The Washington Postleads with the discovery of a military report that found field commanders created "a climate that devalued the life of innocent Iraqis" by failing to respond to early reports of misconduct at Haditha, where two dozen civilians were killed in an incident in November 2005. The New York Timesalso leads with a scoop: By the letter of federal laws, the Virginia Tech gunman should not have been able to purchase a gun after a Virginia court in 2005 had found him to be a danger to himself. The top story in the Los Angeles Times saysDefense Secretary Gates sent Iraqi leaders a clear message that U.S. troops will not stay indefinitely. The Wall Street Journal's top What's News item is President Bush touting fresh evidence that the surge is working.
Maj. Gen. Eldon A. Bargewell's investigation, actually completed last June, didn't contradict the military's previously reported conclusion that the Marines did not intentionally kill the civilians. But it sharply criticized field officers for not ordering an inquiry until Time broke the story in March 2006. One commander, Bargewell said, even considered the controversy "insurgent propaganda." Partly as a result of the report, the WP says, top U.S. commanders in Iraq have made protecting civilians a training priority.
More details about what happened at Haditha are likely coming soon, as the NYT reports inside that an officer will testify at a criminal trial of three Marines accused of murder at Haditha. His testimony will likely bolster the defense, the paper says. Also inside, the NYT runs an AP story on internal Army documents describing the coverup of the details of Pat Tillman's death.
The LAT's Iraq front-pager struggles to justify its headline. The story concedes that "Gates stopped short of announcing an outright deadline" and that "Gates has not contradicted" President Bush's own unwillingness to pre-announce an exit. But during his trip around Iraq, the paper says, Gates did admit that Congress' pressure has helped convince the Iraqi government that it needs to do a better job of managing the country's security. The WP puts a similar story on A11 but includes a key bit of Gates' speech, giving the implicit deadline a bit more credence: He wants key new laws passed by summer.
Meanwhile, the papers go inside with Bush's new visual presentation, debuted at a speech in Michigan, describing decreased violence in Baghdad. The LAT goes inside with an Amnesty International report detailing abuses of the death penalty by Iraqi courts.
Federal gun laws say anyone found to be a danger, to himself or others, can't buy a gun. But that didn't stop Cho Seung-Hui, the NYT reports, because Virginia's laws only block a purchase if buyers have been committed against their will or found mentally deficient. The WP goes above the fold with Cho's troubled youth, the first official reactions from his parents and sister, and the Korean community's response. Bush has asked several administration officials to travel the country and talk about violence and mental illness, adds the LAT.
Both the LAT and NYT front news of Nigeria's instability as it prepares for its first civilian transfer of power in today's election. The LAT says armed gangs are a favored campaign tool. The NYT focuses on Nigeria's troubled oil industry—the next president will have to deal with the sabotage, gun battles, and skittish investors plaguing the country's singular economic asset. The WP goes inside with the outgoing Nigerian president's admission that gubernatorial election results earlier this year were flawed, and the NYT goes inside with fears of fraud in today's election as well.
A congressional panel has found instances of cronyism in a No Child Left Behind program, reports a WP front-pager. Several people involved with Reading First admitted they profited personally from tests and textbooks they advised the program to recommend.
The NYT reports above the fold that the U.S. may link its missile systems with Russia's in exchange for its approval of new missile sites in Europe—an admission that the Bush administration "had not been agile" in previous dealings with Russia, the paper says.
The House passed a bill to require companies to submit executive-pay packages for a shareholder vote in the hopes of reigning in outrageous bonuses, reports the LAT below the fold. Barack Obama was quick to declare himself a big supporter of the measure, adds the WSJ. The WSJ also reports that House and Senate negotiators have agreed to $4.8 billion in tax breaks for small businesses to offset a $2.10 increase in the minimum wage. Inside the NYT, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Obama all say they would cap the Bush tax cuts if elected.
France's presidential election on Sunday goes below the fold in the WP. Voters want change, but the three neck-and-neck contenders are all calling themselves reformers—so the paper declines to predict a winner, instead saying a runoff is likely.
The NYT finds that some doctors agree with the Supreme Court that there are acceptable alternatives to "partial-birth abortion." But they also say it will be dangerous to force surgeons to perform unfamiliar procedures.
All the papers report inside that the World Bank will convene a panel to decide bank president Paul Wolfowitz's future, considering both the "special lady friend" situation and other charges of bad management. But they fail to say what the Financial Times has been reporting: Without U.S. consent, bank officials have no actual power to force Wolfowitz out.