The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times both lead (at least online) while the Washington Post fronts the suicide of three Guantanamo Bay detainees, the first successful attempts since the camp opened. The WP leads with a Marine involved in last November's Haditha incident claiming his squad followed the rules of engagement, giving what the paper calls "the first public account from a Marine who was on the ground when the shootings occurred."
With the Guantanamo suicides, the papers are all working from the same limited information: the three unnamed captives (two from Saudi Arabia, one from Yemen) hanged themselves in their cells, leaving suicide notes in Arabic. All have been involved in recent hunger strikes and had to be force fed. Since 2002, 25 of 759 inmates have tried to commit suicide a combined 41 times, but all previous attempts were foiled by timely intervention. There is a predictable amount of debate about whether the suicides were the acts of desperate men who believed they would never receive a trial—or acts of "asymmetrical warfare" designed to manipulate public opinion. Also, the NYT quotes the camps' commander referring to a "mystical" belief among inmates that three of them must die before they can all be released. All the articles stress the remains are being handled in dignified manner, but then there's this odd tidbit from the LAT: Islamic law typically requires the dead be buried within 24 hours, but the military got an imam to issue a fatwa allowing for more time so that autopsies can be performed.
Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich acknowledges the regrettable civilian death toll in last year's Haditha shooting but insists that everything was done by the book. Wuterich is the first Marine involved directly in the incident to have his narrative told to the press, albeit via his lawyer. His version of the events, recounted blow by blow in the back half of the article, acknowledge that roughly 21 to 24 people were killed by Marines that day after an improvised explosive device stopped his squad's convoy and the Marines gave chase to men believed to be insurgents. The key contention in Wuterich's version of events is that every act was done in line with the rules of engagement, but what that really means is a little hazy, the WP points out. The rules rely, to an extent, on whether or not troops feel threatened in a given situation.
The WP trumpets that Democrats are faring better in the election-year fund-raise-a-thon than in 2004, while Republican numbers are slightly down. In Senate races, Democrats are actually raising more than Republicans. In House contests, Democrats are still behind but by less than last time around. The paper attributes the reversal to an upswing small donors to Democrats, a method Republicans have employed to great success for years. The real question for Democrats will be if better small-donor turnout equals better voter turnout in November, as the Democrats are outperforming the Republicans in fund-raising in six of the 10 most competitive open-seat races. Of course, the paper buries the fact that while the Dems might be doing a little better than Republicans this year, the Republicans still have nearly five times as much money in the bank.
As the U.S. reduces troop levels in Afghanistan and turns responsibility for much of the country's southern region over to NATO, the remnants of the Taliban are growing stronger, reports the NYT. A few years ago there were believed to be only a few hundred Taliban fighters hiding in the mountains. Now the Taliban is claiming to have 12,000 troops in the south of Afghanistan, with roughly half that number of coalition troops to fend them off. While the coalition troops can hold off Taliban raids on small towns, the fear is that with villagers caught in between opposing forces Afghanis may lose confidence in their government and accept peace at any cost.
A major offensive may be brewing outside the Iraqi city of Ramadi, says the LAT. The city has seen U.S. and Iraqi troops massing outside the city for days now and many fear that 1,500 additional troops being called in to surround the city can only mean an offensive on the scale of 2004's attack on Fallujah. Military officials, understandably, aren't commenting one way or the other.
The NYT reports that as China's coal use spirals out of control and clouds of pollution float over the Pacific toward U.S. shores, there's both good and bad news. The good news: the sulfur output could cool the earth slightly, dampening the effect of global warming. The bad news: Carbon dioxide from the coal plants will soon eclipse the effects of the sulfur and could warm the earth considerably, as it stays in the air much longer than sulfur. The Chinese government has ambitious plans to promote energy efficiency to curb the pollution somewhat, but the paper says their economy is too reliant on coal for any real energy conservation to take hold.
The LAT fronts the struggle in Oregon to hush up a short research paper on post-forest-fire logging.
The WP reports on college students' use of prescription amphetamines to make it through all-nighters and give them an academic edge. The paper acknowledges it's difficult to say exactly how widespread the trend is, given that there's no real enforcement data and few institutions seem aware of the problem. However, in a tell-tale moment, the reporter confesses: "When you ask the students, they look at you like you're from the planet Zircon. They ask why you weren't on this story three years ago." The reporter is admitting he's at least three years behind the curve—though TP would peg it at closer to six. No one at the WP took issue with this? Also: "Planet Zircon"?
Under the fold, the NYT would like recent college graduates to know that posting pictures on Facebook of oneself "smokin' blunts" could negatively impact one's career. It's not quite on par with the WP's recent wingman article, but it's up there.
Did the Post Do Thaaaaaat?
The WP, as part of its ongoing series on issues facing black men, fronts a profile of Eric Motley, a black Republican who secured a prominent position in the Bush administration. The article bends over backward to paint Motley as a complex individual, defying stereotypes and easy characterizations. He's black but conservative. He's the recipient of considerable largesse but still self-reliant. He's friendly and yet strangely aloof, even lonely. But then the paper quotes an acquaintance comparing Motley to Steve Urkel. Which image do you think most people will remember?