Today's Papers

Let There Be Some Light

The Washington Post lead reports that at least six Iraqis were killed in outer Baghdad when assailants fired flares into a cache of ammunition guarded by Americans. The explosion sent rockets and missiles into nearby residential neighborhoods. According to the Los Angeles Times lead, the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is a mess. Disorganization, delays, and poor intelligence have slowed the hunt. The New York Times lead says that the administration will be tripling the size of the team searching for evidence of Iraq’s WMD program because the White House is concerned about the failure of searchers to find any weapons thus far. One thousand scientists and military personnel will be arriving in Iraq in the next few weeks to interview Iraqi scientists and look around.

The LAT’s lead can be summed up with this quote from an official involved in planning the WMD hunt: “Everybody recognizes that it’s gotten off to a rocky start. Frankly, the whole situation is very confusing at the moment.” Among the problems, some of which have been reported previously: so much bickering among government agencies that an NSC staffer has been assigned to mediate among the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and other concerned agencies; only two mobile exploitation teams out of 20 are in the hunt; the teams lack transport helicopters and guards; and the search for, and interrogation of, weapons scientists has been haphazard. The paper cites weapons experts who caution that if the Americans don’t get the weapons search under control soon, weapons blueprints, parts, and precursor chemicals might end up being sold to other nations or terrorist groups.

The NYT lead doesn’t mention any of this disarray in the WMD search program. In the piece, American officials seemed confident that they can find evidence of a weapons program that would convince experts but maybe not doubters. Some officials say they are no longer sure they’ll find any actual weapons. Instead, the administration believes the evidence of the WMD program will be things like empty shells for chemical or biological weapons, labs that could be used for making WMD, and precursor chemicals that could either be used for weapons or for fertilizers and pesticides.

Details of the ammunition incident, including the number of Iraqis killed and the identities of those who fired the flares, are sketchy. This is in part because American soldiers withdrew from the area after residents reacted angrily to the event and fired on the soldiers, the NYT says. People who live nearby had asked the U.S. to move the ammunition out of the residential area, but according to the WP, the U.S. didn’t have the manpower to do that. According to one nearby Iraqi hospital, at least 12 Iraqi civilians were killed and more than 30 were wounded, the WP reports. One American solider was wounded.

The LAT fronts the first part of a two-day evaluation of the capabilities and aspirations of Ansar al Islam, the Iraqi Islamic group that U.S. officials have alleged is the link between Saddam and al-Qaida. Documents from the Islamic group, visits to its bases, and statements from its imprisoned militants led the LAT to conclude—despite Secretary of State Powell’s allegations that the group wanted to export terrorism into the U.S.—Ansar al Islam was a fledgling organization dedicated to fighting the Kurdish government in northern Iraq and incapable of posing a real threat beyond its borders.

In a piece on its front, the NYT notes that U.S. Army engineers report that power is back on in about half of Baghdad and running water in 65 percent. Phones still don’t work in most areas of the city, though. American officials are calling Iraqi civil servants back to work to try to speed up the return to normalcy. “We’re going to ask people to turn up to the buildings even if they don’t exist,” a general said.

The NYT reports that U.S. soldiers caught Turkish Special Forces smuggling night-vision goggles, grenades, and rifles into Kirkuk in northern Iraq. American military officials believe the arms were intended for Turkmen living there. Turkey has claimed that Turkmen living in Iraq have been abused by Kurds and Arabs.

Back to Iraqi WMD: Inside the NYT, under the headline “Leading Iraqi Scientist Says He Lied to U.N. Inspectors,” Judith Miller opens a piece by reporting that Iraqi scientist Nissar Hindawi, a leader of Iraq’s bio weapons program in the 1980s, said that the stories he and other scientists gave the U.N. about Iraq’s bio weapons capabilities were “all lies.” It seems, however, despite the intriguing headline and lead paragraph, that the piece is only referring to lies that scientists may have told during the time Hindawi was involved in the bioweapons program, from 1986 to 1989 and again off and on through the mid-1990’s; it’s not clear whether Hindawi believes that the information today’s Iraqi scientists gave the U.N. during the recent round of inspections that preceded this war contained lies. It also appears that this time, unlike the report Miller wrote a few days ago about an Iraqi scientist whom the U.S. military didn’t allow her to speak to, she interviewed this scientist directly.

The WP reports that unless the laws get changed, President Bush may be a write-in candidate on a few state ballots in the election next year. The problem is that the GOP is having an unusually late nominating convention, and Bush will not be accepting the nomination until after the deadline for certifying presidential candidates has passed in Alabama, California, D.C., and West Virginia.