Tuesday, April 01, 2003

At last I'm ready to move on to yesterday's New York Times. Sheesh. By the way, yes, I'm skipping Sunday's paper. In my experience, the Sunday Times is best appreciated when one does not read the paper during the week. Sunday's edition, when I've been reading the Times all week long, always seems too fluffy, or fluffed-out, to me. I don't mean to suggest there is anything wrong in reading it. But I don't. And I won't be reporting on it. So sue me. I don't get paid for this.

But first, I would be negligent not to make note of an article on the front page (C1) of the Business Day section in Thursday, March 27th's New York Times titled "W.T.O. Rules Against U.S. on Steel Tariff," by Elizabeth Becker. This news gladdens me. Those tariffs were anyway just a sop to states with steelworkers in them, which Bush's political pointman, Karl Rove, singled out as needing a little encouragement to vote for Bush next time out. Read it and cheer.

If I had the time, I'd follow what's going on with the new antismoking law here in New Jack City. Clare and I went out to eat at one of our local pubs last night, Mugs Alehouse, and the place, without smoke, seemed dead. Also, people seem smaller without a cloud of smoke surrounding them.

The lead story in yesterday's Times (March 31, 2003) — "Infantry Attacks Baghdad Defense with First Probes; Armor Advancing; Army and Marines Take on Republican Guard to Shape Big Fight," by Patrick E. Tyler — notes "mobilization to deliver aid in the south" of Iraq and "guarded optimism" among U.S. and British officials "that they were close to breaking Baghdad's hold over the city and establishing a secure zone to begin aid deliveries."

The last four grafs of the piece note that the relief effort is being coordinated out of Kuwait, and that water remains the top priority.

Michael Marx, "the leader of the emergency response teams of the United States Agency for International Development," is reported as saying that "Marauding gunmen from Baghdad's security forces in the Basra region were holding up plans for distributing aid." [the quote is from the article, not from Marx]

"Candies and Aspirin for Those Who Fled Their Embattled City," on page B4 of Monday, March 31's NY Times, filed by Michael Wilson out of Nasiriya, in southeastern Iraq, reports: "Marines delivered cases of their own combat rations and a 400-gallon tub of clean water today to a nearby tiny camp of refugees fleeing the bombs falling on this city. American troops have fought steadily in and around Nasiriya since last weekend.

"The mission was a tiny model of geopolitical relief: we feed you now, you help us later — in this instance, marines hope, with tips on enemy movements. The note on the in-and-out board in a marine command tent listed the morning's outing as 'hearts and minds.' "

Do I need to point out that this is why independent aid groups are opposed to the militarization of aid and want the U.N., rather than the U.S., to coordinate the relief effort?

On point number one, the March 27 letter from thirteen private aid groups to President Bush stated: "Assigning responsibility for humanitarian coordination in Iraq to the United Nations is in the long-term interest of all concerned parties, including the Iraqi people. [. . .] This will allow U.S. military personnel in Iraq to concentrate on the tasks they must complete before they can come home—locating and securing weapons of mass destruction, establishing a climate of peace and stability, disarming and demobilizing military units, and detaining potential war criminals. These are tasks the military is uniquely trained to perform, while the UN is uniquely prepared to orchestrate the delivery of humanitarian services. The UN, working with private NGOs from around the world, is best able to leverage private and public funds to provide the relief the U.S. has promised to the people of Iraq."

On point number two, the letter notes Bush's statement at the March 16 news conference in the Azores, with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, and Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Durao Barroso, where Bush "called the United Nations 'a very important organization' and vowed to 'quickly seek new Security Council resolutions to encourage broad participation in the process of helping the Iraqi people to build a free Iraq.' ”

It then reminds Pres. Bush of the "six humanitarian principles your administration announced in late February," the second of which says: "We recognize the expertise and capacity of the United Nations, other international organizations, and NGOS in humanitarian relief operations, and we plan to support them—facilitating and funding their efforts—to the greatest extent possible."