Today's Papers

Sadr City Stings 

The New York Times leads with the bloodiest day in Iraq in a month. At least eight Iraqis died in a suicide bombing at a police station in Baghdad, three U.S. soldiers were killed in attacks, and a Spanish intel officer was chased from his home and assassinated. “There will be bumps in the road,” said Iraq boss Paul Bremer. “There will be bad days like today.” USA Today leads with, and others front, researchers’ findings that a drug cuts by nearly half the chances that women who’ve survived early stage breast cancer will suffer a relapse. The results were so dramatic that researchers decided it would be unethical to continue the study. The drug, letrozole, is already on the market, so doctors will be able to prescribe it immediately. The Los Angeles Times leads with the Gov.-Elect Schwarzenegger unveiling his eclectic 65-member transition team, which spans the political spectrum from former GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon to San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. Film director Ivan Reitman also earns a spot. As the LAT mentions in its 18th paragraph, there’s a good chance most of the folks will end up twiddling their thumbs. “I would be surprised if this group is anything other than the wrapping of the package,” said one analyst. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with yesterday’s Democratic presidential debate, during which many of the candidates repeatedly jabbed former Gen. Wesley Clark for what they said was his muddled position on the war with Iraq. The Washington Post leads with word that Lee Malvo, the teenage suspect in last year’s sniper killings, plans to enter a plea of insanity and will say he had been “indoctrinated” by his co-defendant, John Allen Muhammad.

As the LAT and NYT emphasize, the suicide bombing and one of yesterday’s attacks on GIs both happened in Sadr City, Baghdad’s huge Shiite neighborhood. Until now, nearly all attacks have been in Sunni areas.

After the suicide bombing, a crowd gathered at the scene chanting, “No, no to America.” One Iraqi cop was stabbed while trying to control the crowd.

The NYT didn’t notice the protesters and instead saw something worse: “After the bombing, many young men poured into the police compound. Instead of helping the wounded they began taking weapons from the soldiers and money from the dead and seriously wounded.”

The LAT’s Laura King roams around Sadr City and says pro-U.S. sentiments, common a few months ago, “are increasingly being drowned out by voices raised in anger over the American presence.”

The NYT says that after the attacks, GIs surrounded the office of Iraq’s leading anti-American cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, whose HQ is in Sadr City. (The neighborhood is named after his dad.) The Times says the soldiers pulled back after Sadr’s armed guards showed up.

A front-page news analysis in the NYT gives a nuanced sense of the Iraq situation, saying that Bremer is right when he says there’s been major progress: “The streets are cleaner. Shops are flooded with goods. Those who have jobs—and tens of thousands are working for the Americans, directly or indirectly—are largely paid better than they were.” But then there’s the security situation, which the Times suggests is getting worse.

The Times’ “analysis,” also smacks the administration for trying to downplay the attacks as occurring in only a small area. That logic, says the paper, “ignores the psychological impact of the violence, which is felt not on 5 percent of the territory, but throughout the country.”

A NYT editorial comes out in support of giving Iraqis at least symbolic sovereignty ASAP: “The administration’s wrong-headed insistence on maintaining exclusive control over Iraq has already proved costly.” The French have been pushing that idea. But as it happens, the NYT doesn’t mention that, instead suggesting the brainstorm is U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s.

The WP’s Al Kamen flags an upcoming Atlantic Monthly article that mentions another time SecDef Rumsfeld rubbed some WH folk the wrong way, though for slightly different reasons than now. According to recently listened-to White House tapes, back in 1971, then-President Nixon and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger were worried that Rumsfeld was becoming a frou-frou peacenik. He’s “just positioning himself to be close to the Washington Post and the New York Times,” said Kissinger. “I think Rumsfeld may be not too long for this world,” responded Nixon. “Let’s dump him.”