Letting Your Guard Down

Letting Your Guard Down

Letting Your Guard Down

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Dec. 17 2004 3:35 AM

Letting Your Guard Down

The Los Angeles Timesleads with the Army National Guard announcing that it's fallen 30 percent short of its recruiting goal in recent months and will triple retention bonuses to $15,000. The Guard's commanding general also said the service needs $20 billion to replace equipment chewed up in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Otherwise, the Guard will be broken and not ready for the next time it's needed," he said. National Guard and reserve troops make up about 40 percent of the GIs in Iraq. The New York Timesleads with the U.S. as well as European and Arab countries joining together to dangle the doubling of aid to Palestinians if the coming elections go smoothly and the resulting leaders crack down on militants. The Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox leads with and Washington Post's top non-local spot goes to Bin Laden's latest audio tape. In an apparent bout of patriotism, USA Today turns its lead over to the White House: "BUSH: IT'S TIME TO FIX SOCIAL SECURITY." In fairness, the editors swung by to help with the subhead: "Investment Accounts Portrayed as Key Step." [Emphasis added]

The Post, alone, gloms on to Osama telling Saudis to give non-violent protest a shot. "Matters have exceeded all bounds," he said, "and when the people move to ask for their rights, security agencies cannot stop them." Bin Laden added that if that doesn't work, the old tactics, of course, are still on the table. A Saudi dissident group had also called for mass protests yesterday. Nobody turned out, except the Saudi government, which "shut down large sections of two cities." The Post adds that taking to the streets, "would be risky behavior in a country where public protests of any kind are banned and criticism of the royal family is illegal."

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The Post goes above-the-fold with word that the CIA has a previously unknown prison within Gitmo itself. Apparently, the CIA set it up after other countries decided they'd rather not hold the agency's prisoners. "People are willing to help but not to hold," said one "CIA veteran." One "military official" described the unit as "off-limits to nearly everyone on the base." So the paper doesn't know much about it, including if it's still open.

The LAT noted back in July that the CIA seemed to be holding detainees on the base. 

But there's also not much new here in a larger sense; it's just another example of a long-standing policy: The Post first reported two years ago that CIA has been holding some al-Qaida suspects incommunicado in various locales without access to the Red Cross or anybody else.

The Post's Anthony Shadid visits Baghdad's Sadr City, where he says millions of dollars in U.S.-funded reconstruction projects haven't done a lot to improve the quality of life and even less to improve residents' perceptions. "The disenchantment is so deep in some places that it leaves a question most U.S. officials prefer not to address," Shadid says, "Is the battle for hearts and minds already lost?"

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About a half-dozen people, including one Italian, were killed in various attacks around Baghdad. And according to early morning reports, another Marine was killed somewhere in Anbar province. It was likely in Fallujah, since there's still fighting there. But it's not clear because, as TP has often noted, the Marines have a policy of being as opaque as possible on casualty info.

The Post notices inside that former Majority Leader Senator Trent Lott joined the smattering of Republicans calling for Rummy's walking papers. "I am not a fan of Secretary Rumsfeld. I don't think he listens to his uniformed officers," said Lott. "I would like to see a change in that slot in the next year or so."

The NYT fronts Britain's top court overturning a counterterrorism law and saying foreigners can't be held indefinitely without charge. The case involved nine Muslim men, at least one of whom has been held for three years.

The NYT's Paul Krugman makes a reasonable suggestion: His news-side colleagues should check out how privatization of Social Security-like programs has fared in other countries. (Krugman, of course, has his own answer: not well.)

The Post fronts Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych saying he'll renounce the results of the coming election if they show a win for his opponent, reformer Viktor Yushchenko. "Even if Mr. Yushchenko wins, he will never be a president of Ukraine," Yanukovych said, explaining that he "will not be able stop" his supporters.

Muammar Qaddafi has ended the debate about what factor was most responsible for the president's win. "LIBYA'S LEADER SAYS HIS PLEDGE ON WEAPONS RE-ELECTED BUSH"—NYT. "It was Mr. Bush who promised to reward Libya if we got rid of this program," said Qaddafi. "We know that with this withdrawal, we contributed by 50 percent to his electoral campaign."