Today's Papers

The American Resolution

The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Washington Post front—and the Wall Street Journaltops its world-wide news box with—the draft resolution on Iraq that the U.S. plans to present to the U.N. Security Council today. The proposed resolution would lift non-military sanctions and endorse the U.S. and British occupation of the country for at least a year. USA Today’s lead highlights poll results that show what it calls “growing” support for George Bush’s tax cut plan, a scaled-back version of which a Senate committee approved yesterday, according to the WP’s off-lead and stories that the NYT fronts and LAT stuffs.

The papers’ leads on the U.S.-British-Spanish resolution run the gamut from reporting, as the WP does, that the U.S. is seeking a broad mandate to control Iraq to asserting, as the WSJ does, that the U.S. is offering key concessions in the hope of securing the resolution’s passage. While the NYT prints the draft’s full text, the WSJ deserves kudos (subscription required) for being alone in picking up the resolution’s own language in calling the U.S. and Britain “occupiers.” Counterintuitively, this designation is the main concession the paper says the U.S. is offering—it imposes obligations under the Geneva Conventions and seems intended to reassure council members that the U.S. is adhering to international law. According to a former State and Defense department official to whom the WSJ spoke, occupying-power status means the U.S. cannot give all reconstruction contracts to American companies and “it can’t choose the political leadership of the country.”

The Bush administration is rosy on the prospects of passage. “This resolution is designed to get a 15-0 vote,” a senior official told the NYT. Still, the papers all expect some opposition from council members because the draft relegates the United Nations to an advisory role at best in administering the country’s oil revenues and reconstruction plans. Moreover, the WP notes that the resolution’s 12-month blessing of U.S. and British occupation includes a trigger for automatic renewal unless the council specifically ends it. Russia has been the most staunchly opposed, insisting that U.N. weapons inspectors certify that Iraq has no banned weapons before sanctions can be lifted. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. said yesterday that he sees no role for the inspectors “for the foreseeable future.”

The NYT off-leads and the WP and LAT go inside with the defeat of some Senate Republicans in their efforts eliminate the 2005 sunset clause on sweeping new law-enforcement powers included in 2001’s Patriot Act. It was a brief victory for civil libertarians, however, as the Senate then went on to approve another expansion of federal surveillance powers—which the NYT calls the “lone-wolf” measure and the WP labels the “Moussaoui fix”—that would allow secret surveillance of suspects who are not thought to be members of terrorist organizations. Under the current law, the Feds must establish some link to a foreign terror group to request a secret warrant.

The tax bill the Senate committee passed would cut $421 billion in some taxes while raising others so that the package only costs $350 billion, a threshold the Republican chairman of the committee had promised not to cross. The WP’s off-lead calls the “unusual” plan a “tax hike,” even though, as the NYT’s front-pager notes, one of the so-called controversial hikes is a provision that would prohibit American companies from avoiding U.S. taxes by incorporating in offshore tax havens.

Although the plan still includes a (smaller) tax cut on dividend earnings and lower income-tax rates for only the higher brackets, Bush’s relentless push for his plan under the “jobs” rubric seems to be working: According to the poll that USAT leads, public support for the tax cut has gone up 10 points in a little more than two weeks. “People don’t know the details,” a political science professor told USAT. “But what they are hearing is that there is going to be a tax cut and Bush is the one pushing it.”

At the risk of angering Beijing, the U.S. is pushing Taiwan to buy the newest version of its Patriot anti-missile system, the WSJ reports. According to the Journal, the push marks a reversal after years of Taiwan’s begging the U.S. to sell it advanced weapons systems to counter Chinese missile buildup across the Taiwan Strait. Just one problem: Despite U.S. assurances that the updated Patriot has proved itself in Gulf War II, Taipei isn’t convinced the missile actually works. “We need to keep evaluating this,” a defense spokesman said.

A story inside the WP reports that the U.S. general in charge of a swath of northern Iraq denied that he had ordered Mosul’s only television station be “seized,” as was reported in a detailed story in yesterday’s WSJ. Still, he conceded the main point of the article: “Yes, what we are looking at is censorship,” the general said, explaining his rationale that “you can censor something that is intended to inflame passions.”

The WP fronts a lengthy piece on the slow pace of Iraq’s reconstruction. While most of the details—from the delays in providing essential services to growing anti-American sentiment—have been reported before, the Post paints the situation in Iraq as particularly bleak, with more tough times to come. “I feel like a paid liar,” one Army sergeant said. “To look at these people and say, ‘Tomorrow, you’ll have electricity.’ And then, tomorrow, they look you in the eye and say, ‘When?’ “

The LAT fronts and the WP goes inside with the reopening of the Iraqi court system in an intricately staged ritual to prove that at least one thing in Iraq’s reconstruction is going well. According to the LAT, 13 defendants were “marched through swarms of journalists into one of two open courthouses.”

Both the LAT and NYT run pieces that pick up on how Bush is rewarding those countries that supported his war effort and none-too-subtly snubbing those that didn’t. Carrot alert: All but one of the seven NATO expansion countries the Senate approved so smoothly yesterday were vocal supporters the war.

WHO knows? … The NYT fronts and the WP goes inside with word from the WHO that SARS is not mutating as quickly as some had feared, making the prospect of a vaccine within a couple years more likely. But don’t take off your surgical mask quite yet, because the WSJ runs the completely opposite story, reporting that scientists in “Hong Kong and elsewhere” suspect two mutant strains of the disease already exist and more are in the offing, making “an effective SARS vaccine … much harder to produce.” TP begs the papers to do fledgling hypochondriacs a favor and resolve this disagreement ASAP.