Today's Papers

Monrovia Doctorin’?

The Los Angeles Times leads with—and The New York Times and The Washington Post front—rebel fighters’ onslaught of Liberia’s embattled capital, Monrovia, which is expected to hinder the arrival of international peacekeepers. The Post leads with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s recommendation to the Security Council to endorse the “governing council” in Iraq, a 25-member body selected by American officials to handle day-to-day jobs in the country. The NYT leads with American officials’ debate on how to restructure military assignments to properly stabilize Iraq while fulfilling other overseas missions. The Wall Street Journal tops its online world-wide newsbox with a prediction by Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of Central Command, that resistance to U.S. troops in Iraq will grow in the coming months. USA Today leads with the increasing number of states that are purchasing a privately run database that notifies crime victims on the status of imprisoned offenders. 

The White House is still considering whether they should send forces to Liberia. The WSJ quotes a “U.S. official” who says the renewed fighting has convinced Washington that foreign peacekeepers should stay away for now. Nearly 200 people were injured by gunfire over the weekend, according to estimates by relief groups, and tens of thousands have sought refuge near the U.S. Embassy. In a statement, the rebels said they have no intention of capturing Monrovia; their attacks aim to stop assaults on rebel forces outside the city. The NYT reports this fact, but muddles the issue with a headline that indicates that the rebels are seeking control: “Liberians Seek Cover as Forces Vie for Capital.”

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld spent the weekend contemplating international troop rotation. No final decisions were made, but according to a confidential memo Rummy wrote a few weeks ago (his senior aide gave a copy to the Times), he wants to make mobilization and demobilization more efficient and reduce the need for involuntary mobilization of the National Guard and Reserves.

Annan’s report, given to Security Council members Friday but not to be released to the public until today, asks them to consider the governing council an “interim government.” Many critics have dismissed the new group as American puppets. The Security Council is slated to make a decision soon, and an endorsement would likely start the ball rolling on reconstruction donations from foreign governments.

Meanwhile, 10,000 Iraqis turned out for an anti-American demonstration Sunday in the city of Najaf, and two U.S. soldiers were killed in attacks in northern Iraq Sunday by rocket-propelled grenades (the number of U.S. soldiers killed by hostile fire is now up to 151 since the start of the war—four more than during the 1991 Gulf War).

In a scathing editorial, the NYT writes that the Bush administration “grievously miscalculated the human and financial costs of the American occupation” and notes that critics who predicted a screwed-up peacekeeping process were correct. The Times says that it’s not too late to fix the damage, but it “will require the kind of staying power and cooperation with other nations that this administration has rarely shown much interest in mustering.”

Though the White House released portions of the National Intelligence Estimate Friday to bolster their claim that they did not twist prewar intelligence on Iraq’s weapons program, already the move appears to be backfiring. In a Page One piece, the WP reports on what the declassified documents reveal: While the administration was warning of an unprovoked move by Saddam Hussein to give weapons to terrorists in the fall, the NIE shows that the intelligence community found that prospect unlikely. In fact, intelligence services were actually more worried about Hussein doling out biological or chemical goodies if he were facing death or capture by the U.S. The Post also mentions what Bush hasn’t: Hussein might be a potentially bigger threat now than before the war.

The NYT fronts word that internal investigators at the Justice Department have received 34 credible complaints in recent months that employees enforcing the USA Patriot Act have violated civil rights and civil liberties of Muslim and Arab immigrants and others. The accused workers include a federal prison doctor who reportedly told an inmate during an exam that “if I was in charge, I would execute every one of you.” Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, provided the report to the NYT, saying in a statement, “We have only begun to scratch the surface with respect to the Justice Department’s disregard of constitutional rights.” 

The NYT fronts, and others stuff, the tense meeting between Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that the Times deemed “a stalemate.” Sharon said Palestinian militant groups must be dismantled before Israeli troops are withdrawn. According to the WP, “a Palestinian source” who attended the two-hour meeting said the powwow “included shouting on both sides.”

Everyone stuffs the BBC’s confirmation Sunday that Dr. David Kelly, the British weapons expert who committed suicide last week, was the source for a report on doctoring intelligence files that led to a fight between the network and Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government.

In other international news, a Kenyan plane crash killed 14, including 12 Americans; also, the former dictator of Uganda, Idi Amin, is in a coma in Saudi Arabia. During his eight-year presidency in the 1970s, hundreds of thousands were tortured and murdered. All the papers stuff versions of the same Associated Press reports on the two African stories.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane … USA Today notes that Playboy has announced it will create an animated TV series called Hef’s Superbunnies for a mainstream network that will feature Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner and a team of Playmates battling “enemies of democracy.” TP wonders if the Bunnies, too, will be joining the hunt for the missing WMD.