The Los Angeles Timesand New York Timeslead with interim Iraqi Prime Minister's visit to Washington where he said there are only "pockets of terrorists" and reiterated, as did President Bush, that elections scheduled for January won't be delayed, though he conceded that they "may not be perfect." SecDef Rumsfeld expanded on that, saying there might be no-go zones for voting. "Let's say you tried to have an election, and you could have it in three-quarters or four-fifths of the country, but some places you couldn't because the violence was too great," said Rumsfeld. "Well, so be it. Nothing's perfect in life." The Wall Street Journal goes high with the Pentagon's "announcement" that 15,000 troops will be temporarily added to Iraq around January's elections. The Journal says the surge will be part of a "long-planned force rotation," but also says it's the first time the Pentagon has discussed it. The Washington Postand USA Todaylead with the House and Senate voting, as expected, to extend—unfunded—about $150 billion in middle-class tax cuts as well some business tax breaks. The bill passed 339 to 65 in the House and 92 to 3 in the Senate, with many Democrats acknowledging they went for it because they don't want to be tarred as tax increasers. USAT flags a few other tax cuts that made it into the bill, including for soldiers in combat, teachers who buy their own supplies, and "Caribbean distillers."
President Bush and Allawi, who did a joint press conference in the Rose Garden, both insisted things are moving ahead in Iraq. "I saw a poll that said the right track/wrong track in Iraq was better than here in America," Bush said. "It's pretty darn strong. I mean, the people see a better future." Allawi also spoke before Congress. "Thank you, America," he said. Everybody notes, as the LAT puts it, that the prime minister's message yesterday "echoed—both in tone and content—key themes of Bush's reelection campaign."
The LAT also concludes on Page One that Allawi, frankly, is full of it: "VIOLENCE BELIES POSITIVE PICTURE." An early version of that headline had even sharper elbows: "IRAQ REALITY BELIES ALLAWI'S UPBEAT ASSESSMENT." None of the other papers take such a stand.
Near the bottom of its Iraq wrap-up, the Journal says "some U.S. officials are skeptical" that fair elections could be pulled off by January. One told the paper that it might be better to delay them until June. An op-ed in the NYT agrees that delaying would be wise.
As the WP mentions, tagging along with Allawi on the trip were the ministers of defense, foreign affairs, industry and minerals, planning, and health, as well as the Iraqi ambassador-designate to the U.S. TP doesn't see any of them quoted. Were they allowed to chat with the press? Did anybody seek them out?
In Iraq yesterday, a top oil official was assassinated; he had survived two previous attempts. Also: The military announced that a Marine was killed Wednesday; street fighting as well as airstrikes continued in Baghdad's Sadr City, though local hospitals reported just one dead; and there was fighting in Samarra, where there had been a tentative peace deal. There aren't details on any of the fighting since no reporters seem to have been able to make it to the areas involved.
The NYT says—um, in the International Herald Tribune—that Hepatitis E, which is especially dangerous to pregnant women, is spreading in two Iraqi cities. Officials said typhoid fever is also increasing. "The problem is the whole infrastructure," said a health ministry official. He said water and sewage plants were neglected during Saddam's reign. But "definitely no major intervention has been done in this last one and a half years to repair the problem." The story is attributed to the NYT but isn't in the Times itself.
The NYT talks to a Turkish journalist who spent five days with guerrillas as a hostage. And though the paper only mentions it in passing it, she gives the impression that insurgents do have significant support. "I saw that around Mosul, everybody is the resistance," she said, "not terrorists, but not civilians really either."
A story stuffed inside the NYT offers evidence that Allawi has been trying to consolidate his own control over Saddam's coming trial—including by firing one of the judges. But the Times buries the lead. Allawi is turning out to be too much of a strongman. Or as the paper puts it, in the 11th paragraph: "Iraqi and American officials familiar with the relationship between the Americans and Dr. Allawi say American respect for the Iraqi leader has been tempered by a growing sense that he is careless, even dismissive, of the checks and balances the occupation authority built into transitional political structures here."
If there was an announcement of troop increases, the other papers didn't hear about it or consider it one. A piece inside the Post simplyhighlights the Pentagon acknowledging it will need more troops, either Iraqis, allied soldiers, or if that doesn't work out, GIs. Meanwhile, the NYT highlights, inside, a Pentagon-appointed panel concluding that the military doesn't have enough troops overall to keep up at its current pace. The report was first revealed in an industry newsletter and portions were read aloud yesterday by a Democratic senator in hearings. Rummy complained that the excerpts were unrepresentative and only "a few paragraphs." The Times notes: "Mr. Rumsfeld declined to give a more thorough summary."
In a story TP missed yesterday, the LAT reported that the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan—nickname: "The Viceroy"—appears to have been cajoling candidates into relinquishing their runs against President Karzai. "He told me to drop out of the elections, but not in a way to put pressure," said one now former candidate. "It was like a request. And he told my men to ask me what I need in return."