Today's Papers

May the Force Be With You

Everyone leads with news that the Senate and House have voted to give President Bush authority to use force against Iraq. The House vote was 296 to 133, and the Senate vote was 77 to 23.

As expected, the resolutions got bipartisan support, but as the papers point out, in the House, more Democrats voted against it than for it. The House debate was non-existent, with the chamber mostly empty all day, the Washington Post says, while the Senate debate was more lively—thanks to protests by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.—and lasted until the early hours of Friday. The WP notes that the last time a president got such flexible authority for an undefined military operation was when Congress passed the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution.

In its final form, the joint resolution was much less broad than the one initially proposed by the White House, and Democrats got language in there that encourages the president to work through the U.N. before taking unilateral action. Still, the resolution says Bush can use the American military against Iraq “as he determines to be necessary and appropriate.”

Everyone fronts news that authorities have confirmed via ballistics evidence that the Washington sniper was the killer of the man at a gas station near Manassas on Wednesday night. The victim was a 53-year-old civil engineer who was shot once in the head. Authorities said the sniper didn’t leave any further communication for police. A suspicious white vehicle at the scene of the shooting turned out not to be involved.

The sniper has killed three people at gas stations and, the WP says, he has so terrorized Washington and its suburbs that a surprising number of people are paying for their gas inside in advance and then driving away without pumping it.

The New York Times fronts and the WP goes inside with more on the administration’s plan for Iraq: According to senior administration officials, the U.S. is working on the blueprints for a post-WWII-Japan-style American military occupation of the country. An American military commander, possibly Gen. Tommy Franks, would oversee war-crime trials of Iraqi leaders, a transition to an elected civilian government, and a hunt for weapons of mass destruction.

According to the Los Angeles Times front, top administration officials are pressuring CIA analysts to revise their intelligence reports to support the administration on questions such as whether Iraq has ties to al-Qaida. “Analysts feel more politicized and more pushed than many of them can ever remember,” said an intelligence official.

The NYT says that the U.N. Security Council is close to compromising on a resolution that would require Iraq to disarm and that would specify “consequences” if Iraq refused. This strategy would leave Bush free to claim he has the authority to force Saddam to disarm, while other countries could interpret the resolution as they saw fit as well.

The papers report inside that the French government says the explosion that blew a hole in a French supertanker in Yemen on Sunday looks like a terrorist attack. French authorities have found debris that could have come from a small boat delivering a bomb.

The papers have the early results of Pakistan’s national elections. Islamic fundamentalist parties that ran on anti-American platforms did surprisingly well. The religious parties could be a force in the national legislature, and while President Pervez Musharraf probably will retain full control of the country, this could complicate his rule and the U.S. partnership with Pakistan in the terrorism war.

The NYT says that captured al-Qaida fighter Ramzi bin al-Shibh may have intended to lead a fifth hijacking team on Sept. 11. According to investigators, his plane was to hit the White House. But the plan didn’t get very far since he didn’t even make it into flight school.

The papers report that a federal panel is recommending that American scientists resume gene-therapy trials that could help children with fatal immune deficiencies. The trials were suspended after one was linked to a leukemialike illness in a child in France. Gene therapy sends in viruses to introduce healthy genes into cells, and the panel is recommending that future trials warn that one type of these viruses is thought to have caused the child’s cancer.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the number of people who try to outdrive a Los Angeles Police Department officer in a high-speed car chase has gone up 40 percent in the last three years, while the average in the rest of the state has dropped. Many of the suspects have no reason to flee except, the police now think, that they want to be on television. Apparently citizens of Los Angeles have a uniquely big appetite for car-chase reality TV, and no fewer than seven broadcast news stations compete to show the live chases.