Today's Papers

Taba Attacks

The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and Washington Postall lead with the bombing of a Hilton hotel in Egypt’s Sinai, which killed about two dozen Israelis and wounded about 120. There is some confusion about the number of dead, which originally was reported as 35. The apparent truck bomb collapsed part of the hotel, which is in Taba just across the border, and there may still be people buried inside. At roughly the same time as the Taba bombing, there were two smaller attacks on resorts farther down the Sinai coast. Details are sketchy, but there are reports that a few Egyptian workers were killed. USA Today fronts the bombings but its lead says, “DEMAND FOR FLU VACCINE TAKES OFF.” It offers no evidence for that. What it does say is that pharmacies and clinics seem to be getting even less of the vaccine than they anticipated.

The only claim of responsibility came from a previously unheard of group: the Islamic Tawhid Brigades. Palestinian militants said they didn’t do it. And Israeli officials seemed inclined to agree, instead pointing the finger at global jihadists (i.e., al-Qaida).

Israelis in Taba rushed to cross the border. But at least initially, Egyptian guards wouldn’t let them go without their passports, many of which were in the burning hotel. Israeli rescue workers were also held up. President Mubarak eventually intervened and opened the border. 

Everybody notes that Israeli intelligence had recently issued warnings urging citizens not to visit the Sinai.

According to early morning reports, the Indonesian embassy in Paris was damaged by a small bomb, lightly wounding 10 people.

Most of the papers front President Bush and Kerry sparring over the arms report. The front pages, of course, trumpet the truth and refuse to simply regurgitate spin. As the LAT fearlessly puts it, “KERRY AND BUSH EACH CLAIM CIA IRAQ REPORT BACKS THEM.”

Bush said the report showed that Saddam “retained the knowledge, the materials, the means and the intent to produce weapons of mass destruction.” The Post notices that former top weapons search David Kay had a different take. “Look, Saddam was delusional,” Kay said on the Today show. “He had a lot of intent. He didn’t have capabilities. Intent without capabilities is not an imminent threat.”

The NYT says—well inside—that Bush is seriously stretching it: “IN HIS NEW ATTACKS, BUSH PUSHES LIMIT ON THE FACTS.” The story is teased on Page One, though neutered: “The Bush campaign is taking its attacks on Senator Kerry to a new level.” Instead, getting full Page One play is a real risky on-the-trail piece: “ARMS REPORT SPURS BITTER BUSH-KERRY EXCHANGE.”

And now for your fun headline, only online and only briefly last night from the NYT: “CHENEY SAYS REPORT FINDING NO ILLICIT ARMS IN IRAQ JUSTIFIES WAR.”

The WP says the U.S. released a top aide to Moqtada Sadr, in what appears to be an attempt to nail down a peace deal with him. According to early morning reports the U.S. attacked what it said was a Zarqawi hideout in Fallujah. Local doctors said the strike hit the remnants of a wedding party, killing 10 people.

Elsewhere in Iraq, two GIs were killed, and Baghdad’s Sheraton hotel, filled with foreign contractors and journalists, was hit by two rockets. There were no casualties, but it caused a fire, filled the lobby with smoke, and freaked out residents (“sparked chaos,” says the NYT). The military also announced a bomb was found—and disarmed—at a restaurant insidethe Green Zone. The Sheraton is just outside the zone.

The NYT off-leads military and administration anonymice detailing the military’s strategy for retaking Iraqi towns, apparently settled on this summer. The plan, such as it is, involves first trying to pacify towns politically, and then if need be going on the offensive in ascending order of difficulty (i.e., Fallujah would be among the last). To its credit, the Times explains that the sources were motivated by politics: They “agreed to discuss the newest thinking in part to rebut criticism from campaign of Senator John Kerry that the administration has no plan for Iraq.”

The sources got a pretty reasonable result: “PENTAGON SETS STEPS TO PACIFY IRAQ REBEL SITES.” Other possible candidates for headline material, both from the piece: 1) The Pentagon acknowledged that 20-30 towns need to be retaken. (Again, hats off, the Times mentions that at the top of the article, though not in the head or subhead). 2) The “Pentagon reported that only about one-third of the required 270,000 security forces had received some training. Many of them still lack equipment.” That conflicts with the president’s statements. And FYI, the use of the word “some” is key.

Also, the piece only quotes SOAs and the like. It doesn’t include any independent analysts assessing the plan. Maybe the NYT didn’t call them because it didn’t want to lose its scooplet. If so, is that a good tradeoff?

The WP and NYT detail the inspector’s conclusion that Saddam did a good job sneaking conventional weapons through the sanctions. “Prohibited goods and weapons were being shipped into Iraq with virtually no problem,” says the report. The Post offers more detail, but both pieces miss context. Namely, in what quantities were the deals the happening? Enough to significantly improve the state of Iraq’s Army? 

The NYT fronts a judge holding Times reporter Judith Miller in contempt and threatening her with Martha-treatment for refusing to answer questions about who outed a CIA agent. The judge said Miller can remain free on bond while the Times appeals.

The LAT says on Page One piece that many economists think that Sen. Kerry’s plan to deter outsourcing is a fine idea, and probably won’t work.

In a NYT op-ed, former Iraq chief Paul Bremer puts his recent remarks—about the lack of troops—in “proper context.” He says he fully supports George Bush and thinks there are enough troops in Iraq now. As it happens, he doesn’t contradict his previous comments.