The New York Timesleads with some Sunni leaders saying that even though they're boycotting the elections, they want to help write the constitution (though that's part of the job description of the soon-to-be elected assembly.) "The elections are one matter; the constitution is another," said one senior Sunni cleric who heads what the Times calls "possibly the most anti-American mosque in Baghdad." USA Today leads with the latest from Iraq, where a car bomb exploded outside interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's political headquarters, wounding about 10. Iraqi officials also said they had arrested Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's top bomb-maker, who has reportedly confessed to 32 attacks. The Washington Post, along with most of the other papers,raises its eyebrows and plays that down, saying inside there's "no way to immediately verify" the claim. USAT also describes "heavy fighting" near Baghdad's airport. In what could be another sign of reporters' limited ability to move around, nobody else seems to mentionthat. The Army said this morning that five GIs died in a vehicle accident north of Baghdad.
The Los Angeles Times'top national spot goes to another batch of abuse documents nabbed by the ACLU, these detailing detainees' charges of, among other things, sodomy, electric shocks, cigarette burns, and beatings at one U.S. prison in Baghdad. The Times notes that American contractors cited in the docs backed up many of the allegations, with one referring to "about 90 incidents." Much of the torture and abuse appears to have been meted out by special ops units. The Wall Street Journal tops its worldwide news box (online, at least) with the administration's plans to ask Congress for another $80 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan. That's on top of the $25 billion already allocated for this fiscal year. (Has anyone tried to get the Pentagon to distinguish spending between the two countries?) The Post leads with a top general saying the Army is making plans to, if necessary, keep about the current number of troops in Iraq for at least the next two years.
The ACLU documents come fromArmy investigators, who looked into the allegations and, the ACLU says, often dismissed them perfunctorily. The NYT, and to a lesser degree the LAT, do a he-said, she-said dance on that angle. In contrast, the Post's story begins, "Army personnel have admitted to beating or threatening to kill Iraqi detainees and stealing money from Iraqi civilians but have not been charged with criminal conduct, according to newly released Army documents." The headline:"ARMY CLOSED MANY ABUSE CASES EARLY."
The NYT's abuse story, though, gets a gold star for acknowledging that it's darn hard to make sense of all the documents, explaining that "many details were blacked out." (TP recently looked at the story behind the ACLU docs and the government's redaction-happy habits.)
Though the Post makes a big stink of the general's projection about the future size of the U.S. force in Iraq, his comments might not mean much. As the general explained, his office is just using that number for planning purposes, to prepare the logistics for that number, essentially as due diligence. The question of whether to bump up or down the total force will be decided elsewhere. The general spoke to a whole room of reporters, and nobody else deems it Page-One-worthy. In fact, the LAT inside actually quotes another general, the outgoing top commander in Iraq, speculating that the U.S. might be able to send home some troops by the end of the year.
In other torture news, the Post goes inside with Humans Right Watch reporting that Iraqi security forces are regularly torturing prisoners and charging that Prime Minister Allawi appears to be "appears to be actively taking part, or is at least complicit." In response to the charges, Iraq's vice president said, "I think we have to put security as our priority." There have been eyewitness reports of such torture for months.
The Post'sAnthony Shadid files from the southern city of Basra, where the Shiite parties likely to trounce in the coming elections are effectively already in power. Among their achievements:
[C]ity officials have been accused of corruption, and political killings have sown fear in the city. ... Liquor stores, once numbering in the dozens, have shuttered. Shadowy, vigilante justice was meted out to former members of Hussein's Baath Party. And at high schools and at Basra University, women were encouraged—often by force—to wear veils.
The LAT, meanwhile, notices that Allawi's popularity seems to be growing, potentially at the expense of the main Shiite groups.
Though only the Journal gives it significant play, Palestinians officials said militant groups have agreed to temporarily stop attacks against Israelis; Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is working on a long-term deal.
The Post fronts a study concluding that—shocker—most people who were prescribed Celebrex and Vioxx didn't need the newfangled drugs and would have done just as well with the cheaper and probably safer older pills. The study blames drug-makers' big ad campaigns.
Back to Iraq ... USAT goes inside with a video, given to it by the Iraqi government, purportedly of a Saudi teenager who went to Iraq to fight as a jihadi and eventually be a suicide bomber. Before he thought he was going on his final mission, he was told to deliver a bomb-filled truck and leave it near the Jordanian embassy. But before he could get out, he said, his fellow insurgents "blew me up in the truck." The (frankly, unverified) story's accompanying photo is haunting. And graphic.