Today's Papers

Sadr and Gomorrah

The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal worldwide news box, and New York Timesall lead with the fighting in Najaf, where cleric Muqtada Sadr tossed aside the interim government’s plea for peace. “I am an enemy of America,” said Sadr. “America is my enemy until the last day of judgment.” (USA Today wasn’t available.)

Everybody says Iraqi officials have reportedly given U.S. commanders permission to strike the shrine itself, where Sadr’s men are holed up—though it doesn’t seem they’re planning to move on it. But only the LAT seems to notice that the U.S. took “operational control” of Iraqi troops in the city. With U.S. troops only a few hundred yards from the shrine, said one company commander, “We got into a real slugfest.”

The Iraqi government and American commanders have asserted that Sadr isn’t in control of his men. But the NYT says commanders have acknowledged that that’s just “a convenient fiction” meant to give the U.S. and Iraq an excuse for not going after Sadr himself.

The Post says “residents rejected” a government-ordered afternoon-to-dawn curfew in Baghdad’s Sadr City. “The Americans shot the Imam Ali shrine, so now the people will fight with the Mahdi Army,” said one resident. “Everyone is outside their houses. Even the children. People are watching and all of them are ready to fight on the streets.”

In other Iraq violence, culled from snippets in the papers: Mortar rounds hit the oil and interior ministries in Baghdad, killing two Iraqis; a British soldier was shot and killed in Basra; a roadside bomb killed four Iraqis on a bus west of Baghdad; a police commander in the capital was kidnapped; and early Monday six policemen were killed in the bombing and attempted assassination of a deputy governor north of Baghdad.

Finally, as the Journal emphasizes, Iraq stopped pumping oil through its largest pipeline, which had been threatened by Sadr’s men.

The LAT catches two early morning bombings in Istanbul, Turkey, which killed at least one person.

Everybody mentions a judge’s decision holding Time reporter Matthew Cooper in contempt for refusing to disclose which government officials outed a CIA agent to Cooper. The penalty, imprisonment for Cooper and a daily $1,000 fine for Time, is being suspended pending appeal, which likely won’t fly. “I think we’re going to have a head-on confrontation here,” said one First Amendment advocate. “I think Matt Cooper is going to jail.”

The WP—alone among the papersfronts Sen. Kerry’s declaration that he would have still supported the 2002 war resolution even if he knew WMDs wouldn’t be found. Asked indirectly by Bush what he would have done “knowing what we know now,” Kerry responded, “Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it was the right authority for a president to have.” The Post­ conflates Kerry’s stance: “IN HINDSIGHT, KERRY SAYS HE’D STILL BACK WAR.” The final edition of the paper wises up some: “IN HINDSIGHT, KERRY SAYS HE’D STILL VOTE FOR WAR.”

Seeming to rely solely on two “senior intelligence officials,” the NYT’s off-lead says al-Qaida appears to 1) be doing a solid job of replacing the leaders who’ve been captured or killed and 2) still have something of an effective central command structure. The NYT paints that as being evidence against the theory that al-Qaida is more a movement than a group. But couldn’t it be both, that is, a movement and, within that, a small group? And hey, if you’re not going to name the intelligence officials—upon which most facts in the story are based—how about explaining why not?