Weekly Review — April 15, 2003, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

Faced with the unlikelihood of finding any nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons in Iraq, the Bush Administration was beginning to suggest that Saddam Hussein had moved all his weapons of mass destruction to Syria. Asked whether Syria was “next,” Donald Rumsfeld said: “It depends on people’s behavior. Certainly I have nothing to announce.” President George W. Bush, asked whether Syria has weapons of mass destruction, replied: “I think that we believe there are chemical weapons in Syria, for example, and we will ?? each situation will require a different response, and of course we’re ?? first things first. We’re here in Iraq now, and the second thing about Syria is that we expect cooperation.” American military officers denied that they had stage-managed the much broadcast destruction of a statue of Saddam Hussein, surrounded by a small crowd of cheering residents, and said that it was just a coincidence that the very same American flag that flew over the Pentagon on September 11 was on hand to be wrapped around the statue’s head. The U.S. Central Command printed up decks of playing cards depicting the names and images of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle to help American soldiers recognize them; Saddam Hussein appears on the ace of spades. President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair both went on Iraqi television and told the Iraqi people, almost none of whom had electricity, that “the nightmare that Saddam Hussein has brought to your nation will soon be over.” Kurds were driving Arab families from their homes in northern Iraq. An American tank fired into the Palestine Hotel, where most foreign journalists in Baghdad have been staying, and killed two Reuters cameramen. American forces also attacked the offices of Al Jazeera, the Arab television network, killing one journalist, and the offices of Abu Dhabi TV. In each case, U.S. officials claimed that they were responding to enemy fire, and in each case the claims were disputed by witnesses. Seven American prisoners of war were found alive. Baghdad and other cities in Iraq were in chaos; mobs were looting businesses, government offices, and private homes.”You cannot do everything simultaneously,” said Donald Rumsfeld. “It’s untidy.And freedom’s untidy.And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes.” One notable crime was the looting of the National Museum of Iraq, which held a massive collection of ancient artifacts from more than 7,000 years of Mesopotamian civilization. Occupying forces intervened briefly but then left; what was not stolen was destroyed. The German Embassy and the French cultural center were both ransacked as well; in the German Embassy, wives were observed making selections as their husbands carried furniture down the stairs.

Officials in Singapore and Hong Kong warned that SARS may never go away. Dr. Leung Pak-yin, the deputy health director of Hong Kong, was not optimistic: “We believe that every citizen could become a carrier of the virus.” Health experts have also speculated that “contaminated objects” could be spreading the disease, and that cockroaches might be tracking contaminated sewage from one apartment to another. In Singapore the Roman Catholic Church suspended confessions because of the SARS epidemic and declared a “general absolution” of sins for the Easter season. Singapore’s government issued electronic wrist tags to help authorities keep track of SARS patients who have been placed under quarantine; the tags set off an alarm if the patient leaves the house or disables the device. Congressional Republicans and the Bush administration were plotting to make permanent the provisions of the USA Patriot Act that are set to expire in 2005, the provisions which radically expanded the government’s power to spy on American citizens. Mexican authorities arrested 42 police officers for selling drugs to school children. Eleven people, including seven women, were killed in their sleep when an American warplane mistakenly dropped a 1,000-pound laser-guided bomb on their home in eastern Afghanistan. Ten suspects in the bombing of the USS Cole escaped from a prison in Yemen. A group of Jewish terrorists called Revenge of the Toddlers claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on a West Bank high school that injured at least 20 students. Israel fired five missiles into a neighborhood in Gaza, killing a Hamas leader, a 14-year-old boy, and several others. Scientists published new genetic evidence that suggests cannibalism was widespread among prehistoric humans. NBC personality Katie Couric interviewed the Central Park Jogger on TV and remarked that the tragedy of the woman’s rape and beating was “magnified by her background.”

New data from the Internal Revenue Service revealed that investigations of suspected tax criminals have fallen, although cheating has been on the rise. The Army Corps of Engineers revealed that the Pentagon contract to fight oil fires in Iraq, which was awarded to Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, Dick Cheney’s most recent private employer, will be worth up to $7 billion. The contract was given without the usual competitive bidding process. Two 2,000-year-old frescoes were stolen from the House of the Chaste Lovers at the ruins of Pompeii; the frescoes were found a few days later, slightly damaged and packed up for shipping, in a nearby building. Mecca Cola was selling briskly in France. The House of Representatives voted to limit lawsuits against gun manufacturers. Senator Bill Frist said that vaccine makers should have immunity from lawsuits so that they can try to cure diseases such as SARS. More than 3,000 children in northern China were sick from drinking poison soy milk; three children died and several were blinded by the milk, which turned their eyes, noses, and mouths black and blue. The cause of the poisoning was unknown. Two vials of ricin that were found in a locker at the Gare de Lyon train station last month turned out to be wheat germ and barley. Norway’s parliament banned smoking in bars and restaurants throughout the country but delayed the start of the ban until spring 2004. In New York City, a bouncer who attempted to enforce the city’s new smoking ban in a bar on the Lower East Side was stabbed to death. Scientists announced that a quick dose of caffeinol, an experimental drug that mimics the effect of an Irish coffee, helps prevent brain damage in mice that suffer artificially stimulated strokes. A Canadian research center announced that it had sequenced the genome of the coronavirus that scientistsScientists hope causes SARS. Current cloning techniques will not work on primates, a team of scientists concluded, because the nuclear transfer procedure destroys crucial proteins. Dolly the sheep was stuffed and put on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. People in Australia were being menaced by starving kangaroos.

Single Page

More from Roger D. Hodge:

From the October 2010 issue

Speak, Money

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada



October 2015

Lives by Omission

Lifting as We Climb

Cattle Calls

Getting Jobbed

view Table Content


“One of the peculiar things about economic inequality is that the people who are most articulate about it are not poor, while the poor themselves have said little, at least in print, about their situation.”
Photograph © Reuters/Brendan McDermid
“It would be nice to get through this review without recourse to the term ‘writer’s writer.’ The thing is, in the case of Joy Williams, I have seen the cliché made flesh.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
“Miniatures originated in Persia and were brought to the Indian subcontinent when the Mughals conquered it in the sixteenth century. They could take on almost any subject: landscapes or portraits; stories of love, war, or play.”
Painting by by Imran Qureshi.
“The business of being a country veterinarian is increasingly precarious. The heartland has been emptying of large-animal vets for at least two decades, as agribusiness changed the employment picture and people left the region.”
Photograph by Lance Rosenfield
“Rosie and her husband had burned through their small savings in the first few months after she lost her job. Now their family of five relied on his minimum-wage paychecks, plus Rosie’s unemployment and food stamps, which, combined, brought them to around $2,000 per month, just above the poverty line.”
Illustrations by Taylor Callery

Ratio of children’s emergency-room visits for injuries related to fireworks last year to those related to “desk supplies”:


The ecosystems around Chernobyl, Ukraine, are now healthier than they were before the nuclear disaster, though radiation levels are still too high for human habitation.

The Islamic State opened two new theme parks featuring a Ferris wheel, teacup rides, and bumper cars.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!


Subways Are for Sleeping


“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today