Just about everybody leads with the Mideast war, but only the Wall Street Journal and New York Times focus on what seems like the most significant development: President Bush basically declared that Israel should go on bombing Lebanon and trying to pummel Hezbollah for now. “What we recognize is that the root cause of the problem is Hezbollah,” said the president. “Sometimes it requires tragic situations to help bring clarity in the international community.” USA Todayfronts the war but leads with a New Orleans’ doctor and two nurses arrested on murder charges and accused of giving four suffering patients lethal doses of drugs as their hospital was flooded and isolated after Katrina.
Secretary of State Rice is expected to head to the Mideast within the next week. But instead of pushing for a ceasefire, says the Journal, “her mission will be to build support for the effective crippling of Hezbollah.”
The NYT’s headline is opaque and beats around the bush (if you will): “U.S. SEEN WAITING TO ACT ON ISRAELI AIRSTRIKES IN LEBANON.” Seen as waiting to act?
About 30 people were reported killed in Israeli strikes including a few when planes hit a convoy carrying medical supplies near the Syrian border. (Question: Does Israel consider all trucks crossing the border to be fair game?) The Post reports from the scene and says a few cars were hit too, including a labeled taxi of the kind that normally plies the border. Eleven Lebanese soldiers were killed in another strike. (Israel has been calling on Lebanon’s weak army to move against Hezbollah and it’s not clear why the army has occasionally been attacked.)
Hezbollah launched about 100 rockets yesterday, including a few that hit Haifa. One person was killed and one critically wounded.
The Post notes inside that “some U.S. and European military and intelligence officials were puzzled by Israel’s strategy” and viewed the goals as “unrealistic or too ambitious.” The Los Angeles Timesflags a new poll showing nearly 90 percent of Israelis support the offensive.
The LAT’s poll mention comes via the paper’s lead story, which is an oddly credulous and myopic piece that details Israel’s strategy without adding outside perspectives or context.
In fairness, the LAT’s lead story is balanced by another front-page dispatch that details the emerging humanitarian crisis in southern Lebanon. The paper acknowledges things are so chaotic “it’s almost impossible know” exactly what’s going on. But one government minister said,“There’s no food, and the logistics are very difficult to send them food. We’re having problems with the malnutrition of babies.” Among the latest targets struck have been a food processing plant and a milk factory.
Plenty of shelters have sprung up in Beirut and elsewhere, says the LAT: “Many of the facilities are being run by Hezbollah.”
The NYT says “American and Israeli officials” hinted that after Israel has pummeled Hezbollah and Lebanon for another week or so, Israel might be up for a strong international force to occupy a 12-mile buffer zone into Lebanon.
The problem is that if the strikes keep up for now things could get much worse: If Hezbollah hits Tel Aviv, for example, Israel could kick its campaign up a notch and hit Syria or even Iran. Then Iran’s Shiite supporters in Iraq could start another insurgency, and so on and so forth.
The NYT’s Tom Friedman has an interesting column arguing that the provocation by Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has screwed Palestinians, Islamist movements, the Lebanese, and even Iran. The U.S. should move against Nasrallah by trying to “split Syria off from Iran, and bring Damascus back into the Sunni Arab fold. That is the game-changer.”
Peeling off Syria would take at least bribes and friendly talk from the U.S. Just one problem: As the Journal notes, “The U.S. now refuses to talk to Syria’s leaders.”
The Post fronts the Senate voting to lift restrictions on federal funding for stem-cell research. The bill passed 63 to 37, which won’t be enough to override the veto that President Bush has promised.
Nobody fronts Attorney General Gonzales saying it was President Bush who effectively blocked a Justice Department investigation into the NSA’s warrantless spying. The investigation was shut down after the lawyers were refused classified clearance. And why weren’t the lawyers given clearance? “The president of the United States makes decisions about who is ultimately given access,” said Gonzales in Senate testimony.
“There was already lots of oversight on this program,” one “senior Justice Department official” told the NYT. The brave, truth-telling official had to speak anonymously “because of lack of authorization to comment.”
A front-page Post piece highlights some conservative think-tank types complaining that the White House has gone wobbly by even broaching the idea of talking to Iran and not causing more of a stink after Pyongyang’s missile test. “I don’t have a friend in the administration, on Capitol Hill or any part of the conservative foreign policy establishment who is not beside themselves with fury at the administration,” said one player, who certainly knows how give Page One-worthy quotes.
The NYT and LAT front, and the Post stuffs, the latest from Iraq, where the U.N. announced about 100 civilians were killed per day last month, a much higher rate than earlier in the year. The U.N. got the numbers for the Iraqi health ministry and Baghdad’s morgue. Nearly 60 people died yesterday when a suicide bomber hit day laborers in Kufa, a Shiite holy city. The bomb exploded across the street from cleric Moqtada Sadr’s main mosque.
The LAT’s conclusion: “IN IRAQ, CIVIL WAR ALL BUT DECLARED.”
Or as visiting Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman told the NYT while hanging in the Green Zone, “The situation seems far more stable than when I was here two or three years ago. The security seems better, people are more relaxed.”