In the category of collateral war damage, one clear victim is the reeling U.S. airline industry.
The sour economy of the early months of 2001, combined with high operating costs, already was dragging down all but the smaller, no-frills airlines such as Southwest and JetBlue. Then came 9/11, a literal and figurative blow that nearly crushed the industry.
Now comes the war in Iraq, with its attendant travel jitters, heightened security and a spike in oil prices, which, though they eased last week, exerts enormous pressure on the major carriers when they are least able to withstand it.
The result was a flurry of news through the week: some directly related to the war, some part of the industry's ongoing difficulties, and none of it happy.
Northwest Airlines said it would lay off 4,900 workers, on the heels of 1,200 layoffs at Continental Airlines. United Airlines announced that passenger bookings were off by 40 percent from a year ago and sought court approval to cancel and rework its labor contracts as part of its bankruptcy proceedings. And this from an airline whose employees until recently owned 55 percent of the company.
US Airways, also in Chapter 11 proceedings, got midweek court approval of its plan to emerge from bankruptcy, but that quickly snagged on a dispute between the airline and its pilots over pension benefits. Hawaiian Airlines joined United and US Airways in bankruptcy court. And American Airlines, the world's largest carrier, said it would join the crowd if it did not win nearly $2 billion in concessions from workers.
Most of the big airlines, including international carriers, pared their schedules, while some sought to soften the impact on the flying public by waiving fees when passengers altered their plans.
How much inconvenience the public will have to bear is unclear. But the broader health and fate of the industry now have the urgent attention of policymakers.
A few months ago when the airlines made noises about getting another round of federal aid, on top of what it received after 9/11, the idea seemed dead on arrival. But bills to provide relief from taxes and security fees are now in the works in Congress. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta promised that the administration would come to the industry's aid if necessary, but he provided no specifics.
Meanwhile, the word "nationalize" has begun floating around the lobbying and government corridors. This is hardly a notion one might expect this administration to embrace, but other options appear to be narrowing.