The Washington Postand New York Timeslead with the most violent day in Iraq in months. At least four suicide car bombings and "a series of tightly sequenced attacks" (NYT) killed dozens of Iraqis as well as three Polish soldiers. Early morning reports citing health officials say at least 110 were killed, including about 35 in Baghdad. About a dozen Iraqis were killed—including a young girl and an al-Arabiya reporter—when a U.S. helicopter fired on a crowd gathered around a destroyed Bradley armored fighting vehicle. Six GIs were wounded in the initial attack on the Bradley. The Los Angeles Times and USA Todaylead—oddly—with U.S. Airways filing for bankruptcy protection for the second time in two years. The move came soon after some loans were due and after the airline's pilots union rejected a proposal to cut pay and benefits. U.S. Air said the move won't affect flights. The LAT off-leads Iraq, and USAT stuffs it, though it does find space on Page One for: "LAPTOPS, TECH TOYS DRIVE RISE IN DORM ROOM THIEVERY."
The military said the chopper only fired after it took fire from the crowd. The NYT leaves it at that. The Post, though, cites a Reuters cameraman at the scene who disputed that account, saying nobody in the crowd was firing. The al-Arabiya reporter who was killed had been broadcasting live and the footage played throughout the day. Spots of blood were on the lens as the reporter said, "Please help me, I'm dying."
The Post says inside GIs retook the northern city of Tal Afar. They were expecting a big fight but met almost no resistance or guerrillas. "There's some good news in there, and there's probably some bad news," said one commander. He added that there are plans on reinstalling a local council, but it's going tough since the town's 600-man police force has, as the WP puts it, "dissolved." Despite the reported lack of fighting, early morning reports say 50 people were killed in Tal Afar yesterday.
The NYT mentions in passing that 10 Iraqis were killed in heavy fighting in Ramadi. Nobody else seems to flag it, but the fighting could have particular significance since the military in Ramadi had been boasting of a peace deal that could be used a model.
There was also what the LAT calls "hours of mortar fire" on Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. There were no reports of injuries. Last month, as the NYT says, there were an average of 87 insurgent attacks per day throughout the country, the highest of the occupation.
Everybody mentions that a Web site carried a message by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's group claiming responsibility for some of the attacks. The NYT refers to him, unhelpfully, as "al-Qaida's point man in Iraq." Note to the Times: Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, among others, doesn't agree. "It appears that Zarqawi may very well not have sworn allegiance" to al-Qaida, said Rummy.
The WP and LAT both report on departing swipes taken by the outgoing Marine general who was charge of the province around Fallujah: Lt. Gen. James Conway says he opposed April's attack on the city—and the later retreat—but was overruled by higher-ups. "After the contractor incident, we were told that we had to attack Fallujah," said Conway. "I think we certainly increased the level of animosity that existed, and we're living with that." Various news reports have said the White House ordered the invasion. Neither paper thinks Conway is Page One Worthy.
Nobodyfronts rioting in the western Afghanistan town of Herat, where a mob sacked U.N. offices and at least four demonstrators were killed and another 50 wounded, apparently by Afghan soldiers. About a dozen GIs were also wounded by rocks. The mob was protesting—if you call it that—the removal of Herat's governor (and warlord), Ismail Khan. "They were shouting 'Death to America,' 'Death to Karzai,' 'Death to the army,' " said one Afghan soldier.
A front-page NYT piece says absentee ballots, which are increasingly popular, are also fraught with the potential for fraud, a fact made worse by the fact that many states haven't adopted the recommended safeguards. Seven of 19 swing states let political parties pick up the completed ballots. An estimated one in four ballots will be filed absentee.
Everybody mentions administration officials—and nukes experts—saying that they don't think the recent explosion in North Korea was a nukes test and instead seems to have been some sort of accident. According to the BBC, Pyongyang's foreign minister explained that they were just blowing up a mountain—part of a hydroelectric project, you see. Still, as the NYT has reported, there's concern North Korea is moving toward a test.
A piece insidethe Wall Street Journal says Senate Republicans plan to use "sleight-of-hand" to keep the budget, at least officially, below the ceiling set by the White House and top Republicans. The move will also include a few cuts, including $2 billion from a White House initiative meant to encourage free trade and democracy.
Get the Zell Outta Here ... In a Journal op-ed, Sen. Zell Miller says he wasn't "an angry nut" at the Republican convention; he was just terribly, terribly misunderstood. He explains what he really meant: "As I have said time and again, 9/11 changed everything. Everything, that is, except the national Democrats' shameful, manic obsession with bringing down a commander in chief."