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Issue: "Army of compassion," April 5, 2003
iraq liberation: week 1
Why is Tony Blair smiling? Despite a sober week of the "brutal and bloody business" of war, which for Brits ended with two soldiers from a Desert Rats unit shown executed on Al-Jazeera TV, Mr. Blair joined President Bush at Camp David in an optimistic recap of the week's fighting. Mr. Blair had reason for confidence: According to WORLD's checklist, coalition forces achieved most goals set out to signal the start of a successful operation ("Six signs the war is going well," March 29). The troops secured southern oilfields, controlled the only major seaport, thwarted Saddam Hussein's ability to launch missiles at neighbors, took control of territory along the Euphrates, and engaged Iraq's Republican Guards just south of Baghdad. Despite widespread assessments that forces had bogged down in a sandstorm outside the capital, the pause, if not the weather, may be part of the plan. While all eyes were on Baghdad and the south, the United States parachuted 1,000 troops from the 173rd Airborne north of Kirkuk. With troops slowly building in that region through the first week, the fresh troops signal the coalition is ready to open a second front. The United States has longstanding troop presence in that region, including building an airfield there up to a year ago. The lull in fighting may be part of a positioning of forces to squeeze Baghdad from the north. From that direction coalition forces are more assured of assistance from Iraqi opposition fighters, mostly Kurds, already trained by the United States. But there's no way to victory except through Baghdad, and President Bush was careful to underscore the challenge to come: "We are now facing the most hardened and most desperate units" of the Iraqi regime, he said, "but we know the outcome."
while the cat's at war...
War in Iraq gives cover for mischief in farflung hot spots. Experts say North Korea may use the time out of the international spotlight to flex its long-range missiles or reprocess spent nuclear fuel rods to make weapons-grade plutonium. Chinese President Hu Jintao, in his first phone call with President Bush since becoming head of state, asked for direct talks between Washington and Pyongyang. But with a war underway, Mr. Bush left crisis containment to China and Japan, backed by forces in South Korea. Howard Baker, U.S. ambassador to Japan, warned Japan that North Korea may be preparing to test-fire a long-range missile. In Cuba, Fidel Castro arrested two to three dozen journalists and democracy activists-the largest mass roundup of opponents in years. The State Department called the crackdown an "appalling act of intimidation." The Castro crackdown coincided with the start of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights annual meeting in Geneva. Last year the human-rights delegates appointed a UN special representative to monitor rights violations in Cuba. Just prior to the Havana arrests, Mr. Castro blocked the visit of the UN designate, French expert Christine Chanet. The Castro regime said her mission was invalid and the resolution authorizing it was illegitimate. While the Jacques Chirac government continued steady condemnation of U.S. action in Iraq, it did not repudiate Mr. Castro. In Geneva, no government has so far expressed interest in sponsoring a motion against Cuba or protesting Ms. Chanet's aborted mission.
playing with fire
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe unleashed a juggernaut of reprisals against participants in a widespread, two-day strike that ended on March 20. Described as "unprecedented violence" by the United States, more than 400 people had been arrested and about 250 hospitalized with broken fingers, toes, and legs by March 24. Victims reported beatings, abductions, and night raids. Two women told the BBC that police had sexually assaulted them. Over the past three years, Mr. Mugabe has driven the country from relative prosperity to pauperism with his policy of redistributing white-owned commercial agricultural land to veterans of the "independence struggle." Inflation hovers at 200 percent while about 7 million are in danger of starvation. The opposition party Movement for Democratic Change organized last month's strike to force Mr. Mugabe to relinquish his oppressive rule. Opposition leaders issued 15 demands for the president to fulfill by March 31, including ending torture and political control of the police force. Mr. Mugabe said he could be a "black Hitler 10-fold" as he warned the opposition not to resort to violence in the strike's wake: "Those who play with fire will not only be burned, but consumed." The ax fell just days before weekend elections for two vacant parliamentary seats that the opposition easily scooped in 2000.

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