The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and USA Today all lead with follow-ups on yesterday’s series of bombings in Baghdad—four of them within 45 minutes—that left at least 35 dead and about 220 wounded, nearly all of them Iraqis. One of the attacks was against the Red Cross’ HQ, and the others were against police stations. In one of those, the attacker wore a police uniform and drove a police car. The papers say a fifth bomber was intercepted and found with a Syrian passport. The Los Angeles Times continues to banner the fires racing across Southern California. Fifteen people have now been killed and about 1,500 homes destroyed. Yesterday, President Bush declared Southern California a disaster area. The LAT says cooler, damp weather is arriving, “dramatically reducing” the fire danger.
In comments everybody flags, a top U.S. commander said he thinks foreign fighters were responsible for yesterday’s bombings. But as most of the papers explain, nobody really knows who the attackers are. According to USAT, within the military there is “open disagreement” about it.
A few of the papers suggest why the U.S. is having trouble IDing these guys. The Journal says that the U.S. is “critically short” of interrogators and counterintel troops. The WP, meanwhile, cites a “senior intelligence official” saying that the U.S. has neglected studying the militant groups “because intelligence resources have been devoted to locating weapons of mass destruction.”
An otherwise unenlightening NYT news analysis (bold thesis: Aggressive counterguerrilla operations might alienate Iraqis), notices that the administration has been betting on being able to choke off the guerrillas’ supply of weapons. “To look at the plan,” said one unnamed official, “the starvation effect should have started a few months ago. It didn’t—and that’s something to worry about.”
A news article in the Journal says that the “only option” left for the U.S. is to try to turn over more security duties to Iraqis. But, says the paper, that effort isn’t going well because of a “failure to provide enough money” for training and an “internal debate” within the administration about who should be given priority for training: cops or soldiers.
Responding to the attacks, President Bush said, “The more progress we make on the ground,the more desperate these killers become.” The WP puts that on Page One and gets sassy, “BUSH SAYS ATTACKS ARE A SIGN OF U.S. PROGRESS.” The NYT is more deferential, “BUSH SAYS BOMBINGS WILL NOT DETER HIM,” and only obliquely mentions Bush’s apparent argument to look on the bright side of the bombings.
That angle also looked to be an official White House talking point, with spokesman Scott McClellan echoing it at least twice. “We’ve always said the more progress we make, the more desperate the killers will become,” he said at one point. The other papers give the argument only passing mention.
No doubt sensing that Americans were waiting anxiously for the NYT editorial board to issue its opinion on the Baghdad blasts, the Times weighs in—despite having nothing much to say. One deep thought from today’s editorial: “More days like Monday could lead to an even longer and more difficult occupation than most Americans now anticipate.”
The WP and NYT front the Russian stock market’s 10 percent tumble yesterday after the arrest this weekend of one of Russia’s richest men. The oil tycoon was cuffed ostensibly for tax evasion and embezzlement, but the papers all suggest it was politically motivated. The man has contributed to opposition parties and is seen as a sort of rival to President Putin, who did calm down the markets yesterday after saying that the arrest wasn’t part of a larger crackdown. A WP editorial calls the move “a signal that the Russian government cares far more about destroying its rivals than it does about genuinely improving the Russian economy.”
Ahhh, experts … From the WP: “Experts in public opinion said it would be difficult for Bush to convince Americans that the violence was a byproduct of success.”