Truce or Dare

Truce or Dare

Truce or Dare

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
June 16 2003 5:12 AM

Truce or Dare

The Los Angeles Times leads with the United States' sweeping counterinsurgency raids in Iraq, which commanders said were part of "a rolling operation" that could go on for weeks or even months. According to a Reuters report that the LAT cites, a U.S. convoy was ambushed north of Baghdad, wounding "several" soldiers. The Washington Post goes with word that Palestinians and Israelis are close to a deal removing Israeli troops from northern Gaza. As the Post also emphasizes, Egypt's security chief has been holding initial meetings with Hamas and other militant groups to try to convince to them to sign onto a cease-fire. The New York Times leads with the growing number of states that are pushing doctors to prescribe cheaper, yet perfectly effective drugs for Medicaid patients. Twenty-two states now have such programs, which have bipartisan support and have faced consistent opposition only from drug companies. USA Today's lead rehashes, with plenty of credit, the top story in yesterday's LAT: The head of the U.S. Catholic Church's sexual abuse oversight board is quitting. A few days ago he said U.S. bishops were refusing to cooperate with his probes and acting "like La Cosa Nostra."

The NYT's off-lead emphasizes the  new U.S. strategy in Iraq of offering carrots nearly simultaneously as it's launching raids. "It's kind of contradictory," said one Army engineer whose unit was pelted with rocks as it tried to put up blackboards and fans in a school. "You bomb them, and three roads over you're fixing the school."

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The LAT's lead mentions halfway through that things are finally calming down in Fallujah. The change came after Army officers met with town leaders and agreed to conciliatory steps, like patrolling with Humvees instead of asphalt-munching tanks.

The papers notice that Israel said it will scale back its offensive against Hamas. "We will hold our fire, except in cases of self-defense against ticking bombs," Prime Minister Sharon reportedly told his cabinet. Meanwhile, a Hamas official, actually the one who Israel tried to off last week, told the NYT that Hamas would consider a limited cease-fire. "We will avoid attacking Israeli civilians as long as Israelis stop killing our children, our women and stop destroying our houses," he said. As the Times notices, settlers and soldiers aren't on the potential do-not-fire list. The cease-fire quote comes from a profile of Hamas, which points out that besides its terror wing, Hamas has a massive social-welfare arm. And, unlike the Palestinian Authority, it's not considered corrupt. Of course, Hamas also has a long-term goal that actually isn't supported by most Palestinians: creating an Islamic state in all of Israel.

The WP fronts an extraordinary interviewwitha former top White House counterterrorism official who quit his gig two months ago and is now—get this—a volunteer national security adviser for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry. "The administration is making us less secure, not more secure," said Rand Beers, who was responsible for evaluating the terror-related intel that flows into the White House. "The difficult, long-term issues both at home and abroad have been avoided, neglected or shortchanged and generally underfunded. The longer I sat and watched, the more concerned I became, until I got up and walked out." Among other criticisms, Beers said that shoring up domestic security has been so poorly addressed ("policy constipation," he says) that what it really amounts to is only "a rhetorical policy. What else can you say—'We don't care about 3,000 people dying in New York City and Washington?' "

The NYT fronts the continuing anti-government protests in Iran. They weren't as large yesterday as previous days, and according to the Times they're still relatively disorganized and don't represent any immediate threat to the ruling clerics. But they are a solid sign that many Iranians frustrations. "Kill all the mullahs," shouted some demonstrators.

In perhaps an emerging sign of transparency at the NYT, the papers' editorial page editors reveal that they're massive soccer—sorry, football—fans. Why else would they have an editorial speculating about which team the British footie star David Beckham will land on?

FWIW... Today's Papers would like to take a moment to remember Scott Shuger, who founded this column and died one year ago yesterday. He is missed, as both a colleague and a friend.

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