Note: According to late wire reports, 13 U.S. soldiers in Iraq were killed, and 20 injured, Sunday when their Chinook helicopter was brought down by a missile. The Army also said that a soldier was killed by a roadside bomb, and reports indicate as many as four more were killed in a separate attack. It was the deadliest day of the occupation for the U.S. military.
The New York Times leads with word that U.S. military officers in Baghdad are contemplating a recall of some units of the disbanded Iraqi army. The Washington Post leads with a new poll showing a 56-percent approval rating for President Bush. The Los Angeles Times leads with the apparent end of runaway wildfires in California after rain and snow helped firefighters bring them under control.
The NYT says that any recall of the Iraqi army would likely be limited to transportation and engineering units. All soldiers would be screened to eliminate Baathists. The article, which is sourced to "senior military officer[s]" in Baghdad, adds that combat units would not be reconstituted, but combat soldiers with clean records would be invited to join the new U.S.-trained army. As if to cast doubt on this last approach, the Times also runs inside a profile of a former Iraqi officer—a man with two decades' military experience, who did not fight against the U.S.—who is embittered and insulted by the Americans' insistence that he enlist as a private to resume his career in the new army. (Two weeks ago, then-president of the Iraqi Governing Council, Iyad Alawi argued in the Times that the U.S. should recall the Iraqi army, including combat units, up to mid-officer level. In today's profile of the former Iraqi officer, a member of the Governing Council, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, avers that "it would be a fatal mistake to bring back the old Iraqi Army.")
The Post notes that Bush's 56-percent approval rating, while "good by historical standards" (it doesn't explain what this means), reveals that the president has finally lost his post-Sept. 11 bounce. An accompanying graph (in the online version, at least) makes this clear. Independents are evenly split on Bush (52 percent approve, 47 percent disapprove), while Republicans are almost unanimously supportive (87 percent), and Democrats largely against (only 24 percent approve). Dean, Lieberman, Gephardt, and Clark emerge as the best-known Democratic presidential candidates, although most voters can't name more than one or two of them. The article notes that "there is little evidence of the voter anger that helped defeat Bush's father in 1992 and elect a Republican Congress in 1994," but it would have been helpful to flesh this point out with some historical referents: In November, 1991, for example, what was Bush père's approval rating, and how many voters could name more than one or two of the Democratic hopefuls?
A car breached the president's security cordon yesterday in Mississippi, crashing into a loading dock about 50 feet from a recessed ramp where Bush was sitting in his armored limousine. The 29-year-old female driver was not attempting to hurt the president, according to authorities. Friends of the woman tell the NYT—which fronts the story—that she had been in emotional distress. (She fought with officers after the crash and had three children in the car.) Her motives are unclear: The WP and LAT both cite wire service assertions that the woman was trying to locate a relative attending the president's speech and was frustrated at being denied access. All the papers remark on the frightening implications of this security breach. (The LAT writers get a little carried away in providing context: "Bomb-laden cars and trucks have caused destruction and death around the world, from Oklahoma City to the Middle East.")
Fighting broke out Friday between rival warlords in northern Afghanistan and between a warlord and a police force in southern Afghanistan, the NYT reports. More than 10 people were killed, and U.S. forces had to break up the fighting in the south. The article also notes that a Turkish engineer, who was working on the high-profile reconstruction of the road from Kabul to Kandahar, was kidnapped. The abductors demanded the release of six Taliban fighters held by the U.S. (The Post covers these events with an AP dispatch.) The Times reported on Saturday that a U.S. special forces soldier was killed in action; 40 U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan since October 2001.
The NYT's "Week in Review" reveals that Mikhail Gorbachev is attempting to trademark, well, himself—not just his name, but his nickname ("Gorby") and his signature birthmark. The writer discovers that virtually anything is trademark-able, as long as it refers to a single, popularly identified source. Lakers coach Pat Riley trademarked the term "threepeat," Rosie O'Donnell trademarked her name for use in a magazine and a TV show, and Vanna White won a trademark-infringement suit against the producers of an ad featuring a robot turning letters on a board. For his part, Gorbachev ™ is miffed that his likeness appears on a brand of Russian vodka without his permission.