Today's Papers

Riot Acts

The New York Timesand Washington Postlead with yesterday’s big riots in Kabul, which came after a U.S. military truck careened into civilian traffic. About a dozen Afghans were killed and roughly 100 wounded, mostly apparently by police and soldiers trying to contain the rioting. The Los Angeles Timestop nonlocal spot goes to Iraq, where a roadside bomb killed two British journalists for CBS and seriously wounded an American correspondent for the network, Kimberly Dozier. About three dozen Iraqis were killed in other attacks. USA Todayreefers Kabul and leads with an analysis of recent polls showing the U.S.—wait for it—widely split on immigration. “A compromise that 50 percent of the population can go for leaves half the public feeling unhappy, and very unhappy,” said one analyst.

Afghanistan’s “worst street violence since the fall of the Taliban” came after a U.S. truck riding downhill had, according to a military spokesman, its brakes fail and hit a dozen cars. What happened after that is murky: A crowd gathered and started throwing stones—or the truck pulled a hit-and-run and later was blocked by a crowd. Five Afghans died in the accident—or they were shot to death, by either U.S. or Afghan troops. The U.S. says GIs fired into the air. The NYT reports, “Witnesses said American soldiers fired on Afghans.”

The crowd chanted, “Death to America!,” “Death to Karzai,” and the LAT notices a local favorite, “Death to Dog Washers!

The rioting quickly spread—which the Afghan government claimed was the work of agitators. Kabul’s fanciest hotel was “raked with gunfire,” a foreign aid agency’s office was torched, as were police posts. Some soldiers—Afghan or American—did fire on the mobs. According to the NYT, “Scores of people were treated in hospitals for gunshot wounds.” 

As the LAT points out prominently, U.S. convoys in Afghanistan (and Iraq) are widely criticized for their extreme driving techniques. “The U.S. use force in the street with their cars,” one Afghan U.N. employee told the Christian Science Monitor. “When Americans are in a hurry they cut people off and they don’t care how they drive.”

One of the sharpest—and most sharply worded—pieces on the situation in Afghanistan comes via an op-ed in the Daily Telegraph by Ahmed Rashid. The riots, he writes, are “indicative of how disillusioned many Afghans feel about the failure of the West to help rebuild their country.” He also questions the U.S. and Europe’s commitment to defeating the Taliban.

Most of the papers front—and the Wall Street Journal tops it world-wide newsbox with—what the NYT calls a “day of soaring violence” in Iraq. The attack that killed a CBS soundman and a cameraman also killed a GI and an Iraqi interpreter. A dozen civilians were killed by a car bomb outside a Sunni mosque in Baghdad. Another seven were killed by a bomb at a marketplace in a Shiite neighborhood.

Two British soldiers were also reported killed by a roadside bomb in Basra.

The WP and NYT front word the U.S. is deploying its main reserve force for Iraq—3,500 troops—to the insurgent-dominated Anbar province. Late last year, tribal leaders had started to cooperate with the U.S. against jihadist fighters such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s group. Since then, the jihadists have assassinated a dozen of the leaders.

“Zarqawi is the one who is in control” of Anbar’s capital, Ramadi, said one sheik. “He kills anyone who goes in and out of the U.S. base. We have stopped meetings with the Americans, because, frankly speaking, we have lost confidence in the U.S. side, as they can’t protect us.” The quote is from the Post, which has a more detailed report than the late-filed, Washington-datelinedTimes piece.

Time magazine recently had an extraordinary dispatch from Ramadi confirming that insurgents all but control the town and detailing Marines’ efforts to defend just a few government buildings.

The papers have brief word that the number of hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay has jumped again from just a few to 75.

A front-page LAT piece notices that it’s just like old times in Russia, where a few quite sane gadfly types have been tossed into psychiatric wards. “For a time we couldn’t even believe it was happening,” said one psychiatrist and human rights activist. “But now it seems quite clear that such abuses are on the rise, and that this is a trend.” There’ no evidence of a systematic effort by Putin’s government. Local authorities are using bribes and loose judges to do the dirty work.

HOLIDAY TRAVELERS HIT THE ROAD, BUT SCRIMPED A BIT,” announces the NYT on Page One. How do we know they scrimped a bit? Well, there are the Keiths of Lake Oroville, Jeremy from Verona, Wisc., and the Shanes from some undisclosed location. Case closed!

P.S.: The number of reporters who contributed to the Times’ rigorous piece: six.