The Washington Postleads with a near-banner headline announcing that “more than” 1,300 Iraqis have been killed since last week’s attack on a Shiite shrine. The WP got the number, which is about four times more than has been widely reported, from a visit to Baghdad’s main morgue. The Los Angeles Timesleads with what seems to be a debate within the Pentagon about whether to go ahead and draw down troops in Iraq. “One perspective certainly is that with so much turmoil, how can you possibly think about drawing down at this point?” said a “senior defense official.”
The New York Timesleads with a dispatch from Chad, where the violence from neighboring Darfur has spilled over. Some 20,000 Chadians have become refugees in their own country. “You may have thought the terrible situation in Darfur couldn’t get worse, but it has,” said one human rights advocate. “Sudan’s policy of arming militias and letting them loose is spilling over the border, and civilians have no protection from their attacks, in Darfur or in Chad.” The NYT’s piece has a fine photo and audio sidebar. USA Todayleads with a half-dozen Western governors—all Democrats except the governator—beginning their own campaigns to deal with global warming in the face of the Bush administration’s somnolence.
“Hundreds of unclaimed dead lay at the morgue,” says the Post, “blood-caked men who had been shot, knifed, garroted or apparently suffocated by the plastic bags still over their heads.” Looking at the types of killings, the WP concludes that “most” were murdered by “self-styled executioners.” Families of “many” of those killed told the WP their men were abducted by gunmen loyal to cleric Moqtada Sadr. The Post says the families added that “many of the dead had been taken away at night, when security forces were supposed to have been enforcing the curfew.”
The Post isn’t really clear whether the count of 1,300 is for Baghdad alone. Meanwhile, the NYT mentions that the “top two city morgue officials” counted “at least 246 people in Baghdad.”
As everybody notes, there seemed to be much less killing yesterday. But isn’t it also worth noting that much of the violence isn’t the type that’s usually reported right away? Open street-fighting and bombings are easy to spot. With late-night abductions and executions, it’s hard to know they’ve happened … until of course the bodies turn up at the morgue.
The LAT has a fascinating dispatch from a U.S. patrol in a Sunni neighborhood of Baghdad. “It felt—at times—like someone else’s war,” said one officer, whose troops kept an eye on some mosques. “The strangest thing was actually to hear the Sunnis say they were glad to see us,” added another commander.
The NYT fronts the E.U. agreeing to give the Palestinian Authority about $150 million to hold off financial ruin for now. The move came in response to a letter from the U.S. and European Mideast envoy—which the Post fronts—warning that “unless a solution is found, we may be facing the financial collapse of the P.A. within two weeks.” The P.A. faces a monthly deficit of about $130 million. And while the Europeans are paying some of the bills until at least a new, Hamas-led government is formed, the U.S. and Israel are taking a harder-line approach and are already cutting off money.
Everybody mentions the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency accusing Iran of stonewalling and refusing to give up requested info, again, on its nuclear program.
The papers go inside with the partial release of a Coast Guard memo from three months ago warning that it wasn’t sure whether a Dubai-based company’s purchase of management leases at U.S. ports represented a significant risk. The memo, which was released by Senate Democrats, refers to “intelligence gaps” and “potential unknown threats.” A Coast Guard official told senators that the excerpt is being taken out of context and that the memo should be considered in full—which it can’t be since the memo is classified. In any case, the official added, “We thought it prudent, with everything that was going on in this case, to take another look at those facilities. And, indeed, we have found nothing that would change our view of these facilities”; i.e. that ultimately the purchase isn’t a risk.
The NYT covers a CBS poll showing the president’s approval rating plunging to 34 percent, eight points lower than CBS had a month ago. His support among Republicans took one of the largest dives. Meanwhile, 70 percent of overall respondents oppose the port deal.
The LAT fronts and others reefer the death of former LAT publisher Otis Chandler, who took the paper from a ridiculed broadsheet to the one of the best in the country—and then spoke out when it went south again. An outdoors type guy, Chandler retired in 1980 at just 52. “Otis has gone surfing,” said one Times’ editor on hearing that news, “and he’s never coming back.”