Triple Teaming

Triple Teaming

Triple Teaming

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
June 9 2003 5:34 AM

Triple Teaming

The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and USA Today all lead with Sunday morning's unusual collaborative attack by the three main Palestinian militant groups, which killed four Israeli soldiers. A fifth soldier was killed in another attack hours later. The New York Times leads with a fairly basic overview of the coming battle over Medicare and potential prescription drug coverage: Many Republicans, and some Democrats, want to revamp the whole program, making it more flexible and giving private insurers a larger role. The Washington Post leads with less than shocking news: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell, appearing on the Sunday talkies, defended the administration against accusations that it played loosey goosey with intel on Iraqi weapons. (Imagine if they hadn'tdefended the White House—that would have been news.) In a bit that CIA chief George Tenet must have appreciated, both officials insisted that President Bush, as Rice put it, "gets his intelligence from his director of central intelligence," Tenet.

Disguised in Israeli army uniforms, three Palestinian gunmen—one each from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an off-shoot of Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction—fired on an army checkpoint in the Gaza Strip. The gunmen were themselves killed in the shootout. The WSJ notes that the attackers came from a town currently held by the Israeli army. 

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Everybody says that the attack is a potentially grave challenge to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas whose speech at last week's summit has been widely criticized by Palestinians for being too conciliatory and for having essentially skipped mention of Palestinian suffering. "We refuse totally the Aqaba summit. It is a waste of our existence," a Hamas spokesman told the NYT, which wonders if Abbas has already "been crippled" by reaction to the speech. USAT chimes in with this bit of wisdom: "The attack apparently means that the groups have rejected Abbas' request for a cease-fire."

Most of the papers think that Israeli Prime Minister Sharon will hold off retaliating and will still dismantle some illegal settlement outposts as promised. Meanwhile, as everybody notes, jeering delegates greeted Sharon at one of his party's meetings, some holding signs saying, "Stop giving in to terror." Still, according to a new poll cited by the LAT, about 60 percent of Israelis favor giving up most settlements.

The NYT, citing unnamed intel officials, says that the two highest-ranking al-Qaida men in captivity, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah have both denied that al-Qaida has any links to Saddam Hussein. Apparently, some al-Qaida operatives once did suggest working with Saddam, but Osama Bin Laden nixed the idea. "I remember reading the Abu Zubaydah debriefing last year, while the administration was talking about all of these other reports, and thinking that they were only putting out what they wanted," one official said.

According to early morning reports, a GI was killed in another attack this morning in Iraq. A Journal reporter visited the scene of some recent attacks and concludes that the guerrillas, hoping to whip up anti-American feelings, have been intentionally putting civilians in the crossfire. By the way, the piece calls the attackers "guerrillas"—one of the first times TP has seen them called that. Given the level of coordination of some of the attacks and their frequency, that seems like it's the right term.

Two months after the looting of Iraq's National Museum made front-page news, Iraqi and U.S. officials have concluded that only a small number of key antiquities are missing: 33 significant pieces, as opposed to the 170,000 first reported. "Almost everything was saved," one art historian told the Post. Nobody gives the revised number front-page coverage—though the NYT, to its credit, did run a Page One piece last month saying that the number of stolen artifacts was much lower than originally thought.

The WP, alone among the papers, fronts the latest on Burma's pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who hasn't been seen since May 30. The Post, which obviously can't get into Burma since its story is datelined "Bangkok," says that Suu Kyi was riding in her convoy the evening of the May 30 when it was attacked by hundreds of government-controlled thugs wielding "wooden clubs and bamboo spikes." At least four of Suu Kyi's bodyguards were killed, and she was left with head and shoulder injuries. She has since been detained by soldiers. The Post says that the attack was orchestrated by Burma's main general to consolidate his rule. "A brutal power play to show who is in charge," said one diplomat.

The NYT reports that Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, using an obscure Senate rule, is single-handedly holding up the promotion of more than 850 Air Force officers. He won't let them through until the Air Force agrees to base four additional transport planes in Craig's state. Defense officials have met with the senator and tried to talk him out of his stand, but according to one, "Craig is essentially saying, 'pound sand.' " Idahoans, and hell, anybody else, might want to tell the fine senator how they feel about that. 

Eric Umansky, previously the "Today's Papers" columnist for Slate, is currently a Gordon Grey Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism.