Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki announced early this morning that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been killed by an airstrike. U.S. Ambassador Khalilzad, who was standing at Maliki's side, also gave a statement about it, as did the top American commander there, Gen. Casey. From the Washington Post's Web site:
An Interior Ministry inspector general, who refused to be identified, said an aide of Zarqawi was arrested last night in a raid by U.S. and Iraqi special-operations forces. The aide led U.S. and Iraqi officials to a site outside Baghdad, the Interior Ministry official said. After a fierce firefight, authorities entered the site and found the bodies of 13 people. The captured aide identified one as Zarqawi.
The U.S. military said it will give a detailed briefing at 3 p.m., Baghdad time.
The New York Times leadswith State Department and other government officials claiming that the administration's policy of funding Somali warlords has boomeranged and, as the NYT puts it, "thwarted counterterrorism efforts" while "empowering the same Islamic groups it was intended to marginalize." The WP leads with the Senate, as expected, shooting down a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Seven Republicans voted against it, while 49 senators, including two Democrats, supported it. Two Republicans who supported the ban in 2004 voted against it this time. The Wall Street Journal's world-wide newsbox leads with the Senate inching toward a near-repeal of the estate tax. Currently, only estates worth more than $2 million are taxed. A Republican proposal, endorsed by a key Democrat, would raise the threshold to $10 million per couple. The Los Angeles Timesleads with a preview of California's now-set governor's race, which will be between Gov. Schwarzenegger and an underwhelming Democrat. USA Todayleads with a trender: States and local governments "across the United States" are "preparing" to rake in a bit of dough by selling off assets such as, in Illinois, a state lottery.
One State Department diplomat in Africa was reassigned after complaining about the apparently little-considered policy of backing Somali warlords. "They were fully aware that they were doing so without any strategic framework," said one official. PBS's NewsHour recently had an extraordinary interview with an official from the first Bush administration who argued that the White House is on the wrong side in Somalia.
The GOP leadership knew the gay-marriage ban wouldn't make it. They took it to a vote anyway, as the Post puts it, "to help galvanize their party's conservative base." Slate's Jacob Weisberg argues that the pander won't pan out.
Most of the papers front the result from Wednesday's special election in California to replace former congressman Duke Cunningham. In a heavily Republican district, the GOP spent big-time, and its candidate won with 49 percent, while the Democratic candidate got 45 percent (about what Sen. Kerry got there in 2004).
The upshot is clear:
The NYT: "NARROW VICTORY BY G.O.P. SIGNALS FALL PROBLEMS,"
The Post: "VICTORY IN CALIFORNIA CALMS GOP."
Only the LAT practices some impulse control and makes the common-sense conclusion—yes, there are tea leaves to read, but it's just one friggin' race. Can you really separate the local variables from national trends?
The LAT fronts new troubles for Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis, who's chair of the über-powerful appropriations committee. The feds are investigating Lewis, and now we learn that a defense-contractor-funded PAC sent plenty of checks to Lewis' stepdaughter. The contractor, of course, was later earmarked for contracts via Lewis' committee. NBC just interviewed another defense contractor who said Lewis once tried to shake him down.
Everybody mentions the E.U.'s human rights office concluding that 14 European countries have indeed helped the CIA in one way or another ship terror suspects to secret prisons. It was all part of "a global spider web" for rendition.
Uh, Wha? From the NYT columnist David Brooks' latest, on Iraq:
One of the paradoxes of this war is that when U.S. forces commit atrocities, we regard it as a defeat for us because we have betrayed our ideals. When insurgents commit atrocities, it is also a defeat for us because of our ineffectiveness in the face of the enemy. Either way, morale suffers and the fighting spirit withers away.
A "paradox of this war"? Really?