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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

December 17, 1998

Second strike on Iraq underway

AP Military Writer

WASHINGTON U.S. forces triggered a second wave of airstrikes against Iraq today as President Clinton said "it would have been a disaster" if the United States had stood aside and allowed Iraq to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Defense Secretary William Cohen said the first round of airstrikes had produced "severe damage" to some targets.

The second wave sent cruise missiles deep into Iraq, and Navy strike aircraft with laser-guided bombs targeted Iraqi air defenses along the border, said a senior defense official who asked not to be identified.

"The B-52s are on the way," said a senior military planner, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

Clinton, meeting in the Oval Office with top military and foreign policy advisers this morning, expressed regret that there would inevitably be "unintended casualties."

The strikes began in the early evening Iraqi time, shortly after 11 a.m. EST, the senior defense official said.

In Baghdad, children went to school and government workers to their offices as usual after the first night's attacks. Downtown streets were busy with traffic. Saddam Hussein's whereabouts were unknown, but he appeared on television to condemn the "wicked people" who launched hundreds of missiles.

Amid images of crumpled brick buildings in Baghdad, an Iraqi doctor said 30 people were wounded and two killed during the initial attacks.

Clinton said the military operation would not be affected by the impeachment drama on Capitol Hill.

He brushed aside criticism from Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and other Republicans skeptical about his motives for the attack. "I am convinced the decision I made ... though difficult was absolutely the right thing to do," he said.

As to whether the attack was a diversionary tactic against impeachment, Clinton said, "I don't believe any serious person would believe any president would do such a thing."

The president said he had bent over backwards not to use force, noting that he canceled an attack at the last second last November when Saddam promised to comply with U.N. weapons inspectors.

"I think it is very important that we not allow Saddam Hussein to destroy the (inspection) system without any penalty whatever" and to escape sanctions," he said. "I think it would have been a disaster for us to do this, so regrettably I made this decision."

The president also served notice that it would be "a disastrous mistake" if Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

The House, which had been scheduled to begin debating four articles of impeachment against Clinton today, instead convened to consider a resolution of support for American forces involved in the Iraqi operation.

Outgoing House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he was giving Clinton qualified support and told legislators: "The United States has to lead. There is no alternative. There is no other country capable of organizing against an Iraqi dictator who wants to get weapons of mass destruction."

Without mentioning the impeachment proceedings directly, Gingrich said: "No matter what our debates at home, we are as a nation prepared to lead the world"

In a series of TV and radio interviews from the Pentagon, Cohen was asked repeatedly if the first day's attacks had been successful. "I'm not trying to classify them as being totally successful at this point," he told AP Radio.

He said officials were still studying the intelligence, but preliminary reports had shown that targets had been hit. He characterized the damage as "severe" and "substantial" and said he was "impressed with the accuracy" of the strikes.

National security adviser Sandy Berger, without elaborating on details of the next wave of airstrikes, said: "This operation is not completed."

"We know very much what we want to accomplish," he said. "We know what the targets are that we seek to destroy or hit and we will systematically attack those targets."

Around the capital, security was tightened at embassies and other "critical installations."

Cohen repeatedly denied any political motive by Clinton in launching the attacks in the face of impeachment proceedings.

"There has never been a political decision coming out of this building from President Clinton dealing with our men and women in uniform," Cohen said on Fox TV.

Iraq, Russia and China called for an immediate halt to the U.S. and British attacks, but a divided United Nations Security Council took no action.

Americans strongly supported the military action, according to polls by CBS and ABC. In the CBS poll, about 80 percent said they favored the strike. According to the ABC survey, 62 percent said attacking Iraq was the right thing to do.

"Operation Desert Fox," which the administration said could last up to four days, was designed to diminish Iraq's ability to produce outlawed nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

In a televised address Wednesday from the Oval Office, Clinton said he ordered the strikes to protect America's "vital interests" after consulting top advisers and reviewing a new United Nations report detailing how Saddam had once again failed to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors.

"Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear weapons, poison gas or biological weapons," Clinton said. "I have no doubt today that, left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons again."

New prosecutor, attorney get split decision

Staff Writer

Two young attorneys battled it out in federal court Wednesday, each working his side of the courtroom for the first time.

Jeff Parras, prosecuting his first case for the government, won a guilty verdict, but defense attorney Rodion Cantacuzene of Midland saved his client several years in prison.

Abel Flores Gonzales of Presidio was on trial for assault on a federal officer, causing bodily injury. Cantacuzene was successful in getting the bodily injury enhancement dropped before the jury began deliberating.

And Cantacuzene's motion to suppress a statement Gonzales made to a U.S. Customs officer after his arrest was granted because the officer could not testify that she had read the defendant his rights before questioning him.

After hearing both sides of the case, including testimony by Gonzales and his mother and sister, the jury deliberated about an hour before returning a "guilty" verdict at 5:30 p.m.

Gonzales admitted pushing U.S. Customs inspector Craig Mecke into a table, but said he believed that he had a right to try to retrieve the wallet that Mecke had taken from him while seeking identification.

Gonzales and his sister, Emma Gonzales, both U.S. citizens, were passengers in a pickup driven by their mother, a Mexican citizen, when they crossed the international bridge from Ojinaga, Mex. to Presidio on Dec. 19, 1996.

Immigration inspector John Prewit testified that he referred the vehicle to the secondary inspection area when Gonzales was unable to produce photo identification with his birth date, and the driver said the vehicle's owner lives in Odessa.

While Mecke questioned the driver, Rosa Flores Ramos, Gonzales came around the pickup to intervene in his mother's defense because he felt she was being intimidated, Cantacuzene said.

Mecke then asked for Gonzales' identification, and the 23-year-old defendant questioned why he should be required to produce it. Officers who witnessed the exchange differed in some aspects of their testimony as to whether Gonzales offered the wallet then took it back.

Cantacuzene said Gonzales was holding the wallet when Mecke forcibly snatched it from his hands, and that as he turned his back to look through the wallet, Gonzales accidentally pushed him in an attempt to retrieve it.

Parras said in his opening statement that the shove knocked Mecke onto a table, and he suffered back pain as a result.

"Every country in the world has a right to protect its borders and the integrity of those borders," Parras said. "The United States does that through Customs and the Immigration and Naturalization Service."

Parras said that anyone entering the United States at a port of entry does not have Fourth Amendment search and seizure rights, but must submit their person and belongings to a search and identify themselves.

"He decided he didn't want to be searched or identify himself," Parras said. "He had identification on him. He had nothing to hide. If you have nothing to hide, you are a U.S. citizen, why not present your identification and avoid this entire fiasco?" he asked.

Mecke used reasonable force to take the wallet from Gonzales, he said. After the shove, officers restrained Gonzales, and he resisted and intimidated them, Parras said.

Cantacuzene said the family was traveling from Ojinaga to Presidio to do some shopping when the incident occurred. Ramos carried a border crossing card and readily identified herself as a Mexican citizen, he said.

Both her children, who were born in the United States, declared their citizenship, but Prewit asked for the defendant's identification.

"He was not able to find his driver's license. He told the officer his name and produced a St. Edwards University student ID and correct date of birth," Cantacuzene said.

"They stepped out of the vehicle when asked," Cantacuzene said. "Mecke asked Gonzales for ID and he wondered, `Why? I just told these people who I am.' Prewit ran it through the computer and found he wasn't wanted."

Cantacuzene is the third lawyer to represent Gonzales, who had a conflict with two previously appointed attorneys.

Because of those conflicts, Senior Judge Lucius Bunton ordered a psychological exam, which determined that Gonzales was mentally competent to stand trial.

Also on Wednesday, Judge Bunton sentenced Barbara Ann Portillo to 33 months in prison for misprison of a felony (failure to report). The sentence will run consecutively with another handed down in the Midland court.

Latest I-20 detour to cause fewer problems

Staff Writer

This past weekend's cold weather has again created problems for the road surface at the Interstate 20 construction site in western Reeves County.

But unlike November's problems, which closed eastbound lanes for a week and forced motorists into a 25-mile detour, Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Glen Larum said the latest trouble will only force drivers into a slight detour while work is done on I-20's westbound lanes over the next two days.

TxDOT crews will shut I-20 westbound between the Toyah exit (mile marker 22) and Exit 3 near the I-10 junction during the daylight hours on Friday and Saturday, Larum said. "During those times, traffic will be detoured onto the south side Interstate 20 access road," he added. "During nighttime hours, the westbound lanes will be open."

Gilbert Texas construction is continuing their work on I-20 between Toyah and the I-10 junction, and area which received up to 10 inches of snow last Friday. "The surface on the westbound lane got a lot of moisture, so they're going to go in an do repairs on that surface and put down a hot mix," Larum said.

A cold snap in early November just after the eastbound lanes were resurfaced kept the asphalt from adhering to the surface, and it was picked up by the tires of trucks headed towards Pecos. TxDOT crews detoured traffic onto the southside service road for just over a day, but were forced to shut that down and reroute traffic along I-10 and Texas 17 through Saragosa when that surface fell apart.

"We've fixed the southside service road since then," Larum said.

Gilbert Texas is repairing the I-20 roadway from just west of the I-10 junction to mile marker 9 west of Toyah. Businesses along I-20 in Toyah were hurt by the loss of traffic due to last month's detour through Saragosa.

Vandals cause major damage inside church

Staff Writer

Pecos police expect to make arrests today in connection with vandalism that occurred this past weekend at a local church.

"There were several burglaries prior, but the (vandalism) report was made on Dec. 14," said Pecos Police Investigator Kelly Davis about the incident, which occurred at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 416 S. Plum St.

According to Davis and reports filed by the investigating officers, there was extensive damage done inside the church. "They did a lot of damage to the parish hall and the study office and the pastor's office," said Davis.

The suspects, both of whom police described as juveniles, also entered the sanctuary, but no extensive damage was done in that area of the church. "They did go in there and play with some items, went through some things, played with the piano," said Davis.

However, everything that was breakable in the other parts of the church was damaged, according to Davis.

"We expect to make two arrests today. We've been investigating this particular incident ardently," said Davis. "It's a shame that these individuals felt the need to violate a church like this."

The two juveniles who police plan to arrest for the crime will be charged with at least one count of burglary, since several items were also taken at the same time the vandalism occurred.

Both juveniles have been in trouble in the past, Davis said. They will both be taken to the juvenile detention center, await a detention hearing and go to court, he added.

"We know there's always vandalism, but it's terrible when they do this to a church," he said.

Family temporarily homeless after fire

A family of four was temporarily forced out of their home Wednesday night after fire destroyed one of the bedrooms.

Pecos Volunteer Fire Department responded to a fire call at 2406 Country Club Drive about 6:30 p.m., said chief Roy Pena. They found the bedroom, located on the southwest side of the house, in flames.

One of the occupants told a fireman that a small boy had been playing with paper and stuck it into the fire in a gas heater, Pena said. After the paper ignited, the boy threw the paper onto the bed, which caught fire and spread to the curtains.

Damage was confined to the bedroom, Pena said, but electricity was turned off so they could extinguish the fire.

Cerna named hospital's new chief of staff

Dr. Orville Cerna will become chief of staff for Reeves County Hospital Jan. 1, the board of directors learned in their regular meeting Tuesday.

Other officers elected by their fellow staff members are Dr. Joseph Darpolor, vice-chairman, and Dr. David Lovett, secretary.

Dr. James Cam is outgoing chief of staff.

The board approved 1998 tax rolls, the tax collection report and financial statements.


High Wednesday 64, low last night 31. Patches of snow remain from Friday's 10-inch snowfall. Tonight, fair in the evening, then increasing clouds after midnight. Low near 40. South wind 5-10 mph. Friday, mostly cloudy with a 30 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms. High in the lower 60s. South to southwest wind 10-20 mph.

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