The New York Times leads with word that 150 Iraqi exiles hand-picked by the Pentagon are on their way to Baghdad to aid in rebuilding the government there. The Washington Post leads with the capture of Farouk Hijazi, a senior Iraqi official suspected of planning a 1993 assassination attempt against former President George Bush. Meanwhile, the top story in the Los Angeles Times says the Bush administration is plotting a new legal system in Iraq that could try hundreds of former officials there of war crimes. The system would operate similar to military tribunals and, according to U.S. officials, would be operated by Iraqis, not Americans. However, according to the story, Hijazi and other conspirators in the Bush assassination plot might be among the first plaintiffs—but that will be up to U.S. officials to decide. According to the NYT, the team of Iraqi exiles, officially known as the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council, was personally assembled two months ago by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Yet great pains have been taken to make sure the exiles are not viewed as “agents of America,” the story says. Members of the group, which include engineers, civil administrators, and other professionals, are employed by a major defense contractor, SAIC, and until recently, they were working out of office space in suburban Virginia, not at the Pentagon. In Baghdad, they will report directly to Jay Garner—the retired U.S. general who is now the top administrator in Iraq—until the formation of an interim Iraqi authority in late May. It’s not clear in the story if any of the exiles will attempt to stay on after the U.S. hands over control of Baghdad. Some worked in the Iraqi ministries during the 1970s and 1980s before fleeing the country, and at least a few are now American or British citizens. Emad Dhia, an engineer who left Iraq more than 20 years ago, is set to be Garner’s top Iraqi adviser and is among the few named in the story. Others, Dhia tells the NYT, are afraid to be named because they fear they will be killed. Another mystery is how the State Department feels about all of this, in light of recent reports that officials there have been at odds with the Pentagon over how to best rebuild the Iraqi leadership. Though the story quotes a lone State Department official on the May deadline of handing over control of Iraq, there’s no mention of whether the deal quells Colin Powell & Co.’s worries about inclusiveness and legitimacy when it comes to rebuilding the country. Word of Hijazi’s arrest gets mixed play in the papers this morning, even though Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld yesterday described his detainment as “significant.” Both the WP and LAT front word of the capture, which occurred yesterday near the Syrian border, while the NYT briefly mentions the arrest in two different stories. While the WP actually leads with news of the arrest, the LAT goes up high with one reason that U.S. officials think Hijazi is so important: He is suspected of being the link between Iraq and al-Qaida. Hijazi is “the biggest catch so far,” former CIA Director James Woolsey says in the LAT. The WP goes inside with a larger look at how captured Iraqi officials might be the key to helping the Bush administration prove its case against Saddam Hussein, but so far, many haven’t been very helpful. The piece notes that the administration seem to be “preparing the public for the possibility that they might fail to find bombs, missiles and artillery shells filled with chemical or biological agents, or to find records or other evidence further linking Iraq to the al-Qaida terrorist network.” A separate WP piece says virtually the same thing: U.S. officials are looking, but so far haven’t found much evidence to back up its case against Saddam. Meanwhile, the NYT stuffs word that Bush might formally announce a military victory over Iraq as soon as Thursday. In related news, Army Secretary Thomas E. White suddenly resigned yesterday. White, the WP notes, had been dogged by links to his former employer Enron and had repeatedly clashed with Rumsfeld, most recently over reports last month that Army officials believed the number of ground troops in Iraq wasn’t nearly enough to win the war. In China, 13 more people died of the SARS virus as Beijing officials expanded the quarantine to include a third hospital and two college dormitories, where 300 students were suspected of coming in contact with the deadly virus, according to the LAT. A front page item in the WP notes that the U.S. is ill-prepared legally to handle a major epidemic of the disease, since many public health laws are more than 100 years old and efforts to quarantine and track the disease may be unconstitutional. But that may not matter anyway, notes an analysis piece in the NYT. There may be nothing we can do to stop the disease, even if individuals are quarantined, the paper notes. The White House finally broke its silence yesterday on Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s controversial comments about homosexuality, the WP notes. “The president has confidence in the senator and believes he’s doing a good job as senator,” White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters yesterday noting that Bush “believes the senator is an inclusive man.”In a major setback to the entertainment industry, a U.S. District court judge ruled that two popular sources of free music and movies on the Internet do not violate copyright law, reports the LAT. The judge ruled that Morpheus and Grokster, two Web sites where individuals can download music and movie files for free, are no lot liable for damages because they don’t control or monitor how individuals are using their site. The decision puts “brakes on the momentum” on efforts by record labels and movie studios to block file-swapping services and could accelerate development of a fee-based system sponsored by the entertainment industry, says the NYT. Finally, the NYT sums up a new book that examines the somewhat obscure topic of masturbation throughout the ages. The book—“Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation” by Thomas Laqueur, a professor of history at the University of California at Berkeley—notes, among other things, that the act of self-love, if you will, wasn’t controversial until the age of Enlightenment, when suddenly it prompted a “sweeping moral and medical panic.” Folks have grown more accepting of the practice in the centuries since. Erection alarms, made popular during the mid-19th century, are no longer household items, for instance. Yet, even though it became a running gag on Seinfeld, masturbation still has yet to be truly accepted. “Too much solitary pleasure is unlikely ever to be looked upon as an unmitigated social good,” the NYT notes.
Exile on Main Street