The Washington Postleads with an interview with Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah. The prince denied that there is “so-called tension” between his country and the United States. “As your friends and as your allies, we are very proud of our relationship with you,” he explained. Then the prince went on to blast the United States for its support of Israel. “In the current environment, we find it very difficult to defend America,” he said. “Because, to be very frank with you, how can we defend America?” The Los Angeles Times’ top non-local lead is that Global Crossing, a formerly high-flying fiber-optics company, filed for bankruptcy yesterday, the fourth llargest in U.S. history. Ho hum. The company had more than $12 billion in debt. Global Crossing’s founder and chairman, Gary Winnick, made his first fortune working on junk bonds with Michael Milken. The Wall Street Journaltops its worldwide newsbox with—and USA Todayleads with—Afghan President Ahmed Karzai’s visit to the White House and President Bush’s promise of increased aid to Afghanistan. Bush pledged $50 million in credit on top of the nearly $300 million in aid that’s been already promised and pledged to help train an Afghan police force and army. The Journal notes that Bush declined to give any money directly to Afghanistan’s government. Instead, U.S. aid will flow primarily through humanitarian groups. Karzai was also disappointed when Bush declined to support enlarging the country’s international peacekeeping force, which right now is only in Kabul. The New York Timesleads with word that President Bush is “reconsidering” whether the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay should be protected under the Geneva Convention. After a much publicized meeting about the issue yesterday, the president said, “I will listen to all the legalisms and announce my decision when I make it.”
The president emphasized that nobody in Guantanamo (remember: Gitmo) will be given prisoner of war status, but he said they’ll still be well cared-for. “We’re in total agreement on how these prisoners—or detainees, excuse me—ought to be treated,” he explained, in a bit caught by the NYT.
In what might become a bigger deal, the NYT notes that “several countries” that have citizens being held in Gitmo have asked that they be repatriated. The Times only mentions Saudi Arabia. Which other countries have asked for their citizens back? The president said he would “consider” such requests.
The NYT adds to the impression that the administration’s original choice to not strictly follow the Geneva Convention was made hastily: “The president’s initial decision about the captives was apparently made on advice from Attorney General John Ashcroft who, a senior administration official said today, ‘didn’t think about the world reaction.’ “
The WP’s interview with the Saudi Crown Prince notes, “Some American commentators have argued that Saudi officials’ emphasis on the suffering of Palestinian civilians has been used to deflect attention from domestic policies that may be contributing to strong anti-American sentiment and violent radicalism aimed at the West.” That’s interesting, but the paper should have explained what policies it was talking about.
Everybody notes the results of yesterday’s battle in which Afghan troops and U.S. Special Ops soldiers assaulted a hospital where six al-Qaida troops had holed themselves up for two months: The al-Qaida members refused two calls to surrender and were all killed.
The papers mention continuing protests by local Afghan leaders who say that a U.S. raid last week killed about 50 civilians. The Pentagon says the only people who died were 15 Taliban troops.
The NYT goes above the fold with the president defending his decision not to hand over documents detailing who the White House met with while it was devising its energy policy. The Times’ headline on the issue focuses on Enron: “BUSH SAYS PRIVACY IS NEEDED ON DATA FROM ENRON TALKS.” That’s misleading. The investigation is concerned with all energy firms, not just Enron. As the Times itself says, the investigators want “records about a series of meetings last spring between the vice president’s energy task force and executives from Enron and other companies.” (Emphasis added.)
Yesterday’s NYT played the same game: “CHENEY IS SET TO BATTLE CONGRESS TO KEEP HIS ENRON TALKS SECRET.”
The NYT points out that the head investigator said he wasn’t requesting the actual minutes of the meetings. Instead, he wants records of “who met with whom, when and about what.” (By the way, given that investigators aren’t even sure who attended the meetings, how is the NYT so confident that the meetings were “Enron Talks”?)
The papers note that the president echoed the White House’s now-familiar Enron-scandal defense. “There are some on Capitol Hill who want to politicize this issue,” he said. “This is not a political issue. It’s a business issue.”
The NYT reports that Justice Department officials have ordered last-minute security changes at some Olympic spots in Salt Lake City after the authorities said they were worried that the locations weren’t adequately protected from terrorist attacks.
The Times also says that the Feds are ramping up security for the Super Bowl—”the first sporting event ever to be designated a National Security Special Event by the White House.”
The papers report that at least 500 people died in Nigeria after an arms depot caught fire. Many of the victims drowned as they tried to get away from the explosions and ran into a swamp.
After 13,362 words, the Post’s Sept. 11 White House response retrospective series reaches Sept. 13. Today’s hero: The CIA, which gets credit for spearheading the drive for an unconventional war in Afghanistan.
The NYT’s Nicholas Kristof rips the White House’s POW position. “When I first wrestled with this issue, I thought I was going to write a column endorsing President Bush’s view,” he says. “But as I read the convention and talked to legal experts, it became clear that the administration’s arguments, while initially persuasive, have the disadvantage of being wrong.”
Kristof then writes, “There’s no practical downside to granting POW status.” In terms of interrogations, “We can still ask them anything we want to.” (Kristof might want to check that with one of his colleagues. According to a news article in the Times, POWs “could not be pressed to provide operational or intelligence details that might prevent future attacks.”)
Everybody notes that Astrid Lindgren, the author of Pippi Longstocking, died yesterday in her sleep. She was 94.
The NYT, apparently not satisfied with a happy ending, runs the following correction:
The Books of The Times review on Wednesday, about “Just Like Beauty” by Lisa Lerner, misstated the name of the protagonist at one point and of her friend at another. The protagonist is Edie, not Lisa; her friend is Lana, not Lara. The review summarized the plot incompletely; although Edie and Lana drive off into the sunset, they change their minds and return home.