Today's Papers

GI Woe

The Los Angeles Times leads with news that top Army officers are withholding key budget plans in protest of the administration’s unwillingness to give that service, bearing the brunt of combat in Iraq, a larger portion of the overall defense budget. The New York Times leads with a local story; the top nonlocal news is that Army units not in Iraq or Afghanistan lack equipment, training, and manpower. The Washington Post leads with an update on the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks: The probe is going slowly because several things investigators originally thought they knew about the perpetrators have turned out to be false. The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with, and the other papers stuff, word from Iraq that legislators will consider a bill that would allow the Shiite south to form an autonomous state. USA Today leads with 11 states putting referendums on the ballot this fall that would restore limits on eminent domain that the Supreme Court eliminated last year.

The portion of the military budget that the Army gets has remained stable for years, even as it has assumed a much greater role than the Navy and Air Force. The army’s chief of staff has become increasingly vocal about it, and argues that the army either needs a lot more money—he’s asked for a 41 percent budget increase—or a reduced mission. But one analyst noted that a large portion of the Army’s budget “needs” include something unrelated to Iraq: fancy new armored vehicles whose cost is spiraling rapidly out of control. It’s all setting up a battle between the Army and the White House that should be, in the words of one officer quoted in the piece, “a pretty sporting little event.”

The NYT Army story makes a good companion piece to the LAT one, profiling the 3rd Infantry Division—which helped lead the 2003 invasion of Iraq—and how its readiness has suffered. One of the division’s brigades has only half the soldiers it’s supposed to, and they train on computer simulators because they don’t have enough tanks to train with. Left unanswered, however, is the question of just how typical is this division’s sad state.

More than 250 troops have suffered injuries in Iraq “that left them—at least initially—comatose or unable to care for themselves or respond to people,” USA Today reports on the front page, and the Army is looking into placing more attention on living wills.

There are still 27 agents on the anthrax case, but they are being forced to look at a much wider pool of suspects than before. One early, and false, assumption was that the anthrax was weaponized, meaning it was likely to have come from government bioweapons specialists. Investigators also thought early on that the particular strain of anthrax used in the attacks was more rare than it in fact is: It was thought to be found only in the U.S. but has since been found in the former Soviet Union, as well.

The Post stuffs, and appears alone in reporting, Sen. John McCain naming some specific interrogation techniques that would be banned under a compromise bill now in the Senate: extreme sleep deprivation, forced hypothermia, and “water-boarding,” among others. Probable presidential campaign rival Sen. Bill Frist said McCain’s disclosure of the techniques “helps the terrorists.”

Everyone stuffs fallout from press reports yesterday about an intelligence document that said the war in Iraq has increased the threat from terrorism. Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte said the newspapers misinterpreted the document and reported only the negative bits. Democrats, meanwhile, made hay with the news on the Sunday talk shows.

Iraqi legislators reached a compromise Sunday on a federalism bill that would allow parts of Iraq to carve out autonomous states. In exchange for letting debate on the bill proceed, Sunnis—who have the most to lose under a splintering of the country, as their region doesn’t have oil— got an agreement that any fracturing would not take place until 2008. “We still need a miracle to save the country,” one Sunni politician told the Post.

The NYT fronts a dispatch from Lebanon that illustrates the murky mission of the new peacekeepers there. The mandate is to support the Lebanese armed forces, but so far the Lebanese haven’t given very clear instructions, commanders say. And even without doing anything, the troops are accused of being on Israel’s side. “They are ashamed of saying they came to defend us, but they talk about defending Israel,” said Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader.

Also in the papers: The LAT fronts Part 2 of its series on Green Berets who allegedly killed detainees in Afghanistan and covered it up. The Post fronts a bit of a thumbsucker on how Bush grieves over war victims. There was NOT a coup in Pakistan. A member of the Chinese politburo was arrested on corruption charges. British soldiers in Iraq are accused of selling their guns for cocaine, the Post reports. China’s influence is becoming a political issue in Africa.

Under consideration: On the USA Today op-ed page, Jonah Goldberg argues that while Western liberals want there to be a Muslim reformation a la Martin Luther, his reading of history suggests a different conclusion. “Many Protestant sects were as austere as bin Laden’s Wahhabi faith,” and occasionally violent, too, he says. The solution: “What the Muslim world needs is a pope.”