Today's Papers

Don’t Need Nobody

The New York Timesleads with word that American and Iraqi officials have “spent days” trying to put together a  strategy to carry out President Bush’s new plan for Iraq, and, so far, there is a range of problems “that some fear could hobble the effort before it begins.” The Washington Postand Los Angeles Timeslead with President Bush declaring he has the authority to increase the troop levels in Iraq, regardless of what Congress does or says. “I fully understand they could try to stop me from doing it. But I’ve made my decision. And we’re going forward,” Bush said in an interview broadcast yesterday on CBS’ 60 Minutes.

USA Todayleads with the U.S. military reporting a large increase of police recruits in Anbar province, a hotbed of Sunni insurgent activity. In the last two weeks, more than 1,000 Iraqis have applied for police jobs in Ramadi, and 800 joined last month. This is a huge increase from just a few months ago. Military leaders say the key to this increase is the growing support of local tribal leaders. 

There is little time to come up with a strategy, so American officials are trying to work quickly but they are facing resistance from Iraqis on a number of key points. One of the most important issues administration officials are facing with the new plan is whether the Iraqi government truly has the desire to crack down on Shiite militias. The feeling that the Iraqis might not be so committed to the cause was exacerbated when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appointed a virtual unknown to the important position of operational commander of the Baghdad operation. “We are implementing a strategy to embolden a government that is actually part of the problem,” an American military official tells the paper. Both armies are supposed to work together, but there are questions of whether the American forces would be willing to share power with Iraqi troops. The plan also calls for the National Police to play a large part, but some say they have been “dragging their feet” on establishing their role in the overall operation. 

Money to send more troops over to Iraq shouldn’t be a problem, according to national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, who told ABC that the 2007 budget should be able to  cover their needs. On another Sunday talk show, Vice President Cheney recognized congressional power over the budget but insisted anything Congress does won’t influence the administration’s policy because “you cannot run a war by committee.”

The WP quotes the vice president saying he has “yet to hear a coherent policy out of the Democratic side” regarding any alternative to the increase in troops. The WP for some reason decides to leave that statement hanging with no dissenting word from Democrats. The LAT, on the other hand,does point out that Sen. Barack Obama talked about an alternative plan, which is similar to what was proposed by the Iraq Study Group. Some might say the plan is unrealistic or unoriginal, but isn’t it, at the very least, worth a mention?

USAT and LAT reefer, and the rest go inside with, early morning reports that two of Saddam Hussein’s codefendants were hanged. The LAT emphasizes the conflicting reports of whether the execution of Hussein’s half-brother and the former head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court actually took place, but everyone gets some sort of confirmation. The NYT mentions that over the weekend an American official said the two men wouldn’t be handed over to Iraqi authorities until they were presented with a plan to make sure there wouldn’t be a repetition of the controversial events that took place when Hussein was hanged. 

The NYT gets its hands on a document that details the plans to more than double the number of U.S.-led reconstruction teams in Iraq to 22, along with almost 400 specialists. Critics of the plan question whether it would be helpful to increase the specialists by such large numbers, especially when it has been difficult to come up with people willing to work in Iraq. In addition, those that do get to Iraq often find it almost impossible to work directly with Iraqis due to security concerns. As could be expected, this plan also brings some high costs that are likely to raise some questions, such as the approximately $2 million destined for office furnishings.

The WP fronts word that a little-noticed provision in a congressional spending bill could subject civilians working alongside U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to military courts-martial. The move was designed to close a loophole, which has led many to complain that civilians in a war zone are above the law, but it is also likely to raise constitutional questions. Some complain that the new provision could be interpreted so as to include other noncontractors, such as embedded journalists.  

The NYT and WP go inside with the way that the Sunday talk shows gave further evidence of the split among Democratic congressional leaders on how they should respond to Bush’s new plan for Iraq. Sen. Carl M. Levin of Michigan said he wants to pass the nonbinding resolution, but opposes cutting off funding for the war. Meanwhile, Rep. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania said he would try to prevent the last two U.S. brigades from going to Iraq in April and May.   

USAT goes inside with a look at how Bush’s Iraq plan makes things a little complicated for Republicans who want to run for president. While most of the American public opposes the president’s plan, 67 percent of Republicans say they favor sending more troops to Iraq.

The WP mentions the Iraqi government called on the United States to release the five Iranians the U.S. military is accusing of supporting violence against its troops. The NYT publishes an analysis piece that says the raids illustrate how a new front has opened in Iraq against Iran. Although administration officials insist they only want to go after those who are causing instability in Iraq, all signs point toward it being part of a larger policy to prevent Iran from becoming a strong regional power.

The Post off-leads word that doctors are planning the first uterus transplant in the United States. Some say the procedure hasn’t gone through enough testing, while others question whether it’s ethical to put a patient through such a dangerous elective operation. At the end of the article there is some discussion about whether this could theoreticaly open the road to men being able to get pregnant.

The Post reports that a recent survey revealed 81 percent of college students had at least a general idea of what Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was talking about in his “I Have a Dream” speech. Most of the other 19 percent thought he wanted to abolish slavery.

According to an unofficial count kept by the White House correspondent for CBS, President Bush has now spent 365 full or partial days at Camp David, reports the Post’s Al Kamen. As of Jan. 1, the president had also spent 405 full or partial days at his ranch in Crawford.