Everybody leads with the death of Yasser Arafat, which the French announced early this morning. His body will be flown to Cairo for a quick state funeral. Then, in a compromise with Israel, he will be buried in Ramallah on the grounds of the Muqtada, the former British fortress where Arafat had been holed up until recently.
The Washington Postis clearest about the continuing mystery of the past few weeks: “Doctors never said publicly what caused the illness that led to his death.”
As dictated by Palestinian law, there will be elections in 60 days to choose a new president. Former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, considered a reformer and U.S. favorite, is expected to run as the candidate of what was Arafat’s party, Fatah. Hamas might also field a man. The Los Angeles Timeshas a profile on Abbas, saying he could prove to be a hardnosed. “There is not going to be a major shift from current Palestinian policies right away,” said one Palestinian analyst. If the U.S. and Israel “expect this, then they’re going to ruin any possibility.”
Meanwhile, the presidency Arafat held is only supposed to be a ceremonial position. And as the New York Timesputs it, “there is bound to be a struggle for the Palestinian leadership over time.”
As the Post Glenn Kessler details, the White House is making noise about quickly pushing toward peace.
The NYT checks in on another one of Arafat’s legacies: The billons of dollars in funds he appears to have stashed away in various bank accounts. He didn’t spend it on himself, but rather to exercise power and a dollop to keep his wife living large. “Some of it will be buried with him,” said an Israeli official. “No one knows it all, except Arafat.”
Everybody fronts President Bush’s nomination of White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales for attorney general. Gonzales, whose parents emigrated from Mexico, has long been close with Bush, and as the Post puts it, is “known less for ideology than for loyalty.” Conservatives have always been skeptical of him because of that, and apparently are relieved since the move suggests he won’t be heading to the Supremes soon. Gonzales was also a key player in the White House’s decision to chuck out international law with regard to the treatment of al-Qaida suspects.
In a piece inside the Post, Dana Milbank suggests Gonzales is something of a closet liberal, pointing to hints of support for affirmative action and abortion rights. As for his connections to the detainee decisions, Milbank says those were less his than “those of underlings.” A Post editorial comes to the opposite conclusion: “The outgoing attorney general was sometimes outflanked on the right by the man the president has chosen to replace him.” And a LAT editorial considers Gonzales’ support of increasing secrecy as well as the detainee rules and concludes, “GONZALES IS A DISASTROUS CHOICE.”
Most of the papers guess that Gonzales will fly through confirmation hearings. The NYT at first says there might be a fight but farther down notes that Democrats said they “want to save their heavy ammunition” for the Supreme Court nomination.
Everybody fronts Fallujah, which the military says is now 70 percent in its control. Most the papers highlight that. But the NYT says the advance “has largely stopped” and the military only controls about half the city. Even that is playing with words, said the top Iraqi commander. “Fighting in cities cannot be counted like this,” he told the Post. “We fully control the northern half of Fallujah now, and it has been cleared. But if you ask is it fully cleared, I say no, we still have some resistance pockets.”
There were attacks across Iraq, killing about 30 people, including two GIs and two foreign contractors. Three relatives of interim Prime Minister Allawi were also kidnapped. A car bomb killed 10 in Baghdad. The NYT mentions that the CIA confirmed a convoy near the Baghdad airport carrying top weapons inspector Charlie Duelfer was attacked; “it was not known” if he was wounded. And the Post says in Baghdad, “large bands of armed men” fought with Iraqi soldiers.
The LAT notices the lack of Arab outrage about the Fallujah offensive. “The fact that there are no accounts of casualties among civilians is minimizing the reaction of Arabs and the Muslim world,” said one Lebanese journalist. He added that there is “a sort of anger towards” the foreign fighters who imposed themselves on the town and “are defying the people of Fallujah.”
The papers go inside with newly released government documents suggesting—as long suspected—that Halliburton wasn’t the one responsible for inflated fuel imports to Iraq. Rather, the company was forced, by the State Department among others, to use an overpriced subcontractor that had connections to the Kuwaiti royal family. Apparently it meant to, ahem, encourage Kuwaiti support for the war effort.