The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and USA Today all lead with President Bush’s suggestion that he’ll offer North Korea a written promise not to invade in return for Pyongyang giving up its nukes program, including any nukes it already has. Bush also said a formal non-aggression treaty is still “off the table.” As one unnamed White House official described it to reporters, the offer is for an “agreement with a small ‘a’.” The New York Times’ lead says that the White House has agreed to let a new international agency oversee some new aid to Iraq. The agency, run by the World Bank and U.N., will not report to the U.S. and will not oversee the $20 billion the U.S. is considering giving. As the Times notes, the new deal effectively hands the U.N. some of the control that the U.S. had been opposed to granting. “We had to act because the international community was stonewalling us on aid,” said one unnamed administration official. The NYT doesn’t say whether the new agency will oversee already pledged money from other countries, such as the $1.5 billion Japan has promised for next year.
The White House didn’t fill out details on its North Korea offer except to say to that it would be multilateral, with China, Russia, and South Korea also promising not to attack.
The LAT, alone among the papers, latches on to another way in which the administration may be loosening up its negotiating stance: According to one unnamed “senior administration official,” so long as there’s “verifiable progress,” a deal could be signed before Pyongyang sends its whole nukes program to the dumpster. “We’re not saying everything has to be done before we will do anything,” said the official (from the State Dept?). “In fact, we’re saying the opposite.” The WH had long insisted that it wouldn’t do diddly until Pyongyang dismantled its program.
Everybody notes inside that two U.S. soldiers were killed yesterday in northern Iraq. Also, as the papers mention inside, an Army truck hit a mine in Fallujah; no GIs were injured but the attack set off a throng of cheering residents. “This was carried out at the encouragement of Osama bin Laden,” one resident told the Post. “We are happy he was on television yesterday. He sent greetings to the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. We are now encouraged to expel the Americans from the city.” The NYT has a remarkable picture of the victory celebration. Soldiers who arrived to try to tow away the truck were fired on. According to the Post, the best-selling CDs in Fallujah now are compilations of Bin Laden’s speeches.
In a front-page piece, the WP talks to some Taliban fighters who describe how darn easy it is to cross into Afghanistan from safe havens in Pakistan’s tribal areas. “It’s no problem at all,” said a Taliban recruiter. Another Taliban supporter said that’s actually not such a big deal since Taliban are now operating openly in Afghanistan anyway: They “used to hide in the borderlands, but now they have established good contacts with the tribal chiefs and warlords in Afghanistan, so they provide them with shelter now.”
The WP goes inside with a wire story, based on an investigation in the Toledo Blade,reporting that an elite U.S. Army unit in Vietnam killed hundreds of unarmed villagers during seven months in 1967; and, though the military once investigated the claims, it decided not to press charges. “We didn’t expect to live. Nobody out there with any brains expected to live,” said one former sergeant with the unit. “The way to live is to kill because you don’t have to worry about anybody who’s dead.”
The Post’s“In the Loop” columnist, Al Kamen, names the winners of his “Name that Scandal!” contest, which was called in search of an appropriate appellation for the apparent outing of a CIA agent. TP’s favorite: Weapons of Mate Destruction.