Today's Papers

New Way Jose

The Washington Post’s leadsays the Pentagon is tentatively planning to draw down “as many as” three of the 18 U.S.’s brigades in Iraq early next year. Citing “several senior military officers,” the Post says the Pentagon has several scenarios outlined for next year, and in the “moderately optimistic” option, about 40 percent of the troops will head home by the end of next year. The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and New York Timesall lead with once-suspected “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla, who has been held without being charged as an enemy combatant for three years, being indicted on charges of conspiracy to support terrorism overseas. USA Today fronts Padilla andleads with an exegesis on Thanksgiving gas prices.

While the Post plays the potential Iraq drawdown as news, commanders have been talking about it for months. In fact, the NYT floated the same percentages in August. Still, there is something of note in the WP’s piece: It’s not the numbers bandied about, it’s that military officers are talking about them, especially now. After all, isn’t it interesting that “several senior military officers” decided to flag a potential drawdown of forces just days after the White House went ballistic against those it accuses of wanting to “cut and run”? (That, of course, assumes that the Post isn’t just cherry-picking the officers’ assessments.)

TP suggested a few months ago that the military and White House have been singing different tunes on a drawdown. Many military commanders seem to agree with Slate’s Fred Kaplan and not incidentally Rep. John Murtha: Withdrawing a substantial number of troops isn’t an option, it’s a necessity. That’s because the military can’t sustain the number of soldiers now in Iraq.

Not that all officers are necessarily on the same page: According to Time magazine, some lower-level officers recently said in a closed-door meeting with senators that the military is spread too thin in Iraq.

The feds brought charges against Padilla just a week before government lawyers would have had to submit briefs to the Supreme Court responding to an appeal from Padilla’s lawyers asserting that the government does not have the right to hold U.S. citizens as enemy combatants without charges. Announcing the charges, Attorney General Gonzales said, given that Padilla is now headed to court, the appeal “is moot.”

“The indictment is doubtless a strategy by the Bush administration to avoid a Supreme Court ruling that would likely hold that U.S. citizens cannot be detained incommunicado as enemy combatants if they are detained on U.S. soil,” said one law prof in the Post. “There is also some respectable chance that the Supreme Court will not bite on this strategy.” (Here’s the best explanation TP has seen of the White House strategy, as well as of why the Supremes would likely rule against the administration.)

As for the charges themselves against Padilla, Gonzales said, “The indictment alleges that Padilla traveled overseas to train as a terrorist with the intention of fighting in violent jihad. Those trained as terrorists engage in acts of physical violence such as murder, maiming, kidnapping and hostage-taking against innocent civilians.” And that’s about as much detail as the government gave. There were no specific plots mentioned.

As a NYT editorial emphasizes, the indictment also doesn’t mention the original dirty bomb allegations. (That shouldn’t be surprising. Though the nickname has stuck, government officials actually distanced themselves from the allegations minutes after then-AG Ashcroft made them.) Not that Gonzales was open to discussing that. Asked whether the original accusations were now “off the table,” Gonzales stayed mum.

As the WP off-leads, a jury convicted a Virginia-area man and al-Qaida sympathizer of plotting to kill President Bush. The plot never got far, but the jury convicted Abu Ali on all nine counts against him. The case relied heavily on statements Ali made while imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, where he says he was tortured.

The WP and NYT and LAT all front the Vatican’s new rules on gays in the seminary. The rules haven’t been released, but they were leaked in full to a Catholic paper. The rules say those who are gay and already priests shouldn’t be removed, and anybody who has, you know, experimented, can still sign up for the priesthood so long as they’ve been celibate for three years. But those who have “deeply rooted” same-sex tendencies are out of the running. It will be up to bishops and other on-the-ground Catholic leaders to parse that.

Everybody mentions that a suicide bomber hit a police convoy in the ethnically mixed and volatile Iraqi city of Kirkuk, killing about 20 people.

With only the Journal giving it more than a blurb, a roadside bomb in Afghanistan killed one GI and an Afghan interpreter. The Associated Press says the bomb “tore through an American armored vehicle.” How often has a bomb that powerful been used in Afghanistan?

The WP’s editorial page declared last month, “VICE PRESIDENT FOR TORTURE.” Today’s WP: “DIRECTOR FOR TORTURE.” The new piece, which compares CIA Director Porter Goss’ insistence that the agency doesn’t torture with the “enhanced interrogation techniques” recently leaked by agents, is today’s must read. And TP can’t wait to see who will star in the next installment of the series.

The Post’s notices a recent e-mail from the Department of Homeland Security celebrating some of its great achievements in 2005:

DHS Today will highlight FY05 Accomplishments in this column over the next several weeks. This week’s focus is on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The top FY05 FEMA accomplishments included:Hurricane Katrina: The response to Hurricane Katrina was FEMA’s largest response in its history.