All the papers lead with Iraq. The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal focus on the statements by President Bush, and top people in his administration, who insisted yesterday that progress has been made since the invasion of Iraq three years ago. They all made a particular effort to counter any talk of a civil war. Meanwhile, former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi disagreed with this evaluation and told the BBCthat a civil war had already broken out. USA Today leads with its own analysis of U.S. military data since 2004 that shows there has been a steady decline of U.S. military deaths in Iraq, while at the same time Iraqi casualties have increased to record numbers. The paper says this illustrates that the insurgency is increasingly targeting Iraqis, and that the local army and police force are playing a bigger role.
The Los Angeles Timesleads with Iraqi officials agreeing to form a 19-member national-security council that will decide on policy relating to security and economic issues. It will include the president, the prime minister, and the leaders of the main political parties. This council, which will have more power than the still-unnamed Cabinet, is not mentioned in the country’s constitution. To approve a policy, it will require the agreement of 13 of the council’s members, which gives the nine Shiites virtual veto power, if they stick together.
Some U.S. lawmakers agreed with Allawi’s statement that a civil war had already broken out in Iraq. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said Iraq was in the middle of a “low-grade civil war.” Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney said that the insurgents have always wanted to start a civil war, adding, “I don’t think they’ve been successful.”
There were protests around the world to mark the third year of the invasion. In Iraq, the clashes continued, and the WSJ reports that at least 35 people around the country were killed.
The WSJ says on its front page that American military officials are now, more than ever in the three years since the invasion, looking to Vietnam histories to understand how they can win the Iraq war. The paper claims that this re-examination of history is changing the way the Army is fighting the war.
The Post mentions inside a report from Time that looks into the investigation by U.S. officials to determine whether Marines were responsible for the deaths of 15 civilians on Nov. 19. Originally the U.S. military had said a roadside bomb, which also killed a U.S. Marine, was responsible for the deaths. Now there is growing suspicion that Marines killed the civilians, including seven women and three children, as they searched the area.
Knight Ridder got its hands on an Iraqi police document that says American troops executed 11 people, including an elderly woman and an infant, after a raid last Wednesday. A U.S. military spokesman said they had never heard of the allegations and added that it’s “highly unlikely that they’re true.”
USAT fronts an analysis that shows that the House of Representatives is scheduled to meet only 97 days this year. This amounts to fewer days than in 1948, when Harry Truman labeled the Congress as “do-nothing.” So far this year, the House has been in session for 19 days, compared with the Senate’s 33. Representatives say that since it is an election year, they want to spend more time with their constituents.
The WP fronts a look at the multiple levels of federal contractors and subcontractors, flagging them as part of the reason the rebuilding of New Orleans is so expensive. Typically, the federal government will hire a contractor to do a job, and that contractor will turn around and hire a subcontractor who may hire someone else, all the way down to five or six levels. For example, to do roof repairs, contractors are being paid by the government up to $1.75 per square foot of tarp they install, while some of the crews on the ground are actually getting less than 10 cents per square foot.
Everybody mentions inside that thousands of protesters went out to the streets of Belarus’ capital yesterday to protest the election results that gave President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko 82.6 percent of the vote. The main opposition candidate, who received 6 percent of the vote, said the election was “a farce.” Although the government had banned all rallies, the police did not interfere in the protests.
In the first in a series of articles examining the persistence of certain diseases that no longer exist in the developed world, the NYT fronts a look at the difficulties in eradicating polio. Although officials around the world had a goal to eliminate polio by the year 2000, and $4 billion has been dedicated to that fight, experts say eradication is far from becoming a reality.
The NYT fronts a group of recent studies that show how young black men are becoming more disconnected from regular society. Despite general economic growth and the fall in crime rates, the lives of black men, especially in the inner cities, have not improved. For example, 72 percent of black men in their 20s who dropped out of high school were jobless * in 2004, an increase from 65 percent in the year 2000.
The LAT fronts a look at how Indonesian citizens are being incarcerated for allegedly offending Islam, under such charges as praying in Indonesian rather than Arabic and whistling while praying. Even though Indonesia is a secular country, the council that sets religious policy is incredibly influential. Meanwhile, the WP and USA Today mention that a man in Afghanistan could be sentenced to death for converting from Islam to Christianity.
In a NYT op-ed, Jake Tapper reports that amid the violence in Iraq, comedy and entertainment on radio and television are flourishing. Although he is quick to emphasize that violence is never too far away, Tapper does note that more than 100 television and radio stations have been licensed, and there seems to be a growing market for entertainment to distract people from their daily hardships. Radio stations run contests, and sitcoms are being filmed. The country even has its own version of American Idol called Iraq Star.
Correction, March 21: This article originally and incorrectly used the word unemployed, instead of jobless. Unemployed usually refers to people who are actively looking for work, while the term jobless includes those who are not looking for employment or are incarcerated. (Return to the corrected sentence.)