The New York Times, Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox, and Washington Post all lead with rebel leaders arriving in Haiti's capital, where they met with opposition leaders, occupied the former army HQ, and generally strutted around. The Los Angeles Times also leads with Haiti, but focuses on former President Aristide's charges that the U.S. forced him out of the country in what he described as a "kidnapping."Secretary of State Powell called the charges "absolutely baseless" and "absurd." USA Today's lead says that deadly mistakes by pilots have plummeted in the last decade, mostly as a result of better jets and training.
The LAT fronts and USATbriefly catches late-breaking word of a series of bombings or mortar attacks in Baghdad and Karbala that killed at least 50 Shiites celebrating a holy festival. And according to early morning reports, one GI was killed and another wounded in a separate attack in Baghdad.
Nobody seems to be in charge in Port-au-Prince, where the Marines have mostly stuck to the airport and embassy. "There's no one to call the shots," said one Caribbean diplomat in town. "There's an absolute breakdown of law and order." Looting continued, and there were a few revenge killings against supposed Aristide supporters. Powell kept the guerrillas at arm's length, saying at least some of them aren't fit to govern. (The rebel leaders are almost all bad news, a mix of former death-squad leaders, drug dealers, and wannabe despots.) According to the NYT, the U.S. has been negotiating with the civilian opposition in an attempt to create some sort of ruling coalition.
"I was forced to leave," Aristide told the Associated Press. "They came at night. There were too many. I couldn't count them." Powell retorted, "He was not kidnapped. We did not force him onto the airplane. He went onto the airplane willingly. And that's the truth." The NYT says Aristide had been getting ready to go for a while. Last week, the U.S. ambassador asked Aristide to send him an e-mail. Aristide said he couldn't do that, purportedly explaining that his computer was already packed.
The LAT emphasizes that Aristide also told supporters that he had effectively been forced to leave when the U.S. told him they wouldn't protect him from the rebels. Now that does appear to be true. Yesterday's WP and NYT both noted that the White House had told Aristide it wouldn't protect him. But while that might not be best neighbor habits, it's far from kidnapping. Hence neither paper made a big stink of it, only mentioning it in passing.
The Post says on Page One that Republican congressional leaders are pushing legislation on controversial issues—such as gun control, abortion, and gay rights—that they hope puts Sens. Kerry and Edwards in tight spots. "The Senate floor is full of bear traps," said an aide to Senate majority leader Bill Frist.
Meanwhile, the Post says inside that top congressional GOPsters, freaked about the exploding deficit, are beginning to make noise about scaling back some of President Bush's tax cuts.
The NYT goes Page One with U.S. officials okaying the Iraqi Governing Council's interim constitution. With a day to ponder the agreement, paper emphasizes that the deal puts off various sticky issues, such as what the heck an interim government should look like and whether parties will be able to keep their militias.
With Russia's elections just a few weeks away, the WP previews President Putin's "non-campaign." Apparently, Pooty-Poot hasn't been stumping since he already has the election effectively wrapped up. That might have something to do with the country's news networks, which are state-owned and offer "endless and uncritical coverage" of Putin's "every public utterance."