Today's Papers

Half-Brother, Where Art Thou?

USA Today leads with the capture of a second half-brother of Saddam Hussein’s, Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, who is the former chief of Iraqi intelligence and is suspected of mass crimes against Iraqi Kurds. The Washington Post leads with key Security Council members’ indications that the United States must give the United Nations a larger role in Iraq reconstruction plans before they’ll agree to lift economic sanctions. The Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide newsbox with Security Council members’ demand for renewed weapons inspections. The New York Times leads with news that the Bush administration awarded the Bechtel Group Inc. of San Francisco the first major Iraq reconstruction contract, which starts at $34 million and could rise to $680 million. The Los Angeles Times leads with word that looting in Iraq is delaying U.S. officials’ plans to restart the country’s economy, find weapons, and locate Saddam.

Authorities snagged Saddam’s half-brother “without incident,” the papers say. Though he and Saddam are apparently not as close as they once were because of recent fallings-out, the prisoner is still considered “an intelligence bonanza,” according to the Post. There’s still no word on the dictator’s whereabouts.

Responding to President Bush’s call for an end to economic sanctions against Iraq, French President Jacques Chirac said that sanctions could be lifted but that “it is up to the United Nations to define how,” according to the Post. “If you lift the sanctions, you lift all control of the U.N. over what’s going on in Iraq,” said a “European diplomat” in the WSJ. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said sanctions will remain until a number of conditions set out by Security Council resolutions are met, including proof that full disarmament of Iraq has occurred.

But Defense Secretary Rumsfeld told Defense Department employees at a Pentagon town-hall meeting that American and British forces probably won’t find weapons because Iraqi leaders have become so skilled at hiding them. “It’s not like a treasure hunt, where you just run around looking everywhere. … The inspectors didn’t find anything, and I doubt that we will.”

In its lead, the NYT emphasizes that the United Nations is being completely left out of any reconstruction efforts. “Iraq will not be put under a U.N flag. The U.N. is not going to be a partner,” a “senior administration official” tells the NYT.

The WSJ, NYT, WP, and LAT all mention that the U.S. General Accounting Office has opened an investigation of all matters relating to postwar Iraq in response to questions about how contracts are awarded, considering only a handful of companies—all American—were invited to bid on the project.

In a revealing sidebar, the NYT delves into Bechtel’s extensive ties with Republican administrations past and present, including a controversial 1983 meeting between then-Middle East envoy Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam over a Bechtel pipeline deal through Iraq. The NYT also notes, as does the WSJ, that Bush appointed Bechtel’s chairman to the president’s Export Council in February (the papers don’t note what the Export Council does—it’s an advisory board on international trade). The LAT mentions that the state of Massachusetts is examining whether Bechtel is to blame for more than $1 billion in mistakes on the Big Dig public road project.

Only USAT’s Associated Press story notes accusations earlier this year that Bechtel sold technology to Iraq in the 1980s that helped build its conventional weapons program (the company denies the reports).

In war round-ups, the NYT, LAT, and WP report Mohammed Mohsen Zubaidi’s Thursday announcement at the Palestine Hotel that he has been chosen to run Baghdad—the NYT says he proclaimed himself the “governor” while the Post and LAT say he was proclaiming himself the head of a council chosen to lead the city. Zubaidi, who has been living in the U.S. until recently, is a close friend of Ahmad Chalabi, another former exile who runs the Iraqi National Congress and is favored by some for a top leadership spot in Iraq. The papers note that Zubaidi did not say who had chosen him, how a council was formed, or anything else to explain his declaration.

The Post fronts, and others stuff, the first recommendations issued by the board investigating the Columbia space-shuttle disaster, saying that NASA’s methods of inspecting heat-shielding on the shuttle’s wings are “not adequate.”

The Post also fronts an announcement from the presidential campaign of Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., that it will return $10,000 in contributions to employees of a Little Rock law firm after a clerk said her boss would reimburse her for the donation. Federal law prohibits campaign donors from funneling money through another person.

The NYT, LAT, WSJ,and Post stuff word that Northern Ireland’s British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary actively helped Protestant guerrillas murder Catholics in the late 1980s, according to a report released by Britain’s senior police official after a 14-year investigation.

The papers note the deaths of the best-selling diet doctor, Robert C. Atkins, 72, and billionaire Sir J. Paul Getty, 70. Atkins was a controversial cardiologist and best-selling author who achieved fame by devising a diet full of meat, eggs, and butter, though many doctors maintain that the diet is dangerous. Getty was regarded as Britain’s greatest philanthropist—though the LAT mentions that associates claimed his fortune was in the hundreds of millions, not billions—and lived a turbulent, sometimes reclusive life including drug and alcohol addiction (conquered in the 1980s) and the kidnapping of his son (later returned).

The Post reports that White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was seen with his wife eating dinner at Washington, D.C., restaurant La Brasserie Tuesday night. Perhaps they special-ordered “freedom cuisine.”