Today's Papers

Hotel Havoc 

The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox (online), and Los Angeles Times all lead with yesterday’s suicide car bombing outside the Baghdad Hotel that left at least six dead and about 30 injured, 10 critically. USAToday’s lead says the military is looking into soldier suicides in Iraq, since, as one military psychiatrist said,the overall number of them “has caused the Army to be concerned.” There have been at least 14 suicides among troops in Iraq in the past seven months. That’s an annual rate of 17 suicides per 100,000 troops, about double the military’s rate last year. Also, 478 soldiers have been sent home because of mental health issues.  

According to early morning reports, one GI was killed and another injured with their armored troop carrier hit a land mine.

The papers mention that it’s unclear whether there were one or two cars involved in the attack. But everybody agrees that at least one car barreled through a checkpoint to the hotel, at which point Iraqis guards opened fired and the car exploded. The car didn’t make it to the hotel’s driveway, and concrete anti-blast walls absorbed much of the explosion. The hotel itself, which houses some Iraqi Governing Council members and U.S. officials, wasn’t significantly damaged. The Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who was in the hotel at the time, says the blast was “so powerful that body parts were found on nearby roofs.” (Here’s an audio dispatch from Chandrasekaran, describing the scene.)

The WP notes that the attackers seemed to have good intel. One of the concrete barriers was down and in the process of being moved during the attack. “It was perfectly timed,” said one American guard.

The papers also say that it’s a bit of a mystery who was housed in the hotel, with plenty of people thinking CIA personnel were camped out there. The LAT, which says the hotel was “surrounded by heavy security and secrecy,” notices a non-denial denial: A military spokesman said the place is not a “CIA facility.”

The NYT mentions that the Iraqi victims were taken to Baghdad’s main hospital, which features “grimy” beds. The chief doctor said the U.S. hasn’t offered any help to treat the wounded. (Has the U.S. helped the hospital in general?)

The LAT mentions that there were 22 separate attacks on U.S. and allied soldiers yesterday, about double the average, though a spokesman said they go up and down like that. (What are most of these attacks? Or put another way, what exactly counts as an “incident”? Rock throwing? Only live ammunition?)

The WSJ gets hold of the draft of an Army report concluding that 1) contrary to the administration’s claims, Saddam did not have big plans to blow oil fields, dams, and bridges; 2) among the biggest factors in the U.S.’s initial win was “Iraqi ineptitude”—most of Saddam’s soldiers hadn’t trained with live ammo in more than a year. “I worry that Pentagon is drawing cosmic lessons from the defeat of a truly inept enemy,” said one analyst. “That is a big, big mistake.”

The NYT fronts, and others stuff, suggestions from new Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei that he’ll step aside in three weeks, when his emergency Cabinet expires. Qurei made the statement as he continues to fight with Yasser Arafat over Arafat’s demands to keep control of Palestinian security services.

The WP takes an interesting angle, emphasizing Qurei’s decision to stick around: “PALESTINIAN CABINET DECIDES TO STAY ON DESPITE INFIGHTING.” That seems a tad off given Qurei suggestions that he’s only going to stick around until about Halloween. “We still have a crisis,” one Palestinian politician told the Post. “Today was more of a damage control.”

A front-page NYT piece unveils federal figures showing that with welfare reform, states’ welfare spending has shifted from cash payouts to direct services, such as child care and job training.  The proportion of state welfare money spent directly on cash assistance went from 77 percent in 1997 to 44 percent last year. “The old traditional welfare program is now an employment program,” said one state welfare manager. “But it requires an upfront investment that may cost more in the short run. Child care alone may be more expensive than handing out a cash grant.”  The Times suggests that the trend partially explains why the number of people on “welfare”—typically defined as those getting cash payments—has been falling so dramatically.

In one of those articles only insiders will love, the WP’s off-lead says the No Child Left Behind education reform bill is becoming a political liability for the White House. The Post doesn’t focus on such minutia as whether or not the law is working and instead looks at the political fallout from the perception that it isn’t: President Bush, says the Post, is going to be nailed for allegedly underfunding the program and for what “critics say are unreasonable standards.” USAT has done some good reporting on the education act, suggesting that the standards are too rigid. (Slate looked at the law last month and said while it has flaws and need fixing, it’s not all that bad nor underfunded.)