The Washington Post, USA Today, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times all lead with news that Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle’s office received a letter tainted with anthrax. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide news box with a deft analysis of the bombing campaign. Though it was “widely expected” that the strikes would only last a few days, the U.S. is actually increasing the intensity of the attacks in a race to cripple the Taliban before opposition to the bombings grows untenable. Of particular concern: The Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts in early November.
Everybody notes that the tests conducted on the letter to Daschle were only preliminary and that more conclusive tests are still being done. In other anthrax news, a baby who visited ABC’s headquarters a few weeks ago has tested positive for cutaneous anthrax (the less deadly kind). Also, a Florida man who last week had been found to have anthrax spores in his nasal passage has now tested positive for pulmonary anthrax (the more deadly kind). The man, who worked at the tabloid where various employees have been exposed to the bacteria, is now on antibiotics and is expected to recover.
Powder-filled envelopes have been popping up everywhere. The WP’s lead, for example, notes that 90 Planned Parenthood offices have received pieces of mail filled with powdery substances. A number of the letters stated, “You have been exposed to anthrax. We are going to kill all of you. From the Army of God, Virginia Dare Chapter.” So far, the letters have tested negative. Citing a top health official, the NYT says anthrax scares “are straining the country’s 81 laboratories that are capable of testing for germ attacks.”
The NYT reports that the FBI is now looking into the possibility that Osama Bin Laden is behind the anthrax attacks. The agency, which had previously believed that the mailings weren’t connected to the Sept. 11 hijackings, has noticed that the letters were all sent from areas in which the terrorists lived or visited. Still, one government official said, “There is no credible information to suggest foreign involvement at this point.”
Everybody covers Secretary of State Powell’s visit to Pakistan and notes that fighting between India and Pakistan has flared up again. The LAT and WP both notice somewhat circuitous comments by Powell that–get this–the U.S. is open to the possibility of “elements of Taliban leadership” (the LAT’s words) in a future Afghan government. “There are many people within the Taliban, leaders who will still be there,” said Powell. “They’re not all leaving the country, so I hope the international community will be able to put together something that will appeal to all of the Afghan people.”
The WP gives the most import to yesterday’s heavy bombings saying they “represent marked escalation in the nine-day-old anti-terrorism war and signaled it could be entering a new phase.”
The papers all note one sign of change. Yesterday, for the first time over Afghanistan, the Pentagon used an AC-130 gunship, a lumbering prop-plane that’s equipped with heavy artillery (literally). Everybody points out that it’s a sign that the U.S. is feeling confident that its planes won’t be shot down.
The NYT fronts news that a moderate Taliban official has said that the Taliban would hand over Bin Laden if the U.S. ceased bombing for a few days. But the article immediately pours cold water on the idea when it notes that the official probably isn’t in a position to deliver. The bigger news comes a few paragraphs down. According to Pakistani officials, the bombings have caused a rift in the Taliban. And moderates might even attempt a coup if the Taliban’s leader persists in his vow to never hand over Bin Laden.
The papers report that the U.S. is getting closer to attacking Taliban troops on the front lines, a place that until now has been a relative safe heaven. “I suspect that in the period ahead that’s not going to be a very safe place to be,” said Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. Conventional wisdom has it that the U.S. has held off attacking the frontline because of political concerns. But the WP quotes a “U.S. official” who offers an additional reason: The Northern Alliance’s intelligence has been B-list.
The papers mention the Pentagon’s rebuttal to the Taliban’s claim that U.S. bombs killed 200 civilians in one village. Rumsfeld–who called the 200 figure “ridiculous “–said any civilian deaths were the result of secondary explosions that erupted after the U.S. bombed nearby caves storing ammunition. “They were not cooking cookies inside those tunnels,” said Rumsfeld.
The WP fronts news that President Bush has a new catch phrase: The Bush Doctrine. What is it? A senior White House official explained: “We must eliminate the scourge of international terrorism. In order to do that, we need not only eliminate the terrorists and their networks, but also those who harbor them.” The WP seems skeptical that this is doctrine-worthy. Its headline reads: ” ‘DOCTRINE’ AWAITS DEFINITION.” The article goes on to say, “Once the details are filled in beyond the current military campaign in Afghanistan, close U.S. allies and many inside the administration itself are uncertain whether the doctrine really means what it appears to say–that the United States will be the unilateral judge of whether a country is supporting terrorism.”
The NYT goes above the fold with a reconstruction of the FAA’s and military’s response on Sept. 11 to the highjackings. Contrary to previous reports, one military plane nearly caught up to American Flight 77 (which eventually plowed into the Pentagon). In fact, the Air Force plane got so close that it visually identified the airliner. There was only one problem: the military aircraft was a C-130, an unarmed cargo plane.