Neoconned

Neoconned

Neoconned

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
June 2 2004 4:12 AM

Neoconned

Everybody leads with the installation of a caretaker government in Iraq. While most of the Cabinet positions went to little-known Iraqis, three of the top five spots went to members of the Governing Council, an entity that has essentially no support among Iraqis and was not supposed to play a significant role in the new government. The newly named officials said they won't ask U.S. troops to leave anytime soon.

"The visible role of the Iraqi Governing Council in choosing its own successors in Iraq is more than was anticipated," said one U.S. official in what the New York Times dubs "something of an understatement."

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While the government was being installed inside Baghdad's convention center, activities continued outside: A car bomb near the Green Zone killed three Iraqis and wounded dozens; five mortar shells also landed in the area, one close enough that it shook the walls of the convention center; and a bomb exploded near a U.S. base north of Baghdad, killing 11 Iraqis and wounding about 25.

A strong analysis stuffed inside the NY Times puts the new government in perspective: "Its first job will be to negotiate sharp limits on sovereignty in many vital areas, particularly security matters. ... To some, the limits that are emerging are so constraining that they make a mockery of the process." Pondering President Bush's promise of "full sovereignty," one diplomat said: "It's a charade. The problem is that you need a charade to get to the reality of an elected government next January." As USA Todaynotes up high, the new government won't have the power to make or revoke laws.

The Times' piece also mentions that the Iraqi interim constitution hashed out a few months ago might get dumped. "It's not clear how the status of the transitional law will end up," an "administration official" said. "Stay tuned." Many Shiites oppose the law, which essentially gives Kurds veto power.

For all its limits, the new government can serve as a bully pulpit and spring board for future offices. And the Washington Postand NYT already see signs of strutting. "Paul Bremer and his team are going to leave Iraq," one Iraqi politician told the Times, "and we are going to give him a farewell party."

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Everybody mentions that the U.S. and Britain circulated a revised draft resolution on Iraq that gives Iraqis more control, as France and others have demanded. The new resolution says that the multinational force's mandate will expire when Iraq finishes electing a new government, currently scheduled for the end of 2005. It also states that the Iraqi government will have complete control over its army and police.

The NYT reports that fallen neocon favorite Ahmad Chalabi reportedly told Iran that the U.S. had cracked Tehran's intelligence codes. The piece says the administration asked the Times and others to hold off reporting that but withdrew its request yesterday, apparently after word started to leak out. (It's an interesting explanation since there have been rumblings of this for at least a week. Chalabi himself mentioned them—in a denial—on a Sunday talk show.) Chalabi reportedly gave the tip to an Iranian intelligence chief in Baghdad about six weeks ago, saying he heard it from a U.S. official who was drunk. The Iranian spook then forwarded the tip to Tehran using the cracked code itself, apparently because for some reason he figured Chalabi was full of it. The FBI is now trying to finger the supposedly drunk big-mouth and is looking to chat with some officials at the Pentagon.

The Los Angeles Timesand Post also have front-page stories on Chalabi, but both came out hours later than did the Times' and to varying degrees rely on that piece.

Everybody fronts the Justice Department declassifying interrogation summaries that it says justify holding suspected al-Qaida man Jose Padilla. The move comes just a few weeks before the Supreme Court is set to decide whether it's legit to keep Padilla, an American citizen, locked up sans a date with a judge. The government said that Padilla told interrogators that he had attended an al-Qaida training camp and intended to blow up apartments in the U.S. Also, when he was arrested, he reportedly had plenty of cash and contact info for al-Qaida associates. The purported admissions Padilla made aren't admissible in court since he didn't have access to a lawyer at the time.

Meanwhile, the government said that the dirty bomb plan that Padilla was initially accused of never got off the ground. (TP flashback: When Padilla was arrested, some intelligence officials said that, but Attorney General Ashcroft painted a dire picture, and the papers initially ran with it.)

The WP off-leads and LAT fronts a federal court overturning the ban on so-called partial birth abortions, ruling that it was unconstitutionally vague and didn't include a needed exception for the heath of the woman. Congress passed the ban last year, but it's already been on hold for a few months after other courts suspended it; it's almost certain to go to the Supremes for a final decision.

Everybody goes inside with a U.N. report suggesting that Iran is breaking its promise to put the kibosh on its nukes program and is still misleading inspectors.

A front-page piece in the Post looks at Afghanistan, home of the "forgotten war." The paper publishes a list of the 126 U.S. soldiers who've died in Operation Enduring Freedom, not all of them in Afghanistan.