Unreality Checked

Unreality Checked

Unreality Checked

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 14 2005 5:06 AM

Unreality Checked

Everyone focuses on Iraq. The Washington Post leads with the announcement that the U.S. is setting more realistic expectations for Iraq. The New York Timesleads with the struggle to get updated armor for U.S. soldiers there. And the Los Angeles Timesleads with the struggle to complete the draft of the Iraqi constitution by the Monday deadline and the threat that Sunni Arabs might walk out of the negotiations.

The WP reports that the administration is shedding the "unreality" that originally dominated the discourse about Iraq. Officials are now recognizing that the administration's original vision won't be realized by the end of the political transition four months from now. It's not just that the coalition didn't get welcomed with rice and rosewater, the paper notes. Homes still go without electricity, parents still worry about kidnapping, and unemployment is between 50 percent and 65 percent. An anonymous senior official admits that the original timeline was "never realistic." The WP's deadpan synopsis: "The United States no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges."

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The NYT reports that the Pentagon is once again trying to secure new and improved body armor for American troops. The ceramic plates currently in use don't protect U.S. soldiers from many of the munitions used by Iraqi insurgents. Officials have been trying for over a year to supply soldiers with thicker, stronger, more resistant plates. One problem is that suppliers don't have sufficient production capacity; another is that each military contractor has to come up with its own design. A contract was even given to a researcher "who had never mass produced anything" and who "was allowed to struggle with production for a year before he gave up."

The LAT leads with news that negotiators are facing "mounting frustrations over contentious issues" in their attempts to finish the draft of the Iraqi constitution that's due Monday, and raises the possibility of a Sunni walkout. Other members of the constitutional committee have been having trouble convincing the Sunni members to accept federalism. If Sunnis withdraw, the constitution could get rejected in October's referendum, and deepening Sunni alienation could fuel the insurgency. The NYT notes that the U.S. is upping pressure on Iraqi negotiators in an effort to avoid that outcome. As a result, the committee is still negotiating. One committee member compared the constitution to a partially prepared meal, telling the NYT, "We are still in the kitchen now, but there is nothing yet."

Even if the deadline is met, the NYT, for one, isn't hopeful about how much good it will do. A "Week in Review" article defines a chilling new bit of Arabic slang from Iraq's streets. An "allas" is a person—usually masked, usually paid a bounty—who leads a group of killers to a potential victim, such as a Shiite living in a Sunni neighborhood. The rise of the allas, writes the NYT, highlights the chasm between Iraq's rule of law and its anarchical real world, reminding us "of how little can be reasonably expected from the Iraqi constitution, no matter how beautiful its language or humane its intent."

The NYT and LAT both front reports on the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, as families prepare either to leave or to protest. As of Monday, Israelis may not remain in Gaza. At that point, soldiers will knock on every Israeli door there, helping settlers leave and forcibly removing those who refuse. Moving vans will then collect remaining goods, and bulldozers will raze houses and public buildings to prevent occupation by Palestinian militants. The LAT notes that this will be the first time Israel has moved communities off of Palestinian-claimed land. The NYT's lurid prognosis: "young men and women screaming words like 'Nazi' at uniformed officers their own age ... soldiers and police officers dragging off little girls with cats and Jews in prayer shawls who will passively resist."

The WP fronts word that Iraqi Sunnis are rising up against Abu Musab alZarqawi in an effort to prevent Shiites from being driven out of Ramadi. Zarqawi and his insurgents had warned Shiites to leave the Sunni Triangle within 48 hours. In response, Sunnis took to the streets with grenade launchers and automatic weapons, killing five Zarqawi fighters. As one Sunni leader put it, "We have had enough of his nonsense." The WP calls the uprising a "dramatic show of unity."

What color is your parody? Barbara Ehrenreich takes aim at business success books, culling some of the genre's less enlightening lessons. How Full Is Your Bucket, for instance,informs readers, "Everyone has an invisible bucket. We are at our best when our buckets are overflowing—and at our worst when they are empty." Meanwhile, The Millionaire Mind explains that the universe "is akin to a big mail-order department," that poor people are poor because they "choose to play the role of the victim," and that the first step to success is to repeat, "I admire rich people! I bless rich people! I love rich people!"