The New York Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, Washington Post, and USA Today all lead with President Bush’s hastily called Rose Garden press conference in which he said the U.S. is “not leaving” Iraq. It was his first press conference since July. The Los Angeles Times leads with the latest on the wildfires: Despite improving weather, a few of the fires threatened to merge, and one of them is on the verge of overtaking Lake Arrowhead, a resort town.
The conference, which the NYT says was called just an hour and a half in advance, consisted of a “short-tempered” (NYT) and “frustrated” (LAT) president being peppered with Iraq questions. Most of the papers focus on Bush’s statement that the U.S. will stick it out. The NYT decides to headline, “BUSH SAYS HE SEES NO NEED IN IRAQ FOR ADDING G.I.’S.” That’s not quite right: When asked whether more troops are needed, Bush didn’t say no; he punted, saying Centcom commander “General Abizaid makes the decision.”
Meanwhile, the WP says inside that the U.S. doesn’t have enough GIs to bulk up the force in Iraq anyway. The paper adds that since foreign troops don’t appear to be on the way either, the U.S. is left with one choice: “Iraqification.”
Everybody notices that asked during the chat about the big “Mission Accomplished” banner that hung from the carrier he landed on in May, Bush explained that the sign “was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln saying that their mission was accomplished.” Presumably the papers have already launched their own missions to find this out, but just in case: Is that accurate?
Most of the papers also front the latest attacks in Iraq: A truck bomb exploded near a police station in Fallujah, killing at least four people. Also, the military reported yesterday that the U.S.-appointed deputy mayor of Baghdad was assassinated Sunday, the latest in a string of executions of Iraqis who had been working with the U.S. The Post has a good profile of the deputy mayor and description of what happened. Also, an independent newspaper publisher was murdered in northern Iraq. The Post says the military recorded 36 attacks yesterday—the highest one day total since Bush’s May 1 declaration.
The NYT says that after coming under attack, troops in one convoy fired at a car filled with civilians traveling away from the convoy; at least six people were killed.
A piece stuffed well inside the Post quotes the U.S. commander overseeing Iraq’s border with Syria saying he has seen no evidence that foreign fighters are crossing over. Yesterday’s papers reported that at least one of the attackers in the recent Baghdad bombings was Syrian and some in the administration have been attributing the attacks to foreigners that Syria has let through.
The LAT fronts an interview with the just-retired head of the State Dept.’s intel office, who says the intelligence community, including the unit he oversaw, needs to figure out why it estimated that Saddam had banned weapons. “The majority view prevailed,” he told the paper, “and that [view] was wrong.” The official’s deputy, who has also stepped down, says it’s the White House that deserves the hardest drubbing. “The intelligence community spun things to make [the Iraqi threat] a little more sensational,” he said. “But then the administration took that spin and put it into hypervelocity.”
The NYT says that the White House is considering shifting some intel sources from the WMD search towards antiguerrilla efforts. Apparently, a final decision hasn’t been made.
Everybody says inside that the CIA acknowledged yesterday that two of the contract workers were killed in Afghanistan over the weekend.
The papers note inside that the U.S. seemed to soften its stance toward Iran a touch. Testifying in front of Congress, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said the administration doesn’t advocate “regime change” and is open to at least limited talks with Iran about various issues. The NYT says Armitage’s comments were “approved” by the White House.
The WP’s Al Kamen notices the Senate’s passage of a bill prorating foreign aid to countries that owe parking tickets in New York City. The No. 1 offender: Egypt. It receives more than $1 billion per year and currently has more than 18,000 outstanding tickets, worth about $2 million.