The New York Timesand Washington Postlead, and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox, with Republican Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico publicly breaking with the Bush administration on the Iraq war and calling for an immediate change in strategy. This is yet another sign of the growing number of Republicans who aren’t willing to wait until the September progress report to express their unhappiness with how the war is progressing. And now that several high-profile Republicans have expressed their views, more are expected to follow. Domenici said he does not support an immediate withdrawal but would sign on to legislation to put in place the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which calls for a withdrawal of most combat troops by the end of March. “We cannot continue asking our troops to sacrifice indefinitely while the Iraqi government is not making measurable progress,” Domenici said.
The Los Angeles Timesleads with numbers that say U.S. and NATO troops killed more civilians in Afghanistan in the first half of 2007 than the Taliban and other insurgents. Of course, there are plenty of caveats to the explosive statistics. Western officials say that sometimes it’s impossible to know who is a militant and insist that civilians are killed primarily because of the Taliban’s tactics of putting them in the front lines. But, still, according to U.N. figures, by late June Western-led forces were responsible for the deaths of 314 civilians in the year, while militants killed 279 people. USA Todayleads with word that Homeland Security investigators looking into fraud in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita are dealing with more than 11,000 potential cases. About 700 people have been charged with swindling the federal government as it gave out more than $7 billion in assistance after the hurricanes. Officials warn it could take years to go through all the potential cases.
The NYT and WP note that several of the Republicans who have had a change of heart recently, including Domenici, are up for re-election next year. Democrats weren’t too impressed with Domenici’s defection and basically said that they’d have to wait and see if he is going to put his money where his mouth is next week when Iraq will be brought back to center stage in the Senate. “Republicans will have the opportunity to not just say the right things on Iraq, but vote the right way, too,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.
In truth, Domenici’s stated reason for breaking with the White House seems a bit baffling. Besides the slow pace of the Iraqi government, Domenici says he had his change of heart after having conversations with families of New Mexico soldiers who were killed in Iraq and asked him to do more for the others serving there. “I heard nothing like that a couple of years ago,” he said. But he’s not the only lawmaker making strange-sounding statements. Republican Sen. Susan Collins, for example, who is also up for re-election and has expressed frustration with Iraq, “said her talks with voters convinced her that the war remained the top issue,” reports the NYT.
No one doubts that, as a NATO spokesman told the LAT, “No [Western] soldier ever wakes up in the morning with the intention of harming any Afghan citizen.” But the statistic goes a long way to show why more Afghan civilians are increasingly angry about the perceived carelessness of the Western-led forces in their country, even though according to analysts most still support their presence. President Hamid Karzai has also expressed his anger with the troops over the civilian deaths. “Afghan life is not cheap, and it should not be treated as such,” he said.
The NYT fronts a dispatch from Baquba, Iraq, where U.S. troops have begun to team up with local Sunnis, including some who used to be insurgents, to fight al-Qaida in Iraq. This is notable because the area doesn’t have a rigid tribal structure, which makes it more difficult to create alliances than in the much-reported Anbar Province. But the story also makes other interesting points. It seems Sunnis are more willing to work with Americans now that they think it’s only a matter of time before the number of U.S. troops in Iraq begins to decrease. And the NYT says it was actually “America’s most ardent foe” that has made these types of alliances possible. Residents were so resentful of the “severe version of Islamic law” imposed by al-Qaida in Iraq that they are now willing to work with U.S. troops to make sure the jihadists don’t come back.
Meanwhile the LAT goes inside with a great story out of Baghdad that shows how U.S. and Iraqi forces can do good work together, but it can all be brought to an abrupt end by factional interests. In the Zafaraniya neighborhood, a U.S. platoon leader and a Sunni Iraqi army captain developed a strong rapport and were able to track down and arrest several important members of the Shiite Mahdi militia. But then, “at the urging of Interior Ministry officials,” the Iraqi army captain was arrested and detained for three weeks in what turned out to be “a powerful warning about the resources that the U.S. military’s enemy in east Baghdad can bring to bear.”
The NYT off-leads word that the two doctors who rammed a Jeep into the airport terminal in Glasgow are likely the “main operatives, if not the leaders,” of the terrorist network. It’s believed they rushed to carry out the Glasgow attack after the London one failed. Yesterday, the LAT quoted a British official who said the airport attack “has all the hallmarks of an improvised Plan B.”
USAT fronts, and everyone goes inside with, a new study that contradicts the stereotype that women talk more than men. Researchers used digital technology to record the conversations of almost 400 university students in the U.S. and Mexico, and found there was no statistically significant difference between the sexes. They both utter about 16,000 words a day.