The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lead, and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide news box, with news on the possible war in Iraq: The Bush administration today will declare that Iraq failed to fully disclose its weapons programs and has violated U.N. orders. The WP goes one step further, however, with a scoop that the administration has deemed the last week in January as the “make-or-break point” in whether to go to war. USA Today and the New York Times lead with Colin Powell’s condemnation of Trent Lott’s remarks at Strom Thurmond’s birthday party.
All the papers note that that U.S. and British officials are less than happy with Iraq’s weapons disclosure. At the State Department yesterday, Powell said Iraq’s declaration includes “troublesome” gaps and omissions. Yet the U.S. will wait to officially declare a “material breach” until January, the WP says, in order to get troops ready and to assemble a case against Iraq that other members of the U.N. Security Council “will not be able to refute.”
According to the LAT, the Bush administration is “wary” that declaring Iraq in full violation now might weaken its position down the road when it hopes more evidence will be produced to prove that Baghdad is hiding its deadliest arms in violation of U.N. rules. By then, the papers note, Washington hopes to have more international support for going to war.
In New York today, Hans Blix, the U.N.’s chief weapons inspector, plans to tell the Security Council that Iraq failed to account fully for chemical and biological bombs and warheads it had assembled as well as materials it bought that could be used to produce more of them, USAT reports.
Powell will deliver the official U.S. response from Washington, urging “aggressive” U.N. inspections to continue. Meanwhile, everybody reports that the Pentagon yesterday announced the deployment of more than 50,000 additional troops to the region—a move that will roughly double the number of troops in the Persian Gulf right now and would, as the NYT notes, allow President Bush to order an attack against Saddam Hussein by late January.
Meanwhile, everybody notes a warning from intelligence sources that Saddam plans to pursue a “scorched earth” strategy during the possible war—destroying his country’s oil fields, electrical power plants, food storage sites, and other facilities while blaming U.S. troops for the damage.
According to the NYT and the LAT, which stuffs the story, Powell said he “deplored the sentiments” behind Lott’s comments—but that he believes the GOP leader has been sincere in his apologies. Also joining the fray yesterday was Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who said the flap was damaging the GOP, the NYT reports.
A related story in the LAT asserts as much, noting the Lott flap “may derail” issues important to conservatives, including policy moves on affirmative action and judicial nominations. Meanwhile, everybody notes that Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island became the second Senate Republican to call for Lott to resign his leadership post. Other Lott supporters jumping ship yesterday: Televangelist Jerry Falwell and outgoing Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, Congress’ only black Republican, who both called for Lott to give up his leadership post.
Yesterday, Lott trashed the White House for working behind the scenes to oust him, the WP reports. In an interview with a Mississippi radio station, the Senate Majority Leader said Bush aides in recent days have leaked comments that “have not been helpful.” Meanwhile, Bush, the WSJ reports, is coming under pressure “to do more to get Lott to step down.”
A WP story looks at the rising star ambition of Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., who called for Lott’s ouster over the weekend. Lott’s supporters are vowing revenge over Nickles’ comments, and few believe he might emerge from the fracas politically unscathed.
All the papers note the arrests of several men in Dallas and Detroit on suspicion that they were financing terrorist operations. In Texas, Mousa Abu Marzook, a leader of the terrorist group Hamas, was indicted by a federal grand jury on several charges including money laundering and the illegal export of computer parts to Syria and Libya, countries designated as “sponsors of terrorism.” British authorities made arrests yesterday, too, nabbing seven suspected terror financiers with ties to al-Qaida in London and Edinburgh yesterday, the NYT reports.
In related news, the LAT reports—alone, among the papers—that a Dutch court yesterday acquitted four men charged with bombing the U.S. Embassy in Paris and other American targets—a major setback for U.S. anti-terror efforts, the paper says.
The WP and NYT front and everybody else mentions that Black Entertainment Television founder Robert Johnson became the first African American to own a major league sports franchise yesterday. The National Basketball Association approved Johnson’s bid to own an expansion team in Charlotte—which lost its previous team, the Hornets, to New Orleans last summer.
Finally, the LAT notes the conviction this week of a man who smuggled rare monkeys into the U.S.—in his pants. Upon discovering four endangered birds and 50 exotic orchids in his suitcase, officials at Los Angeles International Airport stopped the man for questioning. When asked if he were hiding anything else, the man responded, “Yes. I’ve got monkeys in my pants.”