The Washington Postleads, and the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox, with what appears to effectively be the end of the infamous peace deal struck 10 months ago between the Pakistani government and tribal leaders in the volatile North Waziristan region. At least 70 people were killed over the weekend in attacks that are largely seen as retaliation for the raid on the Red Mosque last week. USA Todayleads with an in-house investigation that found service members on the ground in Iraq had been asking for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, which provides much better protection against roadside bombs, since as early as December 2003. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the issue a priority only two months ago.
The New York Timesleads with a look at how more Democrats have begun embracing a "populist critique of the current economy." Presidential candidates and lawmakers are talking more about the difficulties faced by the average working American, while criticizing the growing income inequality and globalization. This is seen as a purposeful shift from the days of former President Bill Clinton, who spoke of the virtues of trade and open markets. The Los Angeles Timesleads with the continuing controversy over the record $660 million settlement that the archdiocese of Los Angeles reached with 508 victims of sexual abuse. Despite Cardinal Roger Mahony's claim that he decided to settle to try to do right by the victims, many believe he was scared because the first case was scheduled to go to trial this week, and he would have had to testify under oath about what he knew and when.
The peace deal in North Waziristan was supposed to give tribal leaders the autonomy to fight off extremist groups but, instead, many believe, as U.S. intelligence officers outlined last week, that it has created a safe haven for terrorist groups. Although the Pakistani government isn't saying that the deal is over, it has deployed troops to the area and local militants declared it to be dead, which, as the LAT says, "indicated they wanted no impediment to an all-out fight with government forces." The LAT and WSJ point out there is increasing talk that President Pervez Musharraf might use the threat posed by the militants to declare a state of emergency and postpone elections that are supposed to take place this year.
Meanwhile, the NYT fronts a look at how the United States is planning to give $750 million in aid to Pakistan's tribal areas over the next five years, which many are worrying could fall into the wrong hands.
USAT has been following the controversy surrounding MRAPs better than anyone and today's investigation, clocking in at almost 6,000 words, carefully outlines how those on the ground clearly saw the need for the vehicles early in the war, but were ignored by the Pentagon's leaders to tragic consequences. Last month, two senators wrote to Gates and said the delays in delivering MRAPs resulted in the deaths of "621 to 742 Americans" but the real number is probably higher since the requests for the vehicles were put in earlier than lawmakers realized.
The failure to provide more MRAPs wasn't caused by ignorance, since the Pentagon knew of their superiority, and, in fact, while denying requests from U.S. troops, military leaders were pushing to get these vehicles for the Iraqi army. So, why the delay? Part of the reason is that officials simply didn't expect the war to last this long, so the investment was seen as unnecessary, and, perhaps more interestingly, the big, expensive vehicles didn't fit former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's vision of turning the military into a "lighter" and "more agile" force.
The NYT fronts a good look at how Iraqi soldiers aren't happy about the new alliances that are being created between U.S. forces and Sunnis, many of whom are former insurgents. Although they should all theoretically be working to bring peace to Iraq, soldiers don't see the Sunnis as allies and U.S. forces sometimes have to intervene to prevent violence from breaking out. Whether the two groups can work together is seen as a key test of the strategy. At the same time, though, some U.S. service members are beginning to trust the Sunnis more than the Iraqi soldiers. "I could stand among 1,800 Sunnis in Abu Ghraib," Lt. Col. Kurt Pinkerton said, "and feel more comfortable than standing in a formation of Iraqi soldiers."
The WP is the latest to question assertions that al-Qaida in Iraq is the main enemy of the United States in Iraq by noting on Page One that Shiite militias are in control of much of western Baghdad. The Mahdi Army is usually associated with eastern Baghdad, in places like Sadr City, but U.S. troops are discovering that they have also penetrated and are running western areas of the city, where they have killed Sunnis who refuse to leave the area. The Post also deftly notes that the confrontations between the Mahdi Army and U.S. troops puts into question the conventional wisdom that the Shiite militia has been trying to stay out of sight. As Muqtada Sadr loses control of the militia, many of its components have become more violent and are openly challenging the authority of U.S. troops.
The NYT fronts a look at how Japanese society is preparing for the introduction of juries in courtrooms in 2009. Overall, the Japanese don't seem too excited about the prospect, and some question whether the system can even work in a society where people aren't used to giving their opinions. But maybe they'd be easier to convince if they were shown a wire story from the inside pages of the LAT that reports on two people who found love while serving on a jury for a murder trial. The judge who presided over the case will marry the two former jurors next month.