The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with yesterday's two car bombings in Bombay that killed 45 people and injured about 150. Indian officials blamed Islamic militants, though, as the NYT points out, they didn't offer evidence. With relations between India and Pakistan warming up recently, India didn't blame Pakistan. And for its part, Pakistan deplored the attacks as "terrorism." USA Today's lead notes that the number of U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq since May 1, the declared end of "major combat operations," now equals the number that died during the fighting before that: 138. As USAT notes up high, that number includes non-combat deaths. Sixty-two soldiers have been killed by hostile fire since May 1, compared to 115 in March and April. The Washington Post leads with the White House's launch of a PR counter-attack regarding Iraq, with officials urging patience. "We are 117 days from the end of major combat operations in Iraq," said national security advisor Condoleezza Rice. "That is not very long."
The Wall Street Journal says up high that the U.S.'s reconstruction effort in Iraq is strapped for cash and that the White House is leaning toward asking Congress for about $3 billion to cover bills for a few months. "There's not a lot of money for the day-to-day running of stuff," said one official, "and that's a problem." As the Journal notes, the White House has refused to release estimates on the cost of construction, but U.S. officials in Iraq said they'll need $22 billion for the year. That's apart from the $4 billion per month that the Pentagon is spending on troops.
Following up on a point he briefly mentioned yesterday, Neil Macfarquhar of the NYT goes on Page One with the increasing division between those Shiite clerics who urge patience with the U.S. and a younger faction that is, as Macfarquhar puts it, "itching to found an Islamic state." The upstarts, Macfarquhar says, appear to be behind a series of recent attacks against elder clerics. The WP's Anthony Shadid, writing inside the paper, also mentions the division but focuses on the funeral yesterday for guards killed in the recent attempted assassination of a leading cleric.
The WP, alone among the papers, fronts word that for the first time Saudi Arabia has agreed to let U.S. federal agents set up a permanent joint task force in the kingdom to track suspected terror-funding. "We now have a testable proposition of people's resolve," said a Treasury Department official.
The WP fronts and others stuff the GAO's long-in-coming report about whether Vice President Cheney's energy commission gave undue influence to energy companies. The WP focuses on the GAO's conclusion that the administration did indeed chat it up with "chief executive officers of petroleum, electricity, nuclear, coal, chemical and natural gas companies, among others." But, as the LAT emphasizes, the GAO said it had a helluva hard time figuring out what exactly went on because Cheney has refused to hand over notes of the meetings. "This is the first and only time that we have not been able to work out a reasoned and reasonable accommodation to get information that we need to do our job," the head of the watchdog agency told the LAT.
Everybody notes inside that Yasser Arafat moved to consolidate his power over the Palestinian security services when he named an old ally as his new national security adviser yesterday. As the papers see it, the move was meant to keep the services away from the control of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.
The papers mention inside that one of the State Department's top North Korea negotiators resigned yesterday, just a few days before negotiations with North Korea are set to begin. The NYT, which calls the resignation a sign of "disarray" within the administration's Pyongyang policy team, suggests that the guy, a relative moderate, quit because he got sidelined by hardliners.
As just about everybody not named Donald or George begs for more GIs in Iraq, WP columnist David Ignatius says we should stop the preoccupation with numbers: "Sending more troops always sounds like the right answer when the going gets tough on the battlefield. [But] a large U.S. garrison, with all its attendant logistical needs, might simply reinforce the impression that it's America's war—making the enemy more aggressive, our local allies more passive and U.S. troops more vulnerable."
Ignatius thinks that a revised strategy is more important than just upping the head count. And he sees one sign that some in the Pentagon get it. The military's special ops chiefs are sponsoring a film screening tomorrow: The Battle of Algiers. A flier for the event reads, in part, "How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas. ... Children shoot soldiers at point blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar?"