U.S., JAPAN TRAVEL ADVISORIES RAISE FEARS OF IMMINENT U.S INVASION
by Joe Shea
ASmerican Repiorter Correspondebnt
Los Angeles, Calif.
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 25, 2003 -- A rare global travel advisory from the U.S. State Dept. to American citizens abroad and a similar advisory from the Japanese government allegedly warning their citizens to leave Iraq by next Wednesday has tripped alarms around the world, with some Websites predicting that the State of the Union address by President George W. Bush on Tuesday night will signal the start of a U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The official Dept. of State Website does carry an extraordinary warning issued Friday and titled "General Advice For Americans Resident Overseas," saying, "We do not want American citizens to become unduly alarmed. These are precautionary measures only. Given the potential for acts of violence, terrorism, or anti-American demonstrations, we believe it is important for all citizens to maintain readiness for all possibilities in case of an emergency. We will promptly inform you of any significant developments and advise you accordingly," the advisory (http://travel.state.gov/general_advice.html) cautions.
"The Department of State encourages all American citizens residing abroad to register their presence and obtain up-to-date information on security conditions at the nearest American Embassy or Consulate," says the advisory. According to Friday editions of the respected Japan Times, whose story is headlined "Japanese Urged to Exit Iraq", Japan's foreign ministry on Thursday issued a warning to Japanese citizens in Iraq, saying "U.S. and British forces are strengthening their military forces in the (Persian) Gulf area ... and there is a possibility that in the worst case, military action against Iraq will begin."
Both reports were carried Saturday in an online report by From The Wilderness (www.fromthewilderness.com), a politically progressive Website based in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
News of the Japanese advisory did not appear in any of the other major media Websites visited by The American Reporter. The American Reporter received email from the Hamiltonian, another progressive Website, alerting readers to an "urgent message" concerning the war.
The report published in Japan Times did not mention a Wednesday deadline, however, and no mention of the Japanese advisory could be found in a search of CNN, where a From The Wilderness spokesman said he heard the report, nor in an extensive search of the Japanese Foreign Ministry Website or that of the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations and other news sources, including First Headlines, a comprehensive listing of breaking news reports from around the world.
However, one Japan's most popular online news sites, Japan Today (see http://www.japantoday.com/e/?content=news&cat=1&id=247046) did report the Wednesday deadline. In a brief article Friday, the publication said, "The Foreign Ministry instructed Japanese Embassy officials in Iraq on Friday to call on Japanese nationals in the country to evacuate by next Wednesday, ahead of a possible U.S.-led attack on Iraq, a ministry official said."
The major online media, meanwhile, are downplaying any talk of imminent war.
In the lead paragraph of MSNBC's top story today, the joint venture of Microsoft and General Electric subsidiary NBC says, "Despite a wave of deployment orders issued by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld over the past five weeks, the Pentagon has only begun sending major combat elements to the Persian Gulf and cannot assemble the force required for an invasion of Iraq until late February or early March, defense officials and analysts said yesterday." The same paragraph leads the Washington Post Website's coverage of the war. Meanwhile, the New York Times Website top story seems to buttress fears of war breaking out. Quoting Iraqi President Hussein's top science advisor, Gen. Amir Al Saadi, saying that war appears inevitable, the paper also quoted Secretary of State Colin Powel. who isl in Davos, Switzerland, to advise international business leaders at the World Economic Forum about the likelihood of a confrontation with Hussein.
In the top story, the Times reports from Baghdad that "Saddam Hussein's top science adviser said today that he feared a United States attack might now be inevitable, regardless of what United Nations inspectors conclude about the last two months of renewed searches for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. "One tends to think it is coming, no matter what we do," the Times quoted Al Saadi as telling foreign reporters Saturday.
The Times also says "Secretary of State Colin L. Powell warned reluctant allies not to shrink from any strike on Iraq just because 'the going is getting tough.'" Powell told reporters, "The burden is upon Iraq. ... Iraq must comply, or it will be made to comply with military force."
Perhaps the strongest warning comes from the top story on the Los Angeles Times site, where the main headline says, "Prepare for War With Iraq, Bush to Tell America."
"President Bush will tell the nation to prepare for war in next week's State of the Union address, the White House said Friday, as the State Department alerted U.S. citizens overseas to be ready to evacuate on short notice," the paper reported from Washington.
"While other U.N. Security Council members are seeking ways to avert a military conflict, the president will say in his address Tuesday that the U.S. is getting ready for an invasion, White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett said Friday. But the president won't go so far as to declare war on Iraq, Bartlett said."
The American Reporter has not opined on the inevitability or proximity of war with Iraq, but a spokesman for the paper said he believes war is not imminent and in fact will not occur, largely due to the reluctance of allies and waning support among the American people for an invasion in the absence of compelling evidence that Hussein's regime possesses weapons of mass destruction.
A report to the Security Council due Monday from U.N. weapons inspectors will not support U.S. claims that Iraq has nuclear or chemical weapons, and the U.S. has tacitly agreed to extend inspections by several weeks, the Washington Post reported. "...[R]equests from Britain, the need to build more public and political support at home and abroad, and a military schedule that is a month or more away from full deployment have combined to temper thoughts of attempting an earlier inspection cutoff," the Post reports.
The Los Angeles Times also drew attention to the imminent U.N. report, saying "The United Nations' chief nuclear weapons inspector will give a report Monday to the U.N. Security Council that offers the United States little encouragement in its campaign to convince the world that using force against Iraq appears to be the only option.
"Both of us are going to say we have no evidence of proscribed activities," Egyptian inspector Mohamed El-Baradei, head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, told the Times.ElBaradei, speaking for himself and inspector Hans Blix, said flatly. "We are both going to plead for more time."
As for the timing of the Japanese travel advisory, the American Reporter spokesman notes that it coincides with Tuesday's speech by President Bush to a Joint Session of Congress, since Japan is across the International Dateline and a day ahead of the United States. The President's speech will be heard there on Wednesday evening.