Sunday, February 4, 2007

ineresting, two major US papers dedicated to iraq!

US Papers Sunday: "Sapping Our Souls"
Iraq Bloodshed "Like a Slaughterhouse"; Finger-Pointing Abounds

The New York Times and the Washington Post feature three Iraq-related stories each on page one, with the horrific Baghdad suicide truck bombing – the most lethal single bombing attack of the entire war – the big hard news story. The NY Time's story is by Richard Oppel and Qais Mizher, who prominently note the surge in terror attacks against Iraqi Shia come as the U.S. government pressures the Iraqi government to suppress the Shia militias who are deemed by Shia to be the most effective defense against such attacks. Said one Iraqi man near the scene of the blast that killed at least 130 and wounded more than 300, "(Iraqi Prime Minister) Maliki and the Americans are the sons of dogs because they do nothing to protect us." The Washington Post story by Ernesto Londoño makes clear the death count is likely to rise because bodies are still believed buried beneath the rubble. The story quotes an Iraqi as saying “It’s like a slaughterhouse. You can see blood everywhere. It’s an unbelievable sight.” Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki blamed “Saddamists and Baathists” for the bombing, and a Maliki deputy called on Syria to do more to halt the violence in Iraq.

Blunder alert: Either Londoño misreported or the Maliki deputy misspoke on this point-- Londoño summarized the Maliki deputy as “saying 50% of insurgents enter Iraq through Syria.” In fact, without dispute, the overwhelming majority of insurgents are Iraqi. Perhaps the correspondent was referring to foreign fighters.

Both papers write of Bush’s appearance at an off-site Democratic Congressional gathering, where the president is reported to have said in a private session that the war in Iraq is “sapping our souls,” while reiterating his determination to go forward with boosting the troop presence there. In the Times, Jeff Zeleny quotes Bush as saying he "welcome(s) debate in a time of war," which perhaps he and others should keep in mind the next time one of them is tempted to denounce troop drawdown talk as “emboldening the enemy.” The Post story by Michael Abramowitz and Paul Kane reports Bush's "sapping our souls" comment came in response to a question from Democratic Congresswoman Susan Davis, who is quoted as telling the president of her concern that all Americans are not sharing in the pain and sacrifice of the relative few in the war.

Military contractors get page one treatment in both papers. From Washington, the Times's Scott Shane and Ron Nixon report the U.S. government is spending record amounts on outsourcing work to private sector contractors -- $400 billion last year. The story includes an Iraq angle but, surprisingly, mostly focuses on other areas of contracting. The Washington Post takes an Iraq-focused look at U.S. government contractors, with Walter Pincus writing that the top U.S. General in Iraq, David Petraeus, is a big fan of outsourcing and is relying on what Petraeus refers to as “thousands of contract security forces” as key assets. The article focuses on one contractor, Aegis, which plays an especially important role for the coalition in Iraq.

In a page one feature headlined “Iraq’s Shadow Widens Sunni-Shia Split in U.S.,” Neil MacFarquhar writes of increasing spats between Sunni and Shia in Michigan and a few places elsewhere across the country, while noting other Muslim-concentrated areas where there is no such problem.

From Washington, Helene Cooper writes that Condoleezza Rice's star is fading, with some of her precedessors as secretary of state and members of Congress taking shots at her. Nevertheless, President Bush clearly remains a big fan of hers.

Jeff Zeleny reports on two maverick Republican senators, John McCain and Chuck Hagel, going in opposition directions on Iraq. There is no sign the split has hurt their friendship, however, at least for now.

In his weekly column, Frank Rich denounces one of his favorite targets, Dick Cheney, and calls on the Bush Administration to “stop playing games with American blood.”

Another Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, asks whether Cheney is "Lord Voldemort" and writes of ancient books and characters. One book noted by Kristof refers to “how much easier it is to get into a Middle Eastern war than out” and “how the slog of war corrodes soldiers and allows them to do terrible things.” Kristof recommends Bush get busy reading.
Finally, a blunder of my own: yesterday I overlooked a noteworthy Iraq item in the Times -- an illuminating op-ed in the form of a map showing where across Iraq 1,900 people were killed in January. Adriana Lins de Albuquerque and Alicia Cheng produced it and wrote the paragraph accompanying it.

From Amman, Sudarasan Raghavan reports on the biggest Mideast refugee crisis in nearly 60 years -- two million Iraqis have fled their war-torn country, mostly going to Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Those countries are having a difficult time coping with the influx and are now making it more difficult for Iraqis to settle there. Raghavan provides several up-close-and-personal stories.

Ina report headlined “Doubts Run Deep on Reforms Crucial to Bush’s Iraq Strategy,” Karen DeYoung writes that even "surge" advocates have serious doubts about the plan and Maliki’s ability to deliver. No doubt, as this report makes clear, the odds are against the Bush plan working.

Columnist Jim Hoagland takes Defense Secretary Gates to task for claiming Congressional opposition to the U.S. troop increase in Iraq “emboldens the enemy and our adversaries.”

Former U.S. intelligence officer Paul Pillar writes in an op-ed of the importance of “avoiding the next military folly in the Middle East” by ensuring proper time for thoughtful analysis and debate in the U.S.

Ombudsman Deborah Howell responds to reader complaints about how the anti-war protest last week was covered by the paper (page one) in contrast to coverage of a big DC demo a week earlier by abortion rights opponents (buried inside the A-section). Howell explains how it’s impossible to determine how many people attend such protests after the U.S. government banned official estimates, but goes on to quote an unnamed source as saying both protests numbered roughly 50,000. She defends the page one treatment for the anti-war demo, saying it was especially timely given the hot topic nature of the war in Iraq, while saying the abortion debate is decades old.

No Sunday publication.
No Sunday publication.
No Sunday publication