The Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times all lead with Iraq-related developments: The NYT says that Turkey moved one step closer to formally giving the go-ahead for American troops to come in. The country’s Cabinet approved the deal and sent it to parliament, which will probably give the thumbs up in the next few days. The NYT also goes high with a top general’s surprising estimate that peacekeeping and rebuilding work in Iraq will probably require “several hundred thousand” GIs. The Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox and LAT lead with the latest estimate on the cost of the likely war: According to the Pentagon, the war and six months of occupation could cost upward of $85 billion, not including things like the shiploads of cash en route to Turkey. The WP highlights President Bush’s warning-of-the-day: “Saddam has been successful at gaming the system. It’s now time for him to fully disarm.” [Italics added.] USA Today stuffs Iraq and leads with word that many states are dealing with their exploding deficits by borrowing record amounts of cash rather than either cutting services or hiking taxes. Last year, state and local governments borrowed $127 billion, or nearly 10 percent of their total revenue. That’s the highest percentage since the 1950s.
An unnamed “senior Pentagon official” (Rummy?) tried to back away from the high postwar troop estimates, saying that the officer who made them, Gen. Eric Shinseki, “misspoke.” But Shinseki has serious cred: He’s the Army’s top general and once commanded NATO’s peacekeeping force in Bosnia. Anyway, if Gen. Shinseki is anywhere near right, it could be trouble. One analyst told the LAT, “What Shinseki is saying is that if we don’t have allies in Iraq, peacekeeping could employ the entire deployable army.”
The LAT plays up the political angle of the latest war-cost projection: It’s about twice what Sec Def Rumsfeld suggested last month and about on par with what since-canned economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey floated last fall. Keep in mind, all these numbers are little more than guesstimates, or what’s known in the biz as WAGs. Significantly, though, the Journal says Bush plans to send a bill to Congress asking for as much as $95 billion for the war and reconstruction.
Everybody mentions up high that chief inspector Hans Blix said he saw some “positive” developments from Iraq, namely that the nation told inspectors it stumbled across a bomb apparently filled with some sort of biological agent—which it is of course happy to hand over.
The Post suggests that the U.S. effort to rustle up votes on the Security Council isn’t going well. Apparently some countries think the U.S. is being kinda cocky. “Don’t think because we are an African country, that because we are an underdeveloped country that we will accept everything,” said Guinea’s ambassador to the United Nations. “We have our own dignity.”
The Post fronts word from anonymous administration officials that Saudi Arabia has agreed to let the U.S. use its air bases during the coming action. For the first few days of the war, the bases won’t be used by bombers, but U.S. planes will have free rein after that. The deal is helpful for the U.S., but the potential lack of bases wouldn’t have been a huge problem. That’s because the Pentagon has long anticipated that it might not have the Saudi bases and developed an alternative in nearby Qatar.
The NYT, playing a bit of catch-up, notes inside that the Kurdish parliament in northern Iraq voted unanimously—and essentially symbolically, since they don’t have any say in the matter—against U.S. plans to let Turkish troops occupy parts of northern Iraq. “If the Turks enter Kurdistan, I will carry weapons all of my life,” said one legislator, “and the United States will lose its best friend.”
The NYT off-leads word that a scientific panel, convened at the White House’s behest, has concluded that the Bush administration’s proposal to study global warming is unimpressive. According to the panel, the administration’s proposal “lacks most of the elements of a strategic plan.” Panel members, though, did give them credit for at least trying to come up with a plan. The NYT’s headline nails them, “EXPERTS FAULT BUSH PLAN TO STUDY CLIMATE.”The WP, which stuffs its report, goes soft, “REPORT GIVES BUSH’S GLOBAL WARMING EFFORTS MIXED RATING.”
Yesterday’s TP missed a little revolution in the Mideast: According to a wire piece in the NYT, Saudi Arabia’s government has now decreed that journalists will be allowed to—gasp!—create a professional association.