The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal worldwide news box, and the New York Times national edition (online at least) lead with Iraq, where there was heavy fighting in Fallujah and around Najaf. Two soldiers were killed and five wounded in Baghdad as their unit raided a building suspected of housing what military officials called “chemical munitions or agents.” After the blast, residents celebrated on top of burnt Humvees. One Marine was killed and eight wounded when their patrol was attacked in Fallujah. USA Today fronts the fighting and leads with Sen. John Kerry responding to criticism about apparent inconsistencies in what he says he did with war medals and ribbons. “This comes from a president who can’t even show or prove that he showed up for duty in the National Guard,” said Kerry. Kerry has repeatedly said that he tossed his ribbons but not his medals during a war protest. But he seemed to say during a 1971 TV interview that tossed his medals. The Los Angeles Times leads with a preview of a GAO report due out today that reportedly concludes that the Energy Department’s counterterrorism preparations still aren’t up to snuff. The department has long been criticized, including by TP, for lax security at its labs. The Times says the department is considering consolidating nuclear material to fewer labs.
In the Fallujah fighting, the Marines called in air strikes, destroying a minaret that guerrillas had reportedly been firing from. The Marines said they still are going to begin patrolling with Iraqi forces, though the NYT says they’ve delayed starting them until Thursday. Given yesterday’s battle, nobody, not the Marines, Iraqis, nor John Burns, thinks the patrols will work.
In Najaf, militiamen loyal to cleric Muqtada Sadr attacked U.S. forces who were replacing Spanish troops at a fort on the outskirts of town. U.S. gunships responded and, according to military officials cited in the LAT, killed 43 attackers. In a bit of a game of telephone, the NYT says some residents of Najaf have called their families in Baghdad and reported that a shadowy group has begun moving against Sadr’s militia, killing at least five of them. The Arab paper Al-Hayat is reporting something similar.
U.S. forces might be trying to tighten the noose around Sadr, but as one U.S. commander put it, they “do not foresee conducting military operations within the holy city.” One Pentagon official told the NYT, “Sadr gains his power by confronting the United States. We will deny him the opportunity to confront us.”
The Post’s Karl Vick describes the wounds soldiers are receiving and the doctors who treat them. About 900 soldiers have been wounded in April, roughly a quarter of the war’s total. Doctors say they are performing one craniotomy per day, where they remove the skull to get at injured brain tissue. “We’ve done more in eight weeks than the previous neurosurgery team did in eight months,” said one surgeon..
Most of the papers front the harsh back-and-forth in the presidential race. While Kerry defended himself on the medals and ripped President Bush on his National Guard days (or lack of them), Vice President Cheney suggested that Kerry isn’t fit for Air Force One, saying there are “ample grounds to doubt the judgment and the attitude he brings to bear on vital issues of national security.” As the LAT headlines, the speech was pointed enough that the president of the college where Cheney gave it sent a campus-wide letter saying he was “surprised and disappointed.”
Doing a bit of Tuesday morning QB’ing, the Post says on Page One that congressional intelligence committees haven’t been doing their job and weren’t paying enough attention to al-Qaida prior to 9/11. While the piece feels a bit thin—many of the purported failings are by congressmen not even on the committees—it does give the sense that not all is well in the oversight department. One reason for that may be that members are term-limited, which results in the loss of institutional memory.
The Post and NYT front China’s announcement that Hong Kong won’t be allowed to elect its own chief executive or to expand legislative elections anytime soon. The LAT caught word of the “crushing blow to pro-democracy advocates” yesterday.
Writing an op-ed in the Journal, former CIA agent Robert Baer says the problem with the much-discussed Aug. 6, 2001, presidential briefing isn’t that it had prescient, yet ignored, warnings of an attack; it’s that the intelligence was “pretty awful” and indicative of the CIA’s overall capabilities. The briefing’s top item—about al-Qaida’s desire to strike the U.S. mainland—was based on some old TV interviews with Osama.
Right on … From the NYT: “An editorial on Saturday about citizenship testing referred to a question about voting rights that many people get wrong—and gave the wrong answer. The Constitution does not specify a ‘right to vote.’ “