Hell on Wheels

Hell on Wheels

Hell on Wheels

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Sept. 19 2004 6:45 AM

Hell on Wheels

The New York Times leads with the U.S. plan to take back Fallujah and other rebel-controlled areas of Iraq by the end of the year. The Washington Post leads with yesterday's wave of violence in Baghdad and northern Iraq that claimed 21 lives and that gets stuffed inside by the other papers. The Los Angeles Times reefers obits for the soldiers killed, but the top non-local story profiles televangelist Paul Crouch, who, as the headline makes plain, built his Christian broadcasting empire on "FAITH, AND CASH."

A suicide bomber exploded his car near an Iraqi National Guard building in Kirkuk, killing 19 recruits and bringing the total number of police officers, National Guardsmen, and recruits slain since Tuesday to at least 69. Other car bombings killed two American GIs and wounded 11. Also: Kidnappers threatened to kill two American contractors and a British engineer. For his part, straight-faced interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said the revolt is making a "last stand" and added, "It's not getting stronger; it's getting more desperate."

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The NYT gets its lead from a "senior American commander" who claims that the legitimacy of the election—to be held by January—hinges on securing the 18 provincial capitals. "Fallujah will be tough," the commander admits, and city residents say that insurgents have already buried large bombs along the outlying roads. (Look no further than Peter Beinart's TRB for healthy skepticism of President Bush's resolve in pacifying militant areas.) Meanwhile, Iraqi election officials will be fighting their own battle: Registering the 12 million voters in hundreds of offices across the country, including the perilous Sunni triangle. A colossal task, says the Times, and so far, "The initial signs have not been encouraging."

At long last, the U.N. has taken action in Sudan—sort of. The WP off-leads, and the LAT and NYT bury, the Security Council's U.S.-drafted resolution threatening possible sanctions against Sudan and establishing a commission to investigate the ongoing genocide. According to the WP, China, one of four countries that abstained from voting, was set to veto the resolution until Kofi Annan voiced his support.

A front-page NYT investigation of electronic voting machines—which will tally nearly one-third of the votes in November—reprises the usual concerns about the lack of a paper trail in certain states, particularly Kentucky, Delaware, Maryland, and Tennessee. The Times buries at the end of the piece word that the U.S. federal agency drafting universal standards for voting systems already drained last year's $500,000 budget and has yet to receive any additional funds from Congress this year.

The WP goes below-the-fold with a tick-by-tick account of what led  to 60 Minutes' melting scoop, and it reads a bit like yesterday's LAT report, i.e., CBS producers rushed the story because the White House didn't dispute the memos' validity. But there is this telling admission from 60 Minutes exec Josh Howard: "We completely abandoned the process of authenticating the documents [after the White House demurred]. Obviously, looking back on it, that was a mistake. ... I suppose you could say we let our guard down." For an introduction to GOP activist Harry MacDougald, whom the LAT outed yesterday as the first blogger to blow the whistle, check out the LAT's follow-up, buried inside.

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Emprisoned on the grounds of one of his former palaces, Saddam Hussein is wearing sandals, gardening, and reading books about the ancient days when Baghdad was capital of the Islamic world. Other tidbits from the NYT fronter: He still proclaims himself the lawful ruler of Iraq and likes to ask prison officials for cigars. And when he exercises with some of his former comrades, says an Iraqi official, "They call each other by their old titles, Mr. Minister of this, Mr. Minister of that. It is as if nothing has changed."

The WP goes Page One with a dispiriting piece on a South Carolina National Guard unit soon shipping out for Iraq. Tasked with escorting supply convoys into Iraq from Kuwait—and thus facing the imminent possibility of roadside bombs, sniper fire, and rocket-propelled grenades—some of the Guardsmen recently almost came to blows, a few went AWOL, and the entire battalion was put under disciplinary lockdown.

The Post's Book World readsThe Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism, a blood-curdling look at atomic Armageddon. Apparently a dirty bomb scenario is still "a viable option for smaller groups with limited financial resources and technical know-how." Neither the NYT nor LAT include it in their book sections, but the LAT reefers a similarly hair-raising opinion piece from nuke expert Graham Allison (whose book Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe was already reviewed by both the WP and NYT in recent weeks). Not to be outdone on this apparently apocalyptically themed Sunday, the NYT editorializes on Bush, Kerry, and the nuclear threat—"there is no graver subject," asserts the paper—and finds, rather predictably, that Kerry favors multilateralism to Bush's go-it-alone style. Importantly though, the paper notes that Kerry proposed a sharp increase in funds to secure every last drop of Russia's loose bomb fuel over the next four years, while Bush has ignored a bipartisan commission's recommendation to triple funding for such programs.

TP couldn't help but include David Segal's bleak dispatch in the WP from the Miss America contest in Atlantic City:

"In the end, it was red state vs. red state—and Alabama won. Deidre Downs prevailed at the 2005 Miss America pageant Saturday night, beating out Miss Louisiana Jennifer Dupont. ... Asked if she'd ever imagined this moment, [Downs] replied, 'In my dreams but not really. This is wonderful, this is wonderful.' ... Miss Alabama managed to wear a two-piece gown, which might have clinched the competition, and was nearly enough to make you forget, at least momentarily, that Clay Aiken was singing."