USA Todayleads with an Iraq catch-all, headlining sparring between the Governing Council and the U.S. over candidates for the presidency of the coming interim government. The U.S. wants Adnan Pachachi, an 81-year-old Western-leaning moderate, while the GC wants Ghazi al-Yawer, the council's current president and a man with strong tribal connections. The interim government was supposed to have been nailed down by today. The Los Angeles Timesleads with Shiite leaders trying to patch up a truce between the U.S. and cleric Muqtada Sadr; two GIs and dozens of Sadr's militiamen were killed in fighting near Najaf. U.S. forces apparently came under fire while doing "aggressive patrols." Three other GIs were killed in attacks around the country. Also, a car bomb exploded near an entrance to the U.S. headquarters in Baghdad, killing at least four Iraqis and wounding about 25. After interviewing more than 20 interrogators and analysts who served at Abu Ghraib—many of whom spoke on the record—the Wall Street Journal says up high that the interrogation system there was basically broken, with sheer numbers being pushed as a cheap replacement for quality intelligence. The Washington Post leads with word that the Army has 91 investigations into abuse of civilians and prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, a total not previously known. The charges range from possible murder to stealing jewelry. Adding to reporting the New York Times has recently done, the Post says few soldiers have faced charges. The details are unclear since the Army hasn't released any information on the prosecutions. Echoing an Associated Press report from a few days ago, the NYT's lead says that few people seem to be signing up for drug discount cards, which are set to debut today. The cards have gotten endless heat for being confusing and for not saving folks much money.
Until recently, the White House and U.N. had suggested that the GC wouldn't play a part in deciding on or serving in the interim government. But the NYT says it now appears that GC members will fill most positions in the incoming government. That might not be fabulous news. As the Times says, "Many Iraqis view [the GC] as an illegitimate body." Keeping them (nominally) in charge "would likely spur the insurgents on."
"The Americans are controlling the process," one anonymous council member told the Post. U.N. envoy Lakhdar "Brahimi's role seems to be diminishing. We don't hear from him."
The WSJ's piece on Abu Ghraib portrays bureaucratic metrics, including a quota system, driving detentions there that were often unjustified and, as the NYT noted last week, interrogations that were often useless. "The whole ball game over there is numbers," said one interrogator. "How many raids did you do last week? How many prisoners were arrested? How many interrogations were conducted? How many [intelligence] reports were written? It was incredibly frustrating." Said another soldier, "It was just a total waste of time."
Without a hint on Page One, USAT reports inside that about a third of the reportedly 37 detainees who died in American custody were "shot, strangled or beaten by U.S. personnel before they died." The paper cites death certificates and a "high-ranking U.S. military official." While one soldier involved in one of the cases has been demoted, none have faced court-martial.
A front-page piece in the Post piece says that most of the torture and sexual humiliation captured in photos in Abu Ghraib appears to have happened over just a few weeks. The one exception, which the Post focuses on, is the use of unmuzzled dogs to scare prisoners, a practice the WP says appears to have been pushed by military intelligence.
The NYT off-leads with word from the military that it's planning to pull back from battling insurgents and will instead focus on guarding economic targets and building Iraq's security forces. As the Times gently suggests—and the military denies—the move appears to fit with the United States' recent pattern of trying to keep its head down and moving away from confrontation with militias. By the way, the headline is oddly opaque: "U.S. SHIFTS FOCUS IN IRAQ TO AIDING NEW GOVERNMENT."
A fascinating piece in USAT's "Money" section flags something else Iraqi businesses are struggling without: loans. With no effective banking system, businesses are hard up for money to invest. The U.S. does have a micro-lending program in place. So far, it's disbursed a whopping $7.5 million. The U.S. is now taking applications for another set of larger loans.
The LAT fronts Iraqis' frustrations with the reconstruction. The paper paints the scene: "Baghdad's boulevards are lined with trash. Geysers of sewage erupt in even the wealthiest neighborhoods of the capital. Unemployment is epidemic nationwide." One teacher pointed to her school, "They promised to make it a paradise. But all they've changed is the paint."
The Post does a Page One check-in on Haiti, where the government is essentially powerless and the Marines are about to leave and hand things over to a weaker but larger U.N. force. Besides not having sufficient firepower to oppose militias, the government also appears to be broke, even more so than usual. In the few months before he went into exile, former President Jean Bertrand Aristide apparently emptied the government's coffers, doling out money to his cronies.
Writing an op-ed in the WP, Pakistani ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf details the ills of the Muslim world and offers a two-part strategy he dubs "Enlightened Moderation": "The first part is for the Muslim world to shun militancy and extremism and adopt the path of socioeconomic uplift. The second is for the West, and the United States in particular, to seek to resolve all political disputes with justice and to aid in the socioeconomic betterment of the deprived Muslim world." One word that doesn't make into the EM agenda: elections.