Today's Papers

Mess in Mosul

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Postall lead with Mosul, which a few thousand U.S. troops entered to try to put down a rebellion. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox (at least online) with video showing the apparent execution of Margaret Hassan, the British-Iraqi aid official who was kidnapped last month. There had been widespread criticism among Iraqis of the kidnapping, including on militant Web sites. USA Todayall-but-ignores the fighting and leads with key Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) telling the paper he’s lukewarm on President Bush’s hankering to radically change the tax code. “I’m not one to spend a lot of time tilting at windmills,” said Grassley, whose support would be key since any tax bill would have to clear the Finance Committee, which he chairs. 

Citing the military, the Post and NYT both say there doesn’t appear to be much resistance in Mosul. The LAT is the only paper with a dateline from the city, and it has a different take. The paper describes a “series of bloody attacks and counterattacks” yesterday: Among them: A suicide car bomb killed “several” Iraqi troops and civilians, three police stations were mortared, and the Kurdish party HQ was repeatedly attacked. One U.S. commander told the Post that 80 percent of Mosul’s police haven’t shown up for work since the insurgent offensive began last week.

There was also fighting in Baji, Baqubah, Buhritz, Ramadi, and Balad. One GI was reported killed and a handful wounded. There was also another attack on an oil pipeline. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government said it had arrested the leader of one major insurgent group.

Marking his return, the Post’s Iraq lead is written byPulitzer-man Anthony Shadid. The story includes an interview with a top insurgent. “The Americans have opened the gates of hell,” said Abdullah Janabi. The really interesting thing is the location of the interview: Fallujah. “I am here. You can see me,” said Janabi, surrounded by bodyguards inside an undamaged house.  

Most of the papers notice that Navy engineers came into the town yesterday, tried to do a quick reconstruction assessment, and then hustled out under sniper fire. “We’ll never get them all,” one officer told the LAT. “They’re everywhere.”

Everybody notes the military is investigating after a now-infamous video showed a Marine shooting a wounded and apparently unarmed insurgent. Only the LAT fronts it, and headlines the fallout: Arab stations played the video endlessly, unedited. The LAT also mentions that British TV seems to have captured a similar incident.

The papers mention in passing that GIs arrested a top Sunni politician; he’s a member of the party that recently announced an elections boycott. The LAT says the move “startled” Iraqi officials. Nobody mentions the military’s explanation or lack of thereof.

Everybody fronts President Bush’s formal nomination of Condoleezza Rice as the next Secretary of State. As expected, Bush also named current Rice deputy Stephen Hadley to succeed her.  No real news here, so the papers mostly repeat yesterday’s refrain. As the WSJ puts it, the president is showing a “preference for close aides known above all for unstinting devotion to him.” The Post adds: “Aides said Bush and Rice know each other so well they have conversations based on body language.”

Most of the papers say next off the plank will be Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge (though the NYT dissents and says he might stay into next year).

The Post fronts Republicans proposing to change House rules and allow indicted legislators to keep leadership roles. The proposal is a Thank You to Majority Leader Tom DeLay who may get the book thrown at him by a Texas grand jury investigating funding of one of his PACs.

A Page One NYT piece flags an email intel boss Porter Goss send around the Agency Monday: “NEW C.I.A. CHIEF TELLS WORKERS TO BACK ADMINISTRATION POLICIES.” That’s an interesting take. Here’s the email excerpt: “As agency employees we do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies….We provide the intelligence as we see it—and let the facts alone speak to the policymaker.” Tuesday’s Post cited tidbits of the same memo. Its conclusion: “CIA CHIEF SEEKS TO REASSURE EMPLOYEES.”