Today's Papers


Everybody leads with Dubai announcing it will, as the Wall Street Journal puts it, “sell or spin out” the company it just bought that manages some U.S. ports. In unveiling the pullback, the company kept it vague, saying it will “transfer fully the U.S. operations” to “a United States entity.”

As the New York Timesputs it, the company refused to say whether it plans to “actually sell the American operations or had some other transaction in mind.” It could create a kind of stand-alone subsidiary staffed by Americans, a deal suggested last month by conservative commentator Michael Ledeen. Of course, that’s just theoretical. As the Journal notes, “any step short of divestiture is considered unlikely, largely because it carries significant political risk.”

It’s long been clear that the deal was DOA, but if you’re interested in the death throes: GOP congressional leaders headed to the White House yesterday morning and delivered an offer the president couldn’t refuse: Kill the deal or we will. According to the Post’s David Ignatius, at another point yesterday, Karl Rove told an exec at the company in Dubai that the White House couldn’t hold out any longer. A few hours later, Dubai’s crown prince pulled the plug.

As everybody by now is quick to note, there’s no real evidence that Dubai’s ownership of a company that manages some domestic ports would have been a significant security risk.

“This is a case where we were arguing about the wrong part of the problem,” said one analyst. “Transportation is a global network, and we’re not going to own all of it.” Time magazine points out that another Dubai company already runs some services at a few U.S. ports and recently won a $50 million contract with the U.S. Navy.

The Washington Postgoes credulous above-the-fold: “U.S. SETS PLAN FOR CIVIL WAR IN IRAQ.” The WP gets that from Senate hearings where SecDef Rumsfeld explained, “The plan is to prevent a civil war, and to the extent one were to occur, to have the Iraqi security forces deal with it to the extent they’re able to.”

That’s not a plan, and Rumsfeld must know it,” retorts Slate’s Fred Kaplan, who adds that Rummy’s performance was matched by senators’ equally desultory follow-ups. In one of the few interesting bits, the U.S.’s top general for the Mideast testified that the “sectarian violence is a greater concern for us security-wise right now than the insurgency.”

The NYT wisely stuffs Rumsfeld, saying his appearance amounted to “more or less a recitation of the administration’s standard formulations on Iraq.”

About a dozen Iraqis were killed in assorted attacks, while Iraq’s government announced the hanging of 13 men convicted as “terrorists.” The Post says they were the first court-sanctioned executions of insurgents since Iraq reinstated the death penalty two years ago.

The Los Angeles Timesand USA Todayfront NASA announcing the discovery of what appear to be geysers on a tiny-teeny moon of Saturn, meaning there may be water there—and life.

A front-page NYT piece flags a Census report concluding that even though the percentage of the population that’s elderly is exploding, the costs of the demographic shift will be muted by the fact that retirees are far healthier nowadays—and many will hold off on that whole retiring thing for a while, too.

Back to the Post’s David Ignatius, who looks at the impact of the port scuttle:

The collapse of the deal was a measure of Bush’s political weakness—but even more, of America’s traumatized post-Sept. 11 politics. The ironic fact is that the UAE is precisely the kind of Arab ally the United States needs most now. But that clearly didn’t matter to an election-year Congress, which responded to the Dubai deal with a frenzy of Muslim-bashing disguised as concern about terrorism. And we wonder why the rest of the world doesn’t like us.