Today's Papers

Brits Hit

Everybody leads with two attacks in Iraq that left six British soldiers dead and other eight wounded, making yesterday the bloodiest day for coalition troops since major fighting ended in early April.

In one attack British paratroopers came under fire from what one Brit defense official called “a large number of Iraqi gunmen.” The attack was well-executed, and in what may have been a planned ambush, a helicopter that responded also came under heavy fire. In the other, much murkier incident, six British military police were killed—nobody seems to know what happened. (An early-morning Reuters report says local residents angry about intrusive searches rioted and killed the soldiers after the British opened up with plastic bullets.)

The attacks came in the largely Shiite south, which had been a relatively quiet region. And they were far from the only incidents yesterday. The Los Angeles Times says that U.S. officials estimated that there had been “25 armed attacks in the preceding 24 hours.” While most of the incidents were small-scale and didn’t result in casualties on either side, at least one GI was injured and there were a number of narrow misses. The New York Times gives a helpful partial roundup of the attacks. The Times also says that three Iraqis were killed in Baghdad after U.S. soldiers mistook gunfire from an argument for hostile fire and, according to residents, shot up a three-block-long area and killed three civilians.

The LAT says that saboteurs knocked out a key gas pipeline, cutting off gas to the power plants that supply electricity to central Iraq—that’s particularly problematic since in Baghdad nowadays it’s about 110 degrees.

An important, sobering Page One piece in the Washington Post says that the U.S.’s rebuilding and governance efforts in Iraq are being almost entirely carried out by military units, which are ill-equipped for the work. “We’ve been given a job that we haven’t prepared for, we haven’t trained for, that we weren’t ready for,” said one officer. The problem is exacerbated by severe understaffing. “Before the war, nobody stopped and said, ‘Aren’t we going to need a bunch of people in the provinces?’,” said one officer.

The NYT’s Thomas Friedman also nails the White House for being “so poorly prepared for postwar Iraq.”

The NYT and LAT both visited the Iraqi border town where U.S. forces bombed a convoy last week. The papers says that the area of the village where houses were bombed has been cordoned off by U.S. forces; even residents aren’t allowed in. “Stop right there,” one soldier warned the NYT’s reporter. “If you take a picture, I will break your camera.” Both papers confirm what the Post mentioned yesterday: two civilians were killed in the raid, a young mother and her infant daughter.

The LAT and NYT front Israel’s round-up yesterday of 130 Palestinian “men, women and teenagers” (LAT) in what Israeli officials described as the single largest sweep against Hamas in nearly three years. As the LAT emphasizes, Israeli officials said that it was an intel operation and that they picked up some people, such as neighbors of Hamas suspects, who weren’t wanted themselves but just might know something. The NYT says that Israel concluded that some sort of deal with the Palestinians might happen soon and that this was one of their last chances to go full-bore against Hamas. As the NYT points out a separate piece, the U.S. didn’t criticize the action.

The Post, alone among the papers, fronts President Bush’s offer of $3 billion in apparently many-strings-attached aid to Pakistan—a sixfold increase from previous packages to Pakistan. Bush met with Pakistani President Musharraf yesterday and according to the NYT privately chastised him for providing nuclear technology to North Korea.

The NYT fronts findings not only that women undergoing hormone therapy face a higher risk of breast cancer, but also that one widely used combination of hormones can make tumors harder to detect.

The other papers stuff that development and instead front a study suggesting that a drug for treating enlarged prostates appears to reduce the risk of getting prostate cancer, though it also might also slightly increase the risk of getting more aggressive forms of the disease. As it happens, the drug is also marketed in lower doses as a hair-growth pill. Thus the Post’s headline, “STUDY FINDS BALDNESS DRUG LOWERS PROSTATE CANCER RISK.” Which is off on two counts: It ignores the potential downside. And as the Post itself notes, the study used the higher-dose version of the drug, not the itty-bitty one given to the follicly challenged. The LAT does a better job, “PROSTATE DRUG CUTS CANCER ODDS, HAS RISKS.”

The Post’s Howard Kurtz says that NYT WMD reporter Judith Miller got a bit too close with the weapons hunting unit she tagged along with in Iraq. Citing a half-dozen officers, Kurtz says that Miller served as a “middleman” between the unit and her buddy, controversial Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi. One officer called the group the “Judith Miller team,” and said it did things at Miller’s behest that they weren’t trained to do, like interrogating former officials who Chalabi had gathered up. A NYT editor said that the accusation that Miller unduly influenced the unit is “baseless.” But according to an unnamed officer in the group, “It’s impossible to exaggerate the impact she had on the mission of this unit, and not for the better.”