KBR sent drivers in Iraq on a deadly mission; Darfur's Arab tribes are turning on each other.

KBR sent drivers in Iraq on a deadly mission; Darfur's Arab tribes are turning on each other.

KBR sent drivers in Iraq on a deadly mission; Darfur's Arab tribes are turning on each other.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Sept. 3 2007 5:17 AM

Deadly Business

The Los Angeles Timesleads with documents that show senior managers at KBR went ahead with a supply operation in the spring of 2004 despite repeated warning that the route was not safe. The paper got a hold of a bunch of internal KBR documents that show there were disagreements among staff members but ultimately a convoy was sent out to the middle of a firefight and six civilian drivers, along with two U.S. soldiers, ended up dead. The New York Timesleads with an update on Darfur, where the conflict appears to have gotten more complicated in the last couple of months. Whereas the tragedy in Sudan's troubled region has usually been described as government-supported Arab tribes murdering non-Arabs, it seems the conflict has changed as many of the Arab tribes are now turning on one another.

The Washington Postleads with more on the book about President Bush's presidency that was mentioned in yesterday's NYT. Robert Draper's Dead Certain: The Presidency of George Bush, which comes out tomorrow, is notable because the journalist interviewed the president and much of his staff. And in doing so, Draper managed to get a rare glimpse at some of the conflicts and disagreements that existed in Bush's inner circle. For example, Draper says Karl Rove was adamantly against picking Dick Cheney as vice president and was not happy about Bush's selection of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. Draper says it was John Roberts, now the chief justice, who suggested Miers, which Roberts denies.

Advertisement

KBR warned the LAT several times against publishing its story on the supply convoy, and it's clear why the company wouldn't want the information getting out there. It's a detailed and compelling story that shows an Army dependent on a private contractor to get critical supplies through volatile territory and a company that ultimately chose to send civilian employees through a dangerous area to fulfill a multibillion-dollar contract. "Can anyone explain why we put civilians in the middle of known ambush sites?" asked one security adviser in an e-mail after the six drivers were killed. "Maybe we should put body bags on the packing list for our drivers." In the end, only six of the 19 KBR trucks that were sent to the airport on that fateful day reached their destination.

The killings in Darfur have yet to reach the levels of a few years ago, but it seems the landscape is changing and this splintering of the armed groups is the next phase that U.N. officials and humanitarian groups are worried about. The Sundanese government doesn't appear to be funding these groups any more as some are beginning to compare Darfur to Somalia, where a surplus of weapons and armed groups has created a chaotic situation in which everyone fights one another for a little bit of power and territory.

Yesterday, the NTY revealed that, according to Draper's new book, Bush couldn't quite explain how the decision to disband the Iraqi army came about, which is incredible considering that it's considered to be one of the biggest mistakes from the early days of the occupation. Today, the Post says Draper talks about how part of the reason why Bush changed his chief of staff in the spring of 2006 was because of all the intense infighting  in the White House.

The Post also fronts an article adapted from reporter Glenn Kessler's upcoming book about Condoleezza Rice, in which he says her extremely close relationship with Bush "has emerged as her key asset–but possibly also her critical weakness." Those that have known her for years are amazed how she's changed "from a hardheaded foreign policy 'realist' to a wholehearted supporter of Bush's belief in the power of freedom and democracy." But, interestingly enough, although she is closely tied to Bush, much of the public doesn't directly blame her for the failures of Iraq, which Kessler says is the result of a savvy and deliberate media campaign to alter her image after she became secretary of state.

The papers go inside with Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill announcing that North Korea has agreed to account for and disable its nuclear programs by the end of the year. Officials were quick to emphasize it's the first time the country has agreed to a timeline. But North Korea did not mention a deadline and merely said it would disable its nuclear programs in return for "political and economic compensation."

Meanwhile, the NYT fronts and everyone mentions, Iran's president announcing that his country is now running 3,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium. This comes a few days after the United Nations said Iran was cooperating with its nuclear agency. As usual, its widely believed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is exaggerating, but the announcement is seen as a defiant sign that he intends to continue with the program. Iran's supreme leader also announced a new head of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the United States is considering adding to the list of terrorist organizations.

The NYT fronts, and everyone else notes, the Lebanese Army managed to get rid of Islamic militants who were inside a Palestinian refugee camp. This was the result of three months of fighting that left more than 300 people dead and forced 30,000 refugees to leave the camp.

Over in the WP's op-ed page, James McGreevey, the former governor of New Jersey who famously declared "I am a gay American," writes about how he came to deal with the shame of his budding homosexuality by leading a double life. Sen. Larry Craig has denied he's gay and whatever "his truth" may be, McGreevey asks for compassion. Craig "did not have a lover on the payroll … nor did he engage in sexual relations for money or use his office for unethical professional or personal gain." In the end, "is it possible that we hold him to a different standard because a same-sex entanglement is involved?"

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.