Footnotes of an America United

And now, the most engrossing two minutes in television, the latest footnotes to America's war on terrorism.  

There are now Russian troops in Afghanistan for the first time since the Soviet Union was driven out of the country 12 years ago.  The Russian troops, armed with rifles and dressed in dark uniforms and camouflage, were spotted in Kabul today guarding a half-dozen canvas-covered trucks.  

The Russians told reporters they were there to open a field hospital, and were part of a military medical unit from Moscow's Ministry of Emergency Situations.  Oddly, though, the soldiers said there were no doctors in the group of about 60 Russians, only "other medical personnel."  Sky News reports the Russians plan to reopen their embassy, which would be secured and guarded by Russian troops.  

The Canadian government is urgently warning news organizations across that country that the Taliban is plotting to invite Western journalists into Kandahar, and then seize them and use them as hostages.  The Toronto Star quotes foreign affairs department spokesman Reynald Doiron as saying, "in exchange for the captured journalists, what's left of the Taliban regime would demand that the Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners be freed and the bombing campaign stopped."

And today, The Montreal Mirror said one its freelance reporters, Ken Heckman, had been kidnapped by the Taliban and was apparently being held for ransom.  

Two contributors to The Boston Globe have found a connection between the Taliban policy of forcing women to wear those head-to-toe burqas, and the western media images of women in bikinis.  Joan Jacobs Brumberg and Jacquelyn Jackson write that we need, "a better understanding of the Taliban's hatred of American culture, and how women's behavior in our society is a particular locus of that hatred."

The two women don't like the Taliban's repression of women, but they write that "American girls and women have been stripped bare by a sexually expressive culture whose beauty dictates have exerted a major toll on their physical and emotional health."

And finally, in Monday's footnotes we reported that a Newsday editorial writer had pronounced himself "really irked" by seeing President Bush, whom he called the nation's chicken-hawk in chief, wearing the flight jacket of the fabled 101st airborne division during a visit to their home base in Kentucky last week.  

But we attributed the remarks to the wrong editorial writer.  It was not Alvin Bessent, but another Newsday editorialist, Bob Keeler.  Keeler, by the way, is a Pulitzer Prize winner.  We regret the error.