Today's Papers

Mutually Greed Upon

The New York Times and USA Today lead with the latest on the mutual fund industry scandal: The head of one of the largest funds resigned as did the head of the SEC’s New England office (after he came under criticism that he didn’t respond promptly to complaints of trouble at one company). And as the NYT headlines, regulators said in congressional testimony that a quarter of all major brokers have been involved in illegal trading. The Times, citing regulators and “other experts,” says the problem isn’t a lack of enforceable laws, it’s simply a lack of enforcement. The Washington Post leads with the Senate’s giving final congressional approval, via a voice vote, to President Bush’s requested $87 billion military and aid package to Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill provides $1.7 billion less than Bush requested for rebuilding Iraq. The NYT says that the vote happened with only six members present, since many senators didn’t want to be on record as supporting the package. The Los Angeles Times leads with some of California Gov.-Elect Schwarzenegger’s first appointments: He made former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan his education secretary and named Florida’s budget chief as California’s finance director.

The papers go inside with roundups of attacks in Iraq, with varying degrees of comprehensiveness: One GI was killed and one wounded in two incidents; a neighborhood council chairman in Baghdad was assassinated; a bomb exploded next to a pilgrims’ hotel in Karbala, injuring six people; a roadside bomb missed a passing U.S. convoy and killed one Iraqi bystander and wounded 10; four mortars were lobbed at the coalition’s HQ in Baghdad, nobody was injured. According to wire reports, another GI was killed this morning.

The WP, LAT, and NYT all head into or around Fallujah, trying to figure out what’s driving resistance in what one resident told the Post is “the battlefield of all Iraq.” U.S. commanders said it’s because the units that preceded them weren’t numerous or aggressive enough. Most Iraqis interviewedsay soldiers are to blame for being too quick on the trigger. “The Americans are creating enemies by the way they are treating people,” one man told the Post. The pro-U.S. mayor’s office was attacked eight times over the weekend. The mayor has fled, but GIs stayed to guard the building. Guerrillas “are trying to take over this town and turn it into a stronghold,” one officer told the NYT. “And we are not going to let them do it.”

One Egyptian-American soldier told the LAT, “The problem in the Sunni Triangle is that 70 percent of these people are completely uneducated. They figure if there’s change, they lose.”

Early editions of the LAT announced, “PORTABLE MISSILES MAY SOAR AS THREAT.” The paper’s final edition sobers up a bit, “PORTABLE MISSILES MAY RISE AS THREAT.” But both headlines are off. As the article’s eventually details (11th paragraph), the successful attack may have been a fluke, caused not so much by some ingenious new guerrilla strategy but instead by shortcomings in the chopper’s tactics or equipment: “Most military aircraft flying in Iraq are outfitted with countermeasures that have proved extremely effective. Military investigators are looking into the possibility that the downed Chinook either was not outfitted with flares or was unable to deploy them. They are also trying to determine if crews were sufficiently varying their flying times and routes to hinder enemy attack.” No doubt, the military will now move double-time to properly equip all aircraft in Iraq and pilots will be varying their routes plenty—meaning that the missile threat won’t “soar,” it will probably diminish.

The NYT also looks at how Iraqis are trying to get revenge for the horrors committed by Saddam’s regime. “If I catch Saddam I won’t kill him,” said one man, whose teenage sister was disappeared. “I’ll suck his blood. And if he escapes I’ll follow him to the ends of the earth.” Two hundred and sixty-two mass graves have been found. Yet the Times says there has been “no orgy of bloodshed,” since most clerics have pushed for victims to seek compensation through courts. The bar association in Baghdad alone has received 50,000 claims against the old government.

The Wall Street Journal notes up high that Congress just sent Bush a $20 billion natural resources bill “laced with Republican-backed amendments” effectively overturning various court decisions on the environment.

The WP reefers Democratic Sen. Bob Graham’s decision not to seek another term, meaning the Democrats may well lose that seat.

Fareed Zakaria argues in a WP op-ed that “Iraqification,” which is très en vogue, “is less a winning strategy than an exit strategy.” He continues:

The desperation to move faster and faster is going to have bad results. Accelerating the training schedule (which has already been accelerated twice before) will only produce an ineffective Iraqi army and police force. The idea of a quick transfer of political power is even more dangerous. The Iraqi state has gone from decades of Stalinism to total collapse. And there is no popular national political party or movement to hand power to. A quick transfer of authority to a weak central government would only encourage the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds to retain de facto autonomy in their regions and fragment the country.”The central problem in Vietnam,” says Brookings’s Kenneth Pollack, “was that we had a corrupt and ineffective local government that did not inspire either the allegiance or the confidence of the Vietnamese people. Whatever happened militarily became secondary to this fundamental political reality.” We don’t have that problem in Iraq. But a hasty Iraqification will almost certainly produce it.