Today's Papers

Iraq’s Training Daze

The Los Angeles Timesleads with military officials concluding that insurance companies—including scandaled giant AIG—have been essentially price-gouging the government on workers-comp insurance for contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. USA Todayleads with a poll showing support for the war in Iraq continuing to dip. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said the U.S. should withdraw some or all troops; that’s 10 points higher than in February. USAT gets brownie points for acknowledging, by name, the existence of similar polls (which, happily for USAT, jibe with this one). The New York Times’ national editionleads with a sneak peek at a congressionally mandated bipartisan panel’s report concluding that the U.N. has all sorts of issues—bad management, stinky morale, etc.—but is also making an effort to right itself. The Washington Postdoesn’t really have a proper lead. The closest thing is a feature across the top looking at the administration’s use of immigration violations to aggressively go after anybody it thinks might be at all connected to jihadist groups.

“For too many of the member states, the United Nations is seen as a job placement bureau,” concludes the previewed bipartisan report. The NYT says the report actually has a much softer tone than much of the congressional criticism the U.N. has faced. Meanwhile, the Times sheds some light on how it ended up with its “scoop”: The panel itself “made a copy of its 174-page report available to The New York Times on Sunday. The report is scheduled to be made public in Washington on Wednesday.” In other words, the Times has a copy but won’t give one to you.

The Wall Street Journal goes high with the latest from Iraq, where the military announced four Marines were killed. And as the LAT emphasizes, 26 bodies were found east of Baghdad. “All were blindfolded and their hands were tied behind their backs and shot from behind,” said one Iraqi official. A Sunni organization claimed that the men were Sunni.   

The NYT goes above the fold with the latest state of the Iraqi forces: “AS IRAQI ARMY TRAINS, WORD IN THE FIELD IS IT MAY TAKE YEARS.” The story itself actually paints slightly more of a mixed bag—”morale at the [main training] camp seems high.” Still, emphasis on “slightly.” An American lieutenant described the unit the Times followed as “pre-MOC,” that is, not even minimal operational capable. One thing lacking in the Times coverage—especially compared with the Post’s recent take—is the Iraqi soldiers’ perspective. 

The LAT and NYT front seven bombs in Iran that killed about 10 people and wounded about 80. Four of the bombs hit the capital of Iran’s only Arab-dominated province, near the Iraqi border. The others hit in the center of Tehran. The Iranian government blamed Iraqi Baathists. The LAT, which has the most detailed coverage, gives a sense of rising Arab resentment in the outer province that was hit. The paper also notes that journalists at the scene of one bombing were “held for about one hour before being released.”

Elsewhere in Tehran, hundreds of women protested against sexual discrimination in what the NYT calls the “first public display of dissent by women since the 1979 revolution.”

A piece inside the Journal suggests that for all the kvetching about the Justice Department’s backdown last week on the amount of dough it’s demanding from tobacco companies in the big civil suit, the move might not have been so bad: It “could bring the sides a step closer to settlement, or at least give the government’s case a better chance to survive an appeal.”

USAT pulls few punches in its cover story on greenhouse gases: “THE DEBATE’S OVER: GLOBE IS WARMING.” Actually, there is one punch pulled. The subhead reads, “Politicians, Corporations and Religious Groups Differ Mainly on How to Fix the Problem.” But aren’t some politicians, including, say, one who lives in the White House, still unbelievers?

The LAT’s Page One notices that a lobbying firm that employs a top congressional Democrat’s brother helped insert $20 million worth of contracts in the recent $417 billion Pentagon bill. The Democrat, Rep. John Murtha, is a top dog on the appropriations committee and thus had power to play with the bill. But everybody—the clients, the lobbyists, and the politician—deny that the brother was at all involved. Nor does the Times have evidence otherwise. Which make this runner-up for the worst headline of the day: “LOBBYIST’S BROTHER GUIDED HOUSE BILL.”

That brings us to No. 1. A day after the Post broke word of another prewar British memo, the NYT hops onboard. Presumably not content to simply repeat the WP’s angle—”MEMO: U.S. LACKED FULL POSTWAR IRAQ PLAN”— the Times gets creative: “PREWAR BRITISH MEMO SAYS WAR DECISION WASN’T MADE.” That headline hangs on a single clause of a single sentence in the 2,300-word memo:

Although no political decisions have been taken, US military planners have drafted options for the US Government to undertake an invasion of Iraq.

As it happens, the memo was first obtained by the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sunday Times (U.K.). Its headline: “MINISTERS WERE TOLD OF NEED FOR GULF WAR ‘EXCUSE.’ “