U.N.-a-bashing

U.N.-a-bashing

U.N.-a-bashing

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Oct. 21 2004 3:45 AM

U.N.-a-bashing

The Los Angeles Times' top national story says that, though evidence is still circumstantial, Iran appears to be moving right along in its quest for nukes. The New York Times' national editionleads, curiously, with Iraq's interim foreign minister complaining that the U.N. hasn't sent enough elections workers for the coming vote. (The local edition leads with the Curse Reverse: the Yankees' super-choke.) The Washington Postleads with a blow-by-blow on yesterday's long-distance slugfest between Bush and Kerry. The piece doesn't break stride with boring things, like the truth (who's BSing, etc). USA Todayleads with a warning from contaminated flu-vaccine maker Chiron that it might not have enough doses for next year: "CHIRON VACCINE IN DOUBT FOR 2005." Except not really. Skip to the fourth paragraph, where analysts "downplayed" the move as just a CYA tactic. "That warning is more legalese," said one.

Here's why the NYT's lead is piece is odd (aka bad): The lack of U.N. workers isn't a charge, it's a fact. As the Post reported a few days ago, there are just a handful of such workers in the country. By relying on an official to relay that fact, the Times ends up promoting his spin, that the U.N. itself is to blame: "IRAQI FAULTS U.N. ON LACK OF STAFF TO AID IN VOTING." But that explanation is, at the least, simplistic. The Post said earlier this week that the U.N. has been holding back because of the security situation and because an international force to protect the workers hasn't been mustered, a failure the Post ascribed to the U.S. "It's the same governments who are asking me to send in my civilian staff who are not going to give any troops to protect them," U.N. chief Kofi Annan told the NYT.

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In other Iraq developments, the U.S. again bombed targets in Fallujah. As the NYT notes, a Reuters reporter saw a man, woman, and four children, all dead, being pulled from the rubble. A military spokesman "denied" civilians had been killed.

The papers mention that one Iraqi girl was killed and 11 GIs wounded by a car bomb in Samarra. Reuters says another seven civilians were killed in clashes in the town, which U.S. and Iraqi forces "recaptured" a few weeks ago.

The NYT goes inside with a Sunni clerics' association warning that they'll call for a boycott of the elections unless the U.S. stops its attacks in Fallujah.

The LAT and Post front a former supervisor at Abu Ghraib pleading guilty to abuses. Staff Sgt. Ivan Fredrick said he knew he was abusing detainees but was encouraged to do so by interrogators. One e-mail received from HQ in Baghdad that said the "gloves are coming off, gentlemen, regarding these detainees." Command "wants the detainees broken."

In the third and final installment on invasion and postwar screw-ups, the NYT's Michael Gordon looks at the seemingly disastrous decision to disband the Iraqi Army. Gordon says the White House initially had planned to keep the Army together. But then Paul Bremer and his staff recommended killing it. As for White House officials, Gordon says their role in the change is still "unclear." A former Bremer aide said he sent the decision to SecDef Rumsfeld. A Pentagon spokesman non-denied that: The move was "definitely not one that the secretary of defense decided." National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice also stood firm and took responsibility. Acknowledging she knew about the change, Rice said, "I don't think that anybody thought it was wildly out of context with what we were trying to achieve and the whole structure had been set up so that some of those decisions could be made in the field or through the Pentagon chain." The piece never says where the president stood.

The Post fronts the death of Cold War strategist and foreign-policy wise man Paul Henry Nitze. He was 97, served under eight presidents, and was both an adamant anti-Communist and key arms negotiator.  

The Post notices inside that in a break with tradition, National Security Adviser Rice is stumping across swing states. Historically, national security staff have kept their distance from the trail—which is exactly what the White House says Condi is still doing. "Dr. Rice has continued the nonpolitical tradition of the post, but being nonpolitical doesn't mean being non-accessible," said a spokesman, who explained that Rice is simply responding to some of the 4,000 annual requests she receives to speak. She just happens to be discerning in her choices.

Eric Umansky, previously the "Today's Papers" columnist for Slate, is currently a Gordon Grey Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism.