Gazaillions March

Gazaillions March

Gazaillions March

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
March 23 2004 5:31 AM

Gazaillions March

The Washington Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and Los Angeles Times all lead with the protests and riots across the West Bank and Gaza—and elsewhere—that followed Israel's killing of the founder of Hamas. The New York Times, which off-leads the protests, calls one march in Gaza City "easily the largest demonstration" there in 10 years. The NYT leads with the FDA advising doctors to tell patients that antidepressants might increase the risk of suicide when first taken. The FDA also recommended that drug makers put a detailed warning on pill bottles. There have been some studies suggesting a possible link between adolescent suicide and some antidepressants. 

There were protests of Sheik Yassin's killing in Cairo, Greece, Jordan, Pakistan, and Iraq, where Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani chimed in, calling the extrajudicial execution an "ugly crime." Britain's foreign minister, in an unusually strong rebuke, called it "unacceptable," "unjustified," and "unlawful."

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Everybody notes that the White House said it was "troubled" by the killing. But the NYT notices that the White House actually started the day without criticizing Israel, only to decide a few hours later that was no longer operative after a "torrent of criticism erupted throughout the Arab world." Said one unnamed administration official, "When you see thousands of people all over the Arab world coming out into the streets, it's hard to ignore that."

The papers all guess at Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's motivations for the killing. One theory that officials backed up: Sharon wanted cover for his potential pullout from Gaza. As one unnamed Israeli official told the NYT, "Part of the Israeli policy as we move toward disengagement is to make Hamas bleed, so no one can proceed on the assumption that an Israeli withdrawal is a victory for them." Meanwhile, a NYT news analysis says Sharon is betting that Hamas has already been so weakened by the Israeli campaign against it that it won't be able to do much in response. The Times' writer, Greg Myre, is skeptical, noting that "many" in Israel are anticipating a surge in bombings.

There was disagreement within Sharon's government about whether to go ahead with the attack. As most of the papers mention, the Interior minister opposed it, as reportedly did the head of Israel's security service. But according to USAT, 82 percent of Israelis supported the strike.

Nobody fronts the latest from Iraq, where Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani came out against Iraq's U.S.-supported interim constitution. He warned of "dangerous consequences" if the United Nations endorses the document. As the LAT explains, Sistani objects to the proposal of making the presidency a three-member council consisting of a Shiite, a Sunni, and a Kurd, a clause that he says "enshrines sectarianism." Perhaps the homebound Sistani has been reading up on American magazines, because the New Republicmade similar criticisms a few weeks ago.

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Iraq attacks wrap-up: Two Finnish civilians were killed by gunmen in Baghdad; a U.S. soldier and his Iraqi translator were killed by a roadside bomb Sunday night; 14 British soldiers were wounded by two explosions in Basra; one Iraqi cop was killed and two wounded in an attack near Mosul;and eight Iraqi policemen were wounded when a bomb exploded outside an American Air Force base. The NYT covers only a portion of these attacks and stuffs that limited coverage at the end of an article it runs inside.

The NYT briefly mentions troubles with the attempts to professionalize Iraq's nascent government. Of 80 names submitted by Governing Council members for deputy minister positions "about 50 were people with no known qualifications other than their political affiliations."

According to a piece stuffed inside the NYT, the much-ballyhooed Pakistani offensive against Islamic militants near Afghanistan appears to be "faltering." The paper quotes local tribal leaders saying that many of the militants—perhaps Uzbeks—left nights ago. Apparently not all of them are gone: Militants in the area, or perhaps tribal fighters, attacked a Pakistani army convoy yesterday, killing at least 12 soldiers. The attackers don't appear to have suffered any casualties. (By the way, overall the coverage of this fighting has been inconsistent, at best. One of the likely reasons is that, judging by datelines, the Pakistanis aren't letting reporters stay at the scene.)  

The WP goes Page One with word that paramedics in a few cities are experimenting with giving trauma victims artificial blood, a product that ultimately could save thousands of lives. The subhead suggests a Tuskegee-study level of ethics: "Emergency Patients Unwittingly Get Artificial Blood." It's not until the 18th paragraph that the Post lays out the rules: "Emergency medical workers will try to obtain consent from patients or a family member if one is present, but in most cases victims are likely to be either unconscious or not lucid enough. A family member will be contacted as soon as possible, however, to see if the patient may continue in the study."

The LAT, WP, and NYT all front the White House's big counter-attack against Richard Clarke, the administration's former top counter-terrorism official who says that the White House has made one long strategic error by focusing on Iraq rather than on al-Qaida (invasion of Afghanistan not included). The LAT and NYT both play catch-up, having stuffed Clarke's complaints yesterday. In about a dozen TV and radio interviews, administration officials tried to hit Clarke's credibility from multiple angles, saying that he was "out the loop," has partisan motivations, and is merely ticked that he didn't get a promotion. "This is Dick Clarke's 'American grandstand,' " soundbited White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

A Page One Post profile of Clarke says he does have a tendency toward self-promotion but also says he's a straight shooter, has been a registered Republican, and is a certified hawk. Nor was everybody on board with the attacks against him. The WP says, "Many Republican lawmakers were conspicuously silent on the matter yesterday." One who wasn't: Sen. Chuck Hagel. The Republican said, "This is a serious book written by a serious professional who's made serious charges, and the White House must respond."