the full survey results which 1) do include some bright spots; and 2) don't represent a scientific sample.

Everybody notes inside that despite White House opposition, a bipartisan Senate plan to turn at least part of the $20 billion reconstruction package for Iraq into a loan is gaining momentum and could go to a vote today.

The NYT and WP fronts an FDA panel's 9-6 vote recommending that silicone breast implants be allowed back on the market. Citing a lack of conclusive data about the implants' long-term safety, the panel said approval should be contingent on makers agreeing to continued monitoring and testing. The FDA usually follows its advisory panels' decisions.

USAT notices that the much-derided federal program to vaccinate health workers against smallpox has basically stopped. "The fact is, it's ceased," said one of the program's overseers, "not that anyone's issued an edict to say stop."

In the course of criticizing the White House's lack of listening skills, the Times' Thomas Friedman takes a whack at ... the Times. Noticing that his paper covered—on Page One, as it happens—a defending-the-war speech Vice President Cheney recently gave to a friendly crowd, Thomas writes, "I wish we had said to the V.P.: If you're going to give a major speech on Iraq to an audience limited to your own supporters and not allow any questions, that's not news—that's an advertisement, and you should buy an ad on the Op-Ed page."