- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 14, 2002

Peacekeeper protection
I recently watched, on video, a Public Broadcasting System profile of legendary editor Jim Bellows, who presided over the last days of the Washington Star some 20 years ago after a distinguished career at the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.
The show portrayed Mr. Bellows as a scrappy and somewhat mischievous character, always on the lookout for the chance to stir up a controversy that would maintain interest in his paper. To that end, it noted, he would seldom let an issue drop after reporting it just once; rather, he would hammer away at it until something gave way.
The show gave me a new appreciation of my bosses at The Washington Times, who like nothing better than to latch onto an issue that is being overlooked by the establishment press and to pound away until the authorities are forced to respond.
It was precisely this kind of coverage that led to the forced resignation of D.C. Fire Chief Ronnie Few over his, and his top aides', falsified resumes a decision that looked pretty good in light of a Georgia grand jury's scathing criticism last week of his actions as a county fire chief in that state.
The same attitude lay behind our coverage of the foreign story that dominated our front page during the past week the attempt by the Bush administration's diplomats at the United Nations to win immunity from the new International Criminal Court for U.S. peacekeepers.
Our U.N. correspondent, Betsy Pisik, has been writing about the ICC since the earliest preparatory conferences "prepcons" in U.N. dialect some five years ago. Without taking sides, she was the first reporter to write about many of the issues that made the court such a problem for two U.S. administrations and conservatives in Congress.
It was not surprising then, when she reported exclusively at midweek that the U.S. delegation in New York felt it was within reach of a compromise deal with the other Security Council members that would shield American peacekeepers from the ICC on an indefinitely renewable basis.
Her front-page story Wednesday, with predictions of a deal before a threatened U.N. mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina expired tomorrow, forced the rest of the major media to follow up the next day, when the U.S. delegation moderated its position even further to say it could accept immunity for just one year.

Congress preoccupied
But Miss Pisik remained a step ahead of the competition. Even before the new U.S. position was circulated to Security Council members Wednesday afternoon, she had received a copy of a letter from four prominent senators including the two from Virginia saying even the earlier proposed deal was unacceptable to them.
That story ran on Thursday's front page as Miss Pisik headed off to Maine for a scheduled vacation. We handed the story over to Washington-based reporter Nicholas Kralev, expecting there would be plenty of fireworks from Congress over the further softening of the Bush administration's position.
To our surprise, it was very hard to find anyone on the Hill who was willing to comment at all. As one staffer explained to Mr. Kralev, the legislators were too busy with the scandals over corporate malfeasance to pay attention to what many of them had previously decried as a threat to American sovereignty.
Our bosses were determined nevertheless to put the story on the front page Friday, and we found our lead late in the day. Mr. Kralev learned that the negotiations had been going badly for the United States, and that it was doubtful whether the administration would be able to get approval for even its scaled-back demands.
The deal did go through on Friday, however, thanks to support from U.S. allies on the Security Council. Short-staffed that day, we led yesterday's front page with the an Associated Press story reporting that the council had voted unanimously to give the peacekeepers from the United States and other non-participants in the court automatic immunity for one year.
Our main competitors, meanwhile, seemed to have moved on to other issues along with the members of Congress. There was only minor mention of the story Friday in The Washington Post and the New York Times, and even yesterday, after the one-year deal was sealed, The Post played it deep inside, about halfway down its third page of world news.

David Jones is the foreign editor of The Washington Times. His e-mail is [email protected]

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