- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 9, 2003

Iraq and the world
It isn't the big news days that drive us nuts; it's the days when no single item stands out and everything else seems to be of more or less equal importance.
Coverage of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's presentation to the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, for instance, was a snap. The event began early in the day, giving us lots of time to digest the material, and went more or less according to script.
U.N. correspondent Betsy Pisik wrote our main story, based on what happened in the council chamber: Mr. Powell's remarks and the response from the other Security Council members.
She was instructed to concentrate on the politics of the event and to go light on the details of the evidence presented by the secretary; that was wrapped up in a tightly focused second story, by national security reporter Bill Gertz.
State Department reporter Nicholas Kralev was also in New York for the day. He covered the secretary's bilateral meetings outside the United Nations and briefings at the U.S. Mission across the street, producing an analytical item on the Bush administration's view of how the day had gone.
An assistant national editor rode herd on a full page of graphics reproducing Mr. Powell's evidence to complete the package. Three reporters, three front-page stories a piece of cake.
It was on Thursday that things got complicated. Clearly there had to be follow-up stories, but this time the news was a lot harder to organize.
By midafternoon we were looking at 10 elements and trying to figure out how to organize them into two stories one by Miss Pisik from the United Nations and one from Mr. Kralev, who was back in Washington.
Mr. Kralev had been at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for an appearance by Mr. Powell at 10 a.m., ostensibly to discuss his budget but where Iraq was certain to come up. Indeed it did, and Mr. Powell treated us to some good, strong rhetoric though not much in the way of hard news.
We also had an interesting tidbit from Associated Press State Department reporter Barry Schweid, who was quoting a White House source as saying the White House would push for a second U.N. resolution if, and only if, it concluded the French would not veto it. The next 24 hours would be crucial, Mr. Schweid had been told.
Trumped by the president
Chief U.N. inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, meanwhile, had met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London, where they said their next report, Feb. 14, would be highly negative if the Iraqis did not dramatically improve their cooperation.
In Turkey, parliament had voted to allow the United States to upgrade military bases, a necessary first step toward attacking Iraq from the north. But NATO officials meeting in Brussels had for the third time refused to approve alliance action in support of Turkey in the event of a war.
Then there was the reaction to the Powell presentation, primarily from the French, who appeared to be digging in their heels. There was also a lively ruckus in Berlin, where the Germans were upset at being lumped with Cuba and Libya by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Other reaction was flowing in from Arab capitals and even the Vatican, which pronounced itself unimpressed with Mr. Powell's address.
We had more or less sorted all this out into one story that led with Mr. Powell on Capitol Hill and included the weapons inspectors in London. The second story, from the United Nations, would lead with the prospects for a second U.N. resolution and round up most of the international reaction to Mr. Powell.
Then, about 4:30 p.m., President Bush came on the television with a brief address declaring that "the game is over" for Saddam Hussein and urging U.S. allies to join in disarming him.
At this paper, as at most others, the president trumps everyone else in his administration. A decision was made that White House reporter Bill Sammon would write the main story, leading with Mr. Bush, and that most of Mr. Kralev's story, including Mr. Powell's remarks, would be folded into that.
Miss Pisik's story from the United Nations survived and was beefed up, with the remarks from the inspectors in London shifted over to her.
David W. Jones is the foreign editor of The Washington Times. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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