The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and Los Angeles Times all lead with word that President Bush has agreed to begin Security Council negotiations to authorize a multinational, but still U.S.-commanded, force in Iraq. “We need the forces,” a senior administration official told the Post. USA Today leads with word that the death rate from cancer is declining and the number of overall new cases is leveling off. The largest decline in deaths was seen in lung cancer.
The Post, which has the best dirt on Bush’s move, suggests the Pentagon’s top generals are behind the seeming change in attitude; one defense official described them as “strongly engaged” in pushing for internationalization. But it’s still unclear how much of a change there will be. According to the Post, the White House has decided to give some, still unclear, amount of political authority to the U.N. It also says the administration is willing to give the U.N. “greater control” over troops, though it’s not explicit about what that would entail, given that a U.S. commander would still be jefe. As one official told the Post, the White House is considering several ways of internationalizing the effort, “all of which really are focused keeping the U.S. in charge of the operation.”
As everybody notes, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage first floated the U.N.-sponsored-but-U.S.-commanded idea last week, but the White House didn’t come out in support, so people wondered whether he was free-styling.
As the NYT flags up high, a new congressional study has concluded that the current military force in Iraq can’t be sustained past March unless the Army calls up more reserves, calls in the Marines, or gets help from abroad. The Post has a stand-alone piece inside on the report.
The WP and NYT front yesterday’s pickup-truck bombing at Iraqi police HQ in Baghdad; one cop was killed and at least 25 were injured. The bomb appears to have been an attempt to assassinate the U.S.-appointed police chief. It went off right below his office—he just didn’t happen to be there. There’s also evidence, says the NYT, that it was an inside job. The truck carrying the bomb had been towed into the compound by traffic police, who use the HQ parking lot to impound vehicles. But the Post quotes witnesses saying the truck just drove in since cops left the gate unguarded.
As everybody briefly notes, the Pentagon announced that two GIs were killed Monday when their vehicle hit a mine.
USAT notes on Page One that the administration is still demurring from giving Congress an estimate for the cost of rebuilding Iraq, arguing that it’s impossible to estimate just yet. Congressmen who are antsy for numbers—and who point out that the operation in Iraq is about to run out of money—should grab a NYT and flip to the op-ed page, where they’ll no doubt be pleased to see a detailed estimate: oh, say, $500 billion.
A front-page LAT piece says Ansar al-Islam, the Islamic militant group in northern Iraq, has in small numbers moved into Baghdad. But it also suggests that while the group has allied itself with Osama Bin Laden, its influence and abilities are being overplayed by the White House and others. “It’s not likely they are carrying out the attacks they are being blamed for,” said one Iraqi observer. “It is in the interest of some to amplify the size of Ansar.”
Stuffed onto A8, the Post’s Emily Wax—who has been doing some fine reporting from Africa—says the humanitarian situation in Liberia is actually getting worse. Peacekeepers still haven’t moved beyond the capital. And Liberians in the countryside, fleeing fighting or perhaps just fearing the potential for it, having been crowding into Monrovia. “It’s not even human misery. It’s worse than that,” said one U.N. official. “The only thing comparable was Goma when 1 million people packed a town for 50,000 after the genocide.”
The NYT fronts and WP off-leads a federal appeals court’s decision overturning more than 100 death sentences, the argument being that a judge rather than a jury can’t make key factual decisions during sentencing. The Supreme Court made that point last year, and the appeals court said the higher court’s ruling should be applied retroactively. Two other appeals courts have said it shouldn’t be applied retroactively—so none of this is final, it’s very likely going to the Supremes.
The NYT reefers a new Census report showing that the percentage of Americans living below the poverty line rose last year to 12.4 percent from 12.1 percent, an additional 1.3 million people. In 2001, the last year for which the Times says such figures were calculated, a family of two adults and two kids had to make less than $17,960 to be considered officially impoverished.
OK, TP needs to work on its reading skills: Yesterday this column said the WP should have explained how it knew the exact number of troops wounded in Iraq. In fact, the Post did detail the process it went through to come up with the casualty count: It called the Pentagon and asked. TP also did a disservice to the LAT’s Tracy Wilkinson. He, in fact, is a she.