The WashingtonPost and Los Angeles Times lead with the abortion rights rally in Washington, D.C., the first big one in 12 years, which was attended by hundreds of thousands. The New York Times and USA Today lead with the U.S. backing off threats to launch an offensive in Fallujah. The Times emphasizes that the White House agreed to give the cease-fire at least two more days. The Post, which off-leads Fallujah but has the most detailed coverage, portrays the change as more significant: In what amounts to a “new strategy” and “policy reversal,” the Marines will try joint patrols with Iraqi forces starting this Tuesday and hope the guerrillas either fight or, presumably, walk away.
There are no hard numbers on the march size since police stopped actually counting crowds (via overhead photos) a few years ago after they were threatened with a suit. The LAT spoke to “police sources” who guessed that there were somewhere between 500,000 and 800,000 protestors, which would make the march among the biggest in years.
One GI was killed and three wounded by a roadside bomb Sunday in Baghdad. Iraqi witnesses said after the attack, gunmen shot at the surviving soldiers, who in turn fired randomly, killing four Iraqi children. The kids had been celebrating around a burning Humvee, apparently urged on by an Al-Arabiyacameraman. The Pentagon said it had no civilian casualty count. The NYT’s Ian Fisher, who stayed at the scene for about 45 minutes, says it’s hard to figure out the truth, especially when the security situation makes it bad to linger.
Eight soldiers were also wounded by rocket and roadside bombs attacks in Balad, north of Baghdad. The military also said that in the northern town of Mosul, insurgents attacked government buildings, killing three civilians and wounding about 15.
The Post says some in the military aren’t thrilled about the idea of the Marines in Fallujah being used as, essentially, patrol bait. “We need to engage them on our own terms,” said one. The Iraqi police aren’t itching to head out on the beat either. The Marines are “going to get shot at,” said one police captain. “They can’t guarantee safety for themselves, so how can they guarantee safety for me?”
The NYT briefly mentions that the Iraqi ministry of health has at least tentatively concluded that 271 Iraqis have been killed in Fallujah. Most media outlets, including TP, have cited reports that 600 were killed.
As the NYT highlights, U.S. occupation officials again talked tough about Najaf, where a U.S. spokesman said a “potentially explosive situation” is developing as cleric Muqtada Sadr’s militia is stockpiling weapons. The Post has a different angle, emphasizing that the U.S. has no intention of going in to the city and is instead pushing local leaders to try to convince Sadr to disarm. Meanwhile, the LAT’s Edmund Sanders is actually in the town and says that Sadr’s militia is indeed digging in and is “detaining those who challenge” them. Sanders writes, “More than a dozen people approached to be interviewed for this story said they were too frightened to be seen speaking to a reporter.”
The Post says on Page One that the U.S. is going to have a hard time getting the U.N. Security Council to bless the U.S. plan to transfer nominal sovereignty to Iraqi officials. A number of countries want the resolution to give the U.N. more power, which the world body might not even want. What U.S. officials are calling the “mega-resolution” will include everything from OKing foreign troops in Iraq to apparently dismantling the U.N. weapon inspections program and stating that U.S. weapons hunters will have the final say on the question of banned weapons. The Post mentions that last bit in the 17th paragraph.
A Page One LAT piece airs complaints from European counterterrorism officials about the continent’s fragmented efforts against Islamic militants. “There’s a lack of trust among security services and among countries,” said Spanish supermagistrate Baltasar Garzon. “There’s a lack of solidarity. Self-interest dominates. What we need is a European intelligence community.”
The NYT and Postboth wonder why the Bush campaign has shown the love for Bob Woodward’s latest, surprisingly tough book, going so far as to hawk it on georgebush.com. And both have the same conclusion: The White House decided it didn’t have a choice, especially after the president cooperated with Woodward. As one “Bush advisor” told the Times, “We didn’t want the stories to be, ‘Not since the Nixon administration has a White House gone after Bob Woodward.’ “