The Washington Post leads with, and the New York Times fronts, Vice President Cheney’s aggressive defense of the administration’s decision to pre-empt problems with Iraq by attacking it. In a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation, Cheney argued that shying away from preemptive strikes meant courting the sort of “weakness and drift and vacillation in the face of danger [which would] invite attacks.” He said the years of weapons inspections, no-fly zone patrols and intermittent strikes against Iraq were failures and argued that worrying too much about achieving international consensus before taking on threats “amounts to a policy of doing exactly nothing.” The NYT lead reports that on Friday, 10,000 people turned out in predominantly Shiite Sadr City to mourn the two Iraqis killed there Thursday and to curse the Americans. The paper wonders whether Shiite dissatisfaction is becoming a threat to American efforts in Iraq. The Los Angeles Timesleads with news that California lost a net of 16,600 jobs in September, its biggest monthly loss this year, even as the U.S. economy as a whole added 57,000 jobs that month. However, the paper warns this data could be suspect due to seasonal variations in employment numbers and other “statistical quirks.”
The Post’s coverage of Cheney’s speech is the best read. The paper plays Cheney’s assertions against U.S. weapons inspector David Kay’s in Kay’s recent report and testimony before Congress. Cheney said weapons inspection failed: Kay said that Iraq’s ability to produce chemical weapons had been reduced, if not destroyed, by the first Gulf War, U.N. sanctions and U.N. inspections. Cheney said that the fact that prison laboratories had been “possibly used” for human testing of bio weapons amounted to a “material breach” of U.N. Security Resolution 1441. Kay noted that the U.S. did not have evidence that the prisons were being used for testing weapons.
The papers have more detail on Thursday’s violence in Sadr City. The American story is that U.S. soldiers were patrolling Sadr City after a suicide bomber blew up a police station there when Iraqis approached the troops, asking for help. The soldiers followed them. The pleas for help were apparently fake and led the Americans into an ambush. Two Iraqis were killed, and two Americans died as well. However, some Iraqi witnesses said there was no ambush and that the Americans shot first.
The NYT concludes that if large numbers of Shiites, who in general have been less unfriendly to American efforts in Iraq than the Sunnis, turn against the Americans, the results could be “explosive.” In its follow-up on the violence in Sadr City, the WP reminds that 60 percent of Iraq is Shiite. A representative of the American military warned the NYT that you can’t extrapolate the sentiment of the two million people of Sadr City from the opinions expressed at the gathering of the 10,000 mourners.
Everyone’s front reports that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to an Iranian human rights activist, the first Muslim woman to win the prize. Shirin Ebadi has fought Iran’s Islamic government for the rights of women and children.
Inside the papers is news that a skirmish between Israeli troops and Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip killed perhaps seven Palestinians and wounded at least 40 more. An eight-year-old boy was among the dead. According to witnesses, the LAT says, many of the wounded were hurt when the Israelis fired a missile into a crowd which they believed contained some militants. The Israeli soldiers had entered the Rafah refugee camp looking for tunnels that they believed were being used to move weapons into Gaza from Egypt. They said they found two tunnels.
Everyone reefers President Bush’s announcement that the administration will step up efforts to find and punish Americans who visit Cuba illegally—which will take away tourism dollars from Castro— and will make it easier for Cuban immigrants to enter the U.S. The plan is part of a set of policy adjustments Bush said he is making to “hasten the arrival of a new, free democratic Cuba.” The papers note Bush’s remarks on Cuba were for the benefit of the Cuban-Floridians whose vote he wants.
The WP and NYT front word that Rush Limbaugh announced he is addicted to prescription pain killers and is going into rehab.
An NYT reporter tries to puzzle through bewildering street signs in NYC that point to places that are often miles away and offer little guidance on how to cover those intervening miles, or worse, are totally nonsensical. He consulted people who study NYC street signs (he notes that yes, there are such people) but still was able to make little sense of a sign which promised to get him to SUNY Downstate Medical Center but instead took him into an endless loop, or of a sign to the Jacob Javits Center that told him to go north on southbound Second Avenue, right into midday traffic.