Troops Expand in Sudan?

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 18 2006 6:05 AM

Troops Expand in Sudan?

The Washington Post and the New York Timeslead with President Bush's call for doubling the number of international troops in Darfur. The Los Angeles Times' top nonlocal story is the increasing number of suicide attacks on NATO troops in Afghanistan. At least 22 bombers have struck since September, more than double the total of the previous three years. The attacks appear to be aimed at eroding public support in Europe and Canada for the NATO effort.

Bush wants 7,000 more troops under U.N. command and a greater role for NATO in the Darfur peacekeeping effort, but the details of the plan are still sketchy—for example, no word yet on what this would mean for U.S. troops. The papers note that the move to switch gears in Sudan is basically an acknowledgement that the previous policy—7,000 African Union troops taking the lead—was unsuccessful at stopping the genocide.

The NYT fronts Sen. Pat Roberts' split with the Bush administration on the domestic spy program. The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee—a regular defender of the surveillance program—said Friday he wants the eavesdropping program under the authority of a special intelligence court, which the president has said he opposes.

Hamas becomes the majority bloc in the Palestinian parliament today, and in preparation, Israel's acting prime minister and his advisers neared an agreement Friday to isolate and financially starve the Palestinian Authority once Hamas forms a Cabinet. The Post fronts a story on the policy options being considered by Israeli officials, including stopping payment on the approximate $55 million a month in sales taxes and customs fees that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority; preventing the 4,000 Palestinians in Gaza who work in Israel from doing so; and tightening restrictions at crossing points between Israel and Gaza.

The papers all run accounts of the horrific scene in Guinsaugon, Philippines, where a small farming community of 1,857 was buried under a landslide of boulders and mud. While the Post's and LAT's stories have datelines of Jakarta and Manila respectively, the NYT runs an Associated Press report from the village of Guinsaugon. Only 57 people have been located, and authorities presume that the other 1,800 are dead. Continued rains and illegal logging in the community are being blamed by many for the mudslide.

The NYT editorializes that Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib should be closed. "One reason the White House is so helpless against the violence spawned by those Danish cartoons is that it has squandered so much of its moral standing at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib," writes the editorial board.

Meanwhile, in a speech in New York, Donald Rumsfeld said the United States shouldn't shut down Guantanamo. The Secretary of Defense rejected the idea of an independent investigation of U.S. military detainee abuse and criticized the media for being critical of the government.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Rumsfeld said he wants to build bigger and stronger special-ops forces that can act in countries where the United States isn't at war. "The special-operations forces are capable of doing things that other forces aren't. … We are increasing their budget and we are increasing their equipment. The problem is bigger and there is more of a demand for them."

Protests continued in Pakistan over cartoons depicting Muhammad, with three dying from the violence on Friday. Ten people were killed in demonstrations in Libya yesterday. Meanwhile, a Pakistani cleric announced a $1 million bounty for the killing of any Danish cartoonist responsible for caricatures of the prophet. Officials in the Russian city of Volgograd ordered the local paper to be shut down yesterday after publishing a Muhammad cartoon.

The papers mention the abduction Friday of a wealthy Iraqi banker and his son by men wearing Iraqi special forces uniforms.

Also on Friday, two Marine helicopters crashed off the coast of Djibouti, and while two of the dozen on board were immediately rescued, the fate of the others was unknown.

On A2, the WP reports that prosecutors are pushing for a 10-year sentence for convicted former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham because of his "unparalleled corruption."

The Weekend Journal examines McDonald's success at selling pricier new items, like the $4.50 California Cobb salad. Customers are spending more at the golden arches these days, but it's unclear whether the chain's image has gotten the makeover they may have been looking for. A patron ordering white-meat chicken strips in a Chicago McDonald's tells the WSJ that though he was sampling the fare, he would never bring his kids there: "We feed them real food."

Emily Biuso is a writer in New York.