Today's Papers

Partners Entwined

The Washington Postleads with word that last month Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld warned about the growing threat of cruise missiles in a classified memo. The New York Timesleads with U.S.-Iraq relations news, sorta, saying that in the 1980s, Reagan administration U.S. officials aided Iraq in its eight-year battle with Iran, despite Iraq’s intention to use chemical weapons back then. The Los Angeles Times lead says that none of the nearly 600 detainees in U.S. military custody at Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay have been positively identified as being leaders in al-Qaida.

According to the WP, the anti-missile system that the Bush administration has pursued has been geared toward defending against high-arcing, costly ballistic missiles, not cruise missiles, which are self-propelled, lower-flying, and more transportable. With an “accumulation” of evidence showing increased interest in cruise missiles by foreign adversaries, the paper writes, Rumsfeld sent out a two-page memo last month, and the National Security Council thereafter convened an interagency meeting to develop a game plan to deal with the threat. The paper says that at least 81 countries are reported to have cruise missiles of some kind. By 2015, the U.S. intelligence community predicts, as many as two dozen countries will have land-attack cruise missiles. Ironically, heightened foreign interest in the weapon seems to have arisen in part due to U.S. success with its Tomahawk cruise missile, the “weapon of choice for hitting fixed sites in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans.” The article ends by saying that experts suggest a tightening of proliferation controls under the Missile Technology Control Regime, established by the major industrial countries, including the U.S.,  in 1988.

The NYT headlines its lead story, “Officers Say U.S. Aided Iraq in War Despite Use of Gas.” The paper makes the point it seems to want to make in the second paragraph: “Iraq’s use of gas in [the Iraq-Iran] conflict is repeatedly cited by President Bush and, this week, by his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, as justification for ‘regime change’ in Iraq.” Whether or not the paper is actually breaking news (as its anonymous sourcing suggests) or offering an opportunistic history lesson, however, may be a question of whether the Reagan administration knew it was aiding a country with chemical weapon capabilities and a history for using them (something already known), or whether the administration was aiding Iraq despite direct knowledge of that country’s definite intention to use chemical weapons. The NYT seems a bit unsettled on which point it’s trying to resolve. The story’s 10th paragraph, suggesting only soft knowledge, reads: “Iraq shared its battle plans with the Americans, without admitting the use of chemical weapons, the military officers said. But Iraq’s use of chemical weapons, already established at that point, became more evident in the war’s final phase.” About the closest the paper comes to American complicity is in the 19th paragraph: “The Pentagon’s battle damage assessments confirmed that Iraqi military commanders had integrated chemical weapons throughout their arsenal and were adding them to strike plans that American advisers either prepared or suggested.”

Interrogations at Guantanamo Bay have yielded U.S. officials no knowledge of new al-Qaida cells or specific terrorist plots, writes the LAT. “Some of these guys literally don’t know the world is round,” one official told the paper. Officials say they can’t even identify the names of every prisoner.  “Al Qaeda routinely provided false or stolen passports to some of its operatives,” the LAT explains. For those who do have names, the military isn’t releasing the information, citing the need not to provide it to other terrorists as well as the prisoners’ rights of privacy. The LAT manages to provide a name, anyway, via correspondence the prisoner had with the Red Cross.

Both the LAT and NYT front follow-ups to the sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic Church earlier this year. The LAT reports that new internal documents and interviews show that Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and leading clergy members of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, quietly removed 17 priests from ministry in the last decade, withheld information from police seeking prosecution, and helped five priests leave the country. Despite this, the paper writes that Mahony was more aggressive than many bishops around the country in cracking down on sexual abuse by priests. The NYT, meanwhile, finds mixed degrees of activeness on the part of America’s Roman Catholic bishops to set up new sexual abuse policies in the two months since the bishops agreed to do so at a Dallas conference. The findings are a result of a survey the paper conducted with the nation’s 194 dioceses.

The school year may be getting longer and tougher, so say the WP and NYT front pages. According to the WP, in the first of a two-part series, many school districts are concerned with the lack of necessary algebra the schoolchildren receive before high school, and thus some schools are taking steps to require algebra by the eighth-grade. The NYT meanwhile reports that a number of districts around the nation are moving up opening day so as to better prepare its students for standardized tests.

A feature story on the WP front page reports that polygraph, or “lie detector,” machines are proliferating in “everyday life”: insurance companies looking for fraud, suspicious spouses looking for evidence of a partner’s cheating ways, and U.S. government interrogators looking “to double-check analyses of who might be a terrorist.” Then again, the Defense Department officially says it won’t use voice lie detectors. “After a series of studies dating from the mid-1990s, the Defense Department concluded that they do not work,” the paper writes.

The NYT makes a historic announcement in an editors note today: “Starting next month, the Sunday Styles section of TheNew York Times will publish reports of same-sex commitment ceremonies and of some types of formal registration of gay and lesbian partnerships.” The reports will fall under the “Weddings/Celebrations” heading, formerly just “Weddings.” The paper says it will also consider same-sex couples for its “Vows” column.  One thing to keep an eye on: the reaction of family members of the newly partnered. According to the editors note, the paper will continue its rigid criteria—”the newsworthiness and accomplishments of the couples and their families” will be examined—and there’s no mention of what the paper will do upon the circumstance of an eager couple with a less-than-supportive family. Commenting upon the change, Howell Raines, executive editor of the NYT, said, “We recognize that the society remains divided about the legal and religious definition of marriage, and our news columns will remain impartial in that debate, reporting fully on all points of view. The Styles pages will treat same-sex celebrations as a discrete phenomenon meriting coverage in their own right.”