Everybody leads with the U.N. Security Council's unanimous approval of the U.S.-drafted resolution on Iraq, which establishes a multinational force led by the United States and calls on U.N. members to send more money and troops. Though this is widely recognized as a diplomatic victory for the Bush administration, the papers are quick to point out that the endorsement is largely symbolic, as anticipated—several diplomats said no financial or military aid would be forthcoming from their countries.
The coalition in Iraq will be called multinational, but the U.S. will be running the show. Other key points of the resolution include a Dec. 15 deadline by which the Iraqi Governing Council has to draft a plan for political transition; also, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will play a role in supervising the transfer of power. (You can read the text of the resolution here.)
Despite the inclusion of an appeal for international aid, France, Russia, Germany, and Pakistan said they will not be making any contributions. While USA Today is best at distilling the resolution, the Wall Street Journal does a good job of putting this in context, noting that no funds from Europe's wealthiest countries means they will not be adding to the European Union's promise of $233 million for Iraqi reconstruction, a drop in the bucket toward the total slated cost of $36 billion. An unnamed U.N. diplomat tells the WSJ: "The Americans got what they wanted, which was unanimity. … Just don't scratch too deep under the surface."
In its lead editorial, the New York Times points out that behind the symbolism, "the real impact of ratifying the current arrangements in Iraq is to leave the burden for postwar Iraq squarely on American soldiers and taxpayers."
In its later editions, the Washington Post manages to front the late-breaking congressional news: In an attempt to lighten the load of Johnny Q. Taxpayer, the Senate defied the Bush administration in a 51-47 vote Thursday by maintaining that Iraq pay up to $10 billion in reconstruction aid. Despite a round of personal phone calls to senators from Cheney, the Senate still approved the amendment, which requires half of the $20.3 billion in aid to be a loan to Iraq. This came as the House prepared to grant Bush's $87 billion request for Afghanistan and Iraq without stipulations.
The papers stuff word that Palestinian police arrested several members of a small, radical group Thursday and were questioning them about their possible role in Wednesday's Gaza Strip attack that killed three American security guards hired to protect U.S. embassy personnel.
The NYT fronts a gotcha story on the lax security of Iraqi missiles, apparently ripe for the taking in some factories because there aren't enough U.S. soldiers to keep watch. Military officials tell the Times that unguarded ammunition is a high priority, but the only evidence reporters find of American troops at a defense depot south of Baghdad is the graffiti they left behind: "Go Team USA #1."
The Los Angeles Timesfronts a hard-hitting piece that pokes holes through chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kay's report on WMD in Iraq. They discovery of C. botulinum Okra B, a biological material found in an Iraqi scientist's kitchen, has been cited in speeches by Bush, Cheney, and other administration officials as proof that Saddam Hussein's government maintained an illegal bio weapons program. But while Kay claimed a "biological agent" could be produced from the substance, former U.N. weapons inspectors and U.S. biowarfare experts are now disputing this and other claims.
While the story is strong, the headline is wishy-washy: "Experts Downplay Bioagent." The subhead is a little better: "The vial of bacteria found in Iraq probably was bought legally and its type has never been turned into a weapon, scientists say."
On Page One, the NYT reports that the investigation of Wednesday's fatal Staten Island ferry crash in New York is focused on the ferry pilot, who fled the scene and unsuccessfully attempted suicide after the accident. Authorities think he may have blacked out at the boat's controls because of a blood-pressure condition and the medicine he took for it.
The papers stuff an announcement issued by Anglican leaders warning of a split in the church if the American wing of Anglicanism follows through with its plan to consecrate a gay bishop in New Hampshire at the beginning of next month. New Hampshire leaders stood firm in reaction to the statement, and officials from both sides of the controversy expressed pessimism for what's to come: "There are dark, dark clouds on the horizon," said a Canadian archbishop.
President Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger (who served as the physical fitness adviser to the elder Bush) met on Thursday. While the California governor-elect delayed a request for federal aid, the president discussed the similarities between the two new chums: "We both married well. Some accuse us both of not being able to speak the language."