Blasts in Basra

Blasts in Basra

Blasts in Basra

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
April 21 2004 5:05 AM

Blasts in Basra

Catching late-breaking news, the Los Angeles Times leads with word that at least 58 Iraqis were killed and about 200 wounded in four coordinated suicide bomb attacks outside three police stations in Basra and a British post nearby. A school bus was caught in one of the blasts, and at least 10 children were killed. The Washington Post leads with an Iraq wrap-up, emphasizing that about 20 Iraqis were killed and 100 wounded when guerrillas fired mortar rounds at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. Also, a GI was killed by a roadside bomb in the northern town of Mosul, the 100th American combat death in April. The New York Times' lead says the Pentagon is drawing up contingency plans to bring in even more reinforcements to Iraq. The story also says that Marines were involved in a "heavy firefight" with about 35 guerrillas in Fallujah early this morning. In the other potential hot spot, the Times says that troops have begun pulling back from Najaf, the holy city where cleric Muqtada Sadr is holed up. The Los Angeles Times and USA Today lead with the Supreme Court case heard yesterday about whether prisoners at Guantanamo Bay should be allowed access to federal courts.  Everybody sees the court's swing voters as leaning toward giving the prisoners their day in court. Here's audio of the oral arguments, and here is Slate's Dahlia Lithwick recounting the day.

The NYT calls the Pentagon's contingency planning the "strongest indication" yet that the recently pumped-up troop strength—achieved by holding 20,000 GIs past their ship-home date—"might not be the temporary measure officials had described." The Times says, far down, that the Pentagon essentially doesn't have any more active duty troops available and explains that most reinforcements would probably come from the National Guard and Reserves. Yesterday, the Dominican Republic said it will withdraw its 302 troops in Iraq.

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Everybody says inside that a few families were allowed back into Fallujah where a cease-fire stuck for most of yesterday. The NYT says no insurgents have complied with the demand to hand over their heavy weapons.

The NYT teases on Page One complaints from two named American generals in Iraq that the U.S.'s decision to ban former Baath Party members from government jobs is helping fuel opposition to the occupation. "There are a number of Sunnis who are very good, courageous and determined people, who, if given a chance, would be part of the solution in Iraq," said one general.

The Post says on Page One that the military is spending money in Iraq at a much faster rate than anticipated and says the military is going to need an even bigger cash infusion than thought. As the Post notes, among the programs that the Army says faces a shortfall is one for armor kits for Humvees and other vehicles. The Army's supplier says money will start running out in September. (Here's a piece TP did a few months ago looking into that issue.)

The White House has long said that it won't request extra cash until early next year, after the presidential elections. The Republican vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee called the White House's refusal to ask for more money "outrageous" and "immoral." While some in the Pentagon have expressed concern, the Post says, "Bush administration officials have not wavered in their contention that money is actually plentiful."

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The NYT mentions inside that Russia backed off its objections to an investigation into the U.N.'s oil-for-food program in Iraq. According to allegations aired in February, U.N. officials were paid off by Saddam to ignore his massive skimming from the program. Last night, ABC News offered documents suggesting that the U.N. official in charge of the program was on the take. The scandal, by the way, has yet to crack Page One. (Public radio's Marketplace also has a remarkable series of reports  on corruption and the lack of oversight in the current reconstruction effort.)

Following up on yesterday's Post, everybody reports that after having faced criticism, the Labor Department has trimmed its plans to restrict overtime pay to many Americans. Among other things, the 500 pages of revised regulations exempt many people who earn more than $100,000 from cashing in on overtime.

Everybody fronts the resignation of USAT's top editor, Karen Jurgensen. The move comes a few weeks after the paper disclosed that its onetime superstar reporter, Jack Kelley, had fabricated parts of many stories.

The WP fronts word that the Pentagon deleted from its public transcript some comments that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld made during an interview with Bob Woodward. The main passage scrubbed involved Rummy recalling that he had told the Saudi ambassador that the invasion was a go two months before the start of the war. The Pentagon argued that the comments had been off-the-record, which Woodward strongly disputes. Anyway, Rumsfeld said, the remarks had been misunderstood. He explained, "We had with any number of neighboring countries as the buildup towards the—to support the diplomacy, the flow of forces was taking place."