The Washington Postleads with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid’s letter to the president declaring “it’s time to bring the war to a close.” The new leaders urged Bush to begin a phased withdrawal of troops in four to six months. The Los Angeles Times leads with the advice Bush is receiving from escalation advocates, specifically their warnings that any buildup lasting less than 18 months will fail. The New York Timesleads—and the LAT off-leads—with Friday’s House vote to tighten disclosure rules on earmarking. The measure requires lawmakers to attach their names to any project they add to tax and spending bills and certify they do not stand to gain financially from it. Unclaimed earmarks played a major role in recent Congressional scandals. The Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide newsbox with continued reorganization of the White House’s Iraq team.
“Surging forces is a strategy that you have already tried and that has already failed. … Adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our military to the breaking point for no strategic gain,” the new speaker of the House and Senate majority leader wrote in their letter to the president. But the Post notes that though Pelosi and Reid’s words are strong, they are not accompanied by a cutoff of funding for the war.
Meanwhile, according to the LAT, Sen. John McCain and retired Army Gen. Jack Keane are telling Bush he should send 30,000 additional troops to remain in Iraq from 18 months to two years. The president and his national security advisers met Friday with 15 senators (or perhaps only 13, which is the number the NYT gives) to talk Iraq policy, several of whom later told the papers that there was widespread skepticism among the senators about troop increase. The Post notes that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is expected to give a speech today in which he welcomes more U.S. forces.
The Post fronts an in-depth look at the Haditha massacre in November 2005 that left 24 Iraqi civilians dead. One shocking finding: According to a lengthy report by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service the paper obtained, U.S. Marines gunned down five unarmed Iraqis one by one who were at the scene. The report, which is thousands of pages long, includes hundreds of interviews with Marines, Iraqi soldiers, and civilians, and paints a terrifying portrait of the events of that day. Four Marines were charged with murder last month and the Marine Corps has charged four officers with failing to investigate and report the killings. The Marines charged with the murders make some startling admissions in the report: One says he instructed others to “shoot first, ask questions later”; another says he urinated on the corpse of a civilian he had just shot.
The NYT fronts a story on Saddam Hussein’s public image makeover: In death, the convicted dictator is being cast as a hero. Demonstrators throughout the Middle East have been praising him in recent days, and the Libyan government has plans to erect a statue of Hussein in the gallows. In an interview with an Israeli newspaper Friday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said, “No one will ever forget the way in which Saddam was executed. … They turned him into a martyr.”
On Friday, Bush confirmed earlier news that Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus—a supporter of increased troops in Iraq—will be the new top American general there. Petraeus will succeed Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who Bush said he will nominate as the Army’s new chief of staff. Bush also formally nominated retired Navy Vice Adm. J. Michael McConnell as the new director of national intelligence, and confirmed he will nominate Navy Adm. William Fallon as the new chief of U.S. Central Command.
African and Western diplomats met yesterday in Nairobi and called for a swift deployment of an African peacekeeping force in Somalia. Also Friday, the United States pledged $40 million for humanitarian aid and other efforts there. The European Union has said they’ll give $47 million.
Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister, urged an end to violence in the Gaza Strip Friday. The day before, Hamas gunmen surrounded a Fatah leader’s house and killed him.
At least seven people have been murdered in New Orleans in 2007, reports the Post. Five of the shootings, all unrelated, occurred within a 14-hour span on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. The killings are in stark contrast to comments from the city’s police chief on Monday indicating that New Orleans had become less violent.
The NYT reports on the national first-baby sweepstakes that is quickly widening into a debate over immigration. Toys “R” Us pledged to award a $25,000 savings bond to the first baby born in 2007, and Yuki Lin, a baby born in New York City, was pronounced the winner after she was born at midnight and selected from a tie-breaking drawing. But like six out of 10 babies born in NYC, and at least two others in Brooklyn born at about the same time, Yuki has immigrant parents, so the corporation decided to disqualify her, citing fine print—although Yuki is, of course, a legal citizen herself.
Paging Akeelah … The NYT runs two corrections in today’s paper illustrating the imperfection of the modern spell check. Last Saturday, the paper misspelled the Ford family’s home city (it’s Palm Desert, lest readers thought they lived in delicious Palm Dessert), and yesterday they botched the former Soviet premier’s name (it’s Nikita Khrushchev, not Kruschev).