The New York Times leads with and the Washington Post fronts word from unnamed officials that the administration’s chief weapons hunter, David Kay, will give an interim report to Congress next week acknowledging that his team hasn’t found any banned weapons. The WP’s lead notices that President Bush ended two days of meetings at the United Nations with empty hands, winning no additional foreign troops or money for Iraq. USA Today leads with an interview with French President Jacques Chirac in which he talked nice about the United States’ proposals for Iraq and said that while sovereignty should be formally turned over quickly, it could be mostly symbolic: “The practicalities of that is something that we can discuss.” The Los Angeles Times leads with yesterday’s debate in California’s recall race. The candidates were given the questions in advance and the forum essentially turned into a bunch of “your momma” jokes.
A CIA spokesman explained that Kay’s team is “still gathering information from the field. Don’t expect any firm conclusions.” The Post, citing officials who’ve spent time in Iraq, says the team has “not gathered any substantial information.” Though the Times has the definitive headline, “DRAFT REPORT SAID TO CITE NO SUCCESS IN IRAQ ARMS HUNT,” the piece itself mentions up high that Kay’s team says it interviewed “at least one Iraqi security officer who said he had worked in such a chemical and biological weapons program until shortly before the American invasion.” The WP doesn’t mention that. The Times also says that the team says it found “evidence of precursors and dual-use equipment that could have been used to manufacture chemical and biological weapons.” (Shouldn’t the paper have added that many labs have the potential to be dual-use?)
Both the NYT and WP emphasize that the administration is trying to keep expectations low, playing down the report as just a little update. But as the WP notes, the administration’s publicly stated expectations have “changed significantly in the past few weeks.” Secretary of State Powell recently mentioned during a TV interview that the report would show “that there was no question that such weapons exist, existed, and so did the programs to develop one.” And Bush said at the United Nations on Tuesday that the report will “reveal the full extent of [Iraq’s] weapons programs and long campaign of deception.”
The WP also suggests that Kay’s efforts may be winding down. The paper mentions, deep in its piece, that the Pentagon, hard up for translators and interrogators to battle guerrillas, is considering using some of Kay’s team for the job.
A Post editorial, “WAITING FOR MR. KAY,” wonders why the report isn’t going to be publicly released.
The NYT’s Kay piece may as well have been headlined, “SORRY, EVERYBODY!” That’s because the story was written by Judith Miller (along with Douglas Jehl). A few of Miller’s finer scoops: “IRAQI TELLS OF RENOVATIONS AT SITES FOR CHEMICAL AND NUCLEAR ARMS,” “WHITE HOUSE LISTS IRAQ STEPS TO BUILD BANNED WEAPONS,” and “DEFECTORS BOLSTER U.S. CASE AGAINST IRAQ, OFFICIALS SAY.” Slate’s Jack Shafer has compiled a long list of Miller’s credulous coverage.
As most of the papers catch news of, NBC’s offices in Baghdad were hit by a small bomb this morning. One local employee of the building was killed and a network technician slightly injured. Also, everybody mentions that two roadside bombs exploded yesterday in Baghdad, narrowly missing American Humvees and hitting two Iraqi minibuses. At least one Iraqi died and about 20 were injured. Early morning reports also say that Iraq Governing Council member Akila Hashimi, who was wounded last week in an attack, has died from her wounds.
The Post’s lead and a front-page NYT piece both note that the White House warned it could take a while to get a Security Council resolution passed on Iraq. Asked by the Post whether it might take months, an unnamed administration official responded, “It could be. And I don’t think that there is any concern that that would be a problem. Nobody is in a particular hurry to get this done.”
As the LAT fronts and the Post’s lead emphasizes, a top Pentagon general warned that without additional foreign troop contributions, the military may have to begin calling up thousands of reservists in about a month.
The papers mention inside that Secretary-General Kofi Annan is considering ordering the “total withdrawal” of U.N. personnel from Iraq.
As the LAT fronts and everybody else mentions, Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder formally announced that they’re buddy-buddy again. “The Germans have come in with a constructive attitude,” one White House official told the LAT, “and we think they will be a key in isolating the French.”
A solid front-page piece in the Post suggests that despite its claims to the contrary, the administration had reason to know about and budget for the horrendous state of Iraq’s prewar power grid. “The telltale signs were there,” said one American engineer in Iraq. “But either because of sheer carelessness or because the [U.S.] government didn’t want to reveal how expensive it would be, there was massive under-planning.” Iraq currently generates about half the electricity it needs.
The NYT and LAT note on Page One that military investigators are looking into other possible cases of spying at Guantanamo Bay: The NYT says they’re looking at one other suspect, the LAT says two, and the WP says as many as four. “We don’t presume that the two we know about is all there is to it,” one general told reporters. There has been criticism—highlighted in yesterday’s NYT—about the military keeping one of the earlier arrests quiet. The Air Force explained yesterday it did so to “protect ongoing investigations.”
The WP and NYT front a federal judge’s decision to bar the government from implementing the telemarketing do-not-call list, ruling that the Federal Trade Commission overstepped its authority in creating the list. As everybody mentions, Congress is likely to pass a law ASAP overturning the decision.
Verbatim … The WP flags a comment (first noticed in Britain) that Secretary of State Powell made a few years ago:
“[Saddam] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.” – Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 24, 2001