Today's Papers

Ace in the Hole

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today all lead with the capture of Saddam’s top aide, Abid Hamid Mahmoud al-Tikriti. If anybody knows where his boss has been hanging around, it’s Mahmoud, who was always by Saddam’s side. Only Saddam and his sons were higher on the wanted list, where Mahmoud was designated as the ace of diamonds. One official described him to the LAT as “the Condoleezza Rice of the Baath Party.” The Washington Post off-leads Mahmoud’s capture and instead goes with the resignation of Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose. The sniper-case celeb quit after county officials told him that a book contract and scheduled paid speaking gigs violate county regulations against leveraging public office positions to make extra cash.

(The LAT catches late-breaking word of a suicide bombing in northern Israel—one person, besides the bomber, was killed.)

The LAT emphasizes that Mahmoud was actually captured well before the announcement—on Monday, says the NYT. The LAT says authorities had been hoping to keep his capture secret and find Saddam’s hideout in the meantime. Then somebody leaked the nabbing. Meanwhile, everybody says that Mahmoud almost certainly knows whatever was or was not going on with Saddam’s unconventional weapons programs. But don’t get too excited: Unnamed officials told the NYT that Mahmoud hasn’t revealed anything during his interrogation so far.

As the papers also mention, U.S. forces raided a farmhouse near Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit and found $8 million in U.S. cash and about 15 members of Saddam’s former special security service, including one of his bodyguards. Also, another GI was shot and killed yesterday in Baghdad. And according to early-morning reports, a mortar shell struck a military office north of Baghdad, killing one Iraqi and injuring 12. No U.S. soldiers were injured.

Everybody also notes that two Iraqi demonstrators were killed when a crowd outside U.S. HQ in Baghdad started throwing rocks and one GI—who apparently mistook fellow GIs’ warning shots for hostile fire—fired a volley into the crowd. An officer cited in the NYT had an important observation: American soldiers in Iraq aren’t equipped with non-lethal forms of crowd control, such as rubber bullets.

The demonstrators were ex-soldiers demanding back-pay. They’ve been unemployed since Iraq boss Paul Bremer dissolved the 400,000-man army a few weeks ago. The NYT, and LAT in a well-done piece that smartly contrasts the protests with the shooting of the GI, both mention that many American officers think Bremer made the wrong call. “If we are not careful,” one officer told the NYT, “we are going to push them into a paramilitary group that is going to attack coalition forces.”

The Post’s Anthony Shadid visited Fallujah and heard lots of anger. “The Americans should get out,” said one resident. “Who said they were liberators?” Another added, “We’re becoming like the Palestinians.” Monday’s LAT and TP suggested that things in Fallujah were finally calming down.

The NYT and WP mention inside that defense officials announced that Italy, Spain, Honduras, and other countries have committed a total of about 20,000 troops to send into Iraq and, hopefully, replace some U.S. forces. As the Times notes, some of the GIs there have been deployed abroad from more than a year. Both reports mention that the occupation is currently costing the Pentagon about $3 billion per month, spending that hasn’t been included in the military’s current budget.

The NYT goes inside with an interview with the retiring Hans Blix, who actually doesn’t throw many bricks, expect for this one: “What surprises me, what amazes me, is that it seems the military people were expecting to stumble on large quantities of gas, chemical weapons and biological weapons. I don’t see how they could have come to such an attitude if they had, at any time, studied the [U.N. inspectors’] reports.”

The Wall Street Journal  and NYT both go high with President Bush’s warning that the U.S. and allies “will not tolerate the construction of a nuclear weapon” in Iran, the first time he’s drawn such a line. Asked how he plans on stopping Teheran, Bush said the “international community must come together.”

In a scoop, the NYT off-leads word that an about-to-be-published EPA report had most of its section about global warming removed after the White House tried to water it down. For instance, the section originally began, “Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment.” The White House tweaked that slightly to say, “The complexity of the Earth system and the interconnections among its components make it a scientific challenge to document change.” At one point, some EPA staffers circulated an internal memo saying the report “no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change.” The EPA eventually decided to just leave out most of the section.

The Post mentions inside that Kuwait has jailed a journalist for, as the WP puts it, “illegally criticizing” the royal family. 

Everybody fronts scientists’ decoding of the male Y chromosome and their discovery that contrary to long-held belief, it isn’t a mess of damaged DNA and can in fact repair itself. “The Y has been said to be the home for the remote-control gene, the belching gene and the refuse-to-ask-directions gene,” one researcher told USAT. “Our goal is to bring [it] respectability.”

The LAT and NYT reefer the death of Larry Doby, who in 1947 broke the color barrier in the American League. He was 79.

The Post’s Style section notices the impending release of a schmaltzy cable docudrama about the White House in the hours after the Sept. 11 attacks. According to the movie, an in control President Bush ordered Air Force One back to D.C. and when one Secret Service agent tried to dissuade him, “But Mr. President,” Bush cut him off, “Try ‘Commander in Chief.’ Whose present command is: Take the president home!” Now, the real conversation might not have gone precisely like that. But the movie’s producer defended his work, explaining, “There’s nothing here that Bob Woodward would disagree with.” Exactly.