The big news today is yesterday's news that the American intelligence community is pessimistic about Iraq. USA Today, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal all lead with the three-and-a-half-page downer that is the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. The Washington Postleads with Republican Sen. John Warner's call for President Bush to start bringing troops home, mentioning the NIE report in the first line. Th e Los Angeles Times goes with word that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Maj. Gen. Peter Pace is likely to urge President Bush to reduce the U.S. force in Iraq next year by almost half. *
The NIE report predicts that the Iraqi government will grow yet "more precarious" in the coming months. And the report should know, since its lack of confidence contributes to that precariousness. USAT tells readers in the story's lede that the report concludes the "Iraqi government's inability to stop sectarian violence and stabilize the country may waste military gains," and the Times sums up by saying that the report finds a "paralyzed Iraqi government unable to take advantage of the security gains achieved by the thousands of extra American troops dispatched to the country this year."
USAT contains this assertion about halfway down: "The mission of U.S. troops is to counter insurgents and stabilize the country." TP thinks he remembers something about democracy or weapons of mass destruction. Then again, that was a long time ago.
The Fresno Bee got the story and the AP picked up that the helicopter crash that killed 14 in Northern Iraq this week took a second member of the same family. Nathan Hubbard, 21, joined the military after his brother Jared was killed in Ramadi in 2004. He signed up with his then-31-year-old brother Jason under a "buddy system" that allowed the two to serve together. "Their mother, Peggy, said she believed that Jason joined in part to protect Nathan after not being there to help Jared," reports the Bee. Jason is on his way home to be with his family.
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., wants many more troops than just Jason to do the same. The Post reports that his call for withdrawal, which comes immediately after a four-day trip to the Middle East, gives cover to other Republicans who may be looking to break with Bush. Warner, the former Senate armed services committee chairman, suggested Bush announce the beginning of the redeployment of some amount of troops from Iraq by Sept. 15. The White House, says the Post, "politely rejected Warner's advice."
Just how precarious Iraq has already become is laid out by James Glanz and Stephen Farrell in a deeply reported front-page piece in the NYT about internal displacement in Iraq. Since President Bush's troop escalation in February, the number of internal refugees in Iraq has surged by a stupefying amount. The U.N. migration office calls it the "worst human displacement in Iraq's modern history"—and Iraq hasn't had the calmest modern history. The Iraqi Red Crescent Organization counts the total number of internally displaced Iraqis at about 600,000 since February. The United Nations, says the Times, has roughly the same numbers.
These organizations aren't just plucking numbers out of a bin, the Times notes: "The Red Crescent counted only displaced Iraqis who receive relief supplies, and the United Nations relied on data from an Iraqi ministry that closely tracks Iraqis who leave their homes and register for government services elsewhere." Nearly two-thirds of those displaced say they left as a result of a direct threat on their family; one-quarter say they were forced out. Iraqis quoted in the piece say that claims of people returning to their homes miss the fact that they immediately leave again and often are returning only to grab something they left behind.
The Post piles the bad new on with an A1 hollowing-out of "a pillar of the U.S. strategy in Iraq" —the effort to get U.S. businesses to buy Iraqi products. The problem seems to be that there are almost no Iraqi products to buy. Nevertheless, the U.S. official overseeing the plan is optimistic. He is also under investigation, the Post reports, by the Pentagon's inspector general for "erratic behavior, public drunkenness, mismanagement, waste of funds and sexual harassment."
It wasn't all Iraq news, of course. The LAT covers a boiling mob feud in Italy that spilled into Germany in the form of an ambush that involved a pizzeria, machine guns, and six dead. The Post lifts the log on mine safety in China and finds what you'd expect: It's not safe. Last year, more than 4,700 people died in Chinese mines, compared with 47 in the United States.
The mayor and schools chief in Washington, D.C., made a big deal this summer about textbooks not getting to the schools that need them. But the effort to fix the situation, according to an above-the-fold Post article, has been mired in confusion.
USA Today's splashy front-page feature looks at the trend of wealthy folks who are giving away their money before they die. A USA Today/Gallup poll showed that about one-fifth of Americans may have gotten such gifts. The article itself even comes with the gift of a free parenthetical Latin lesson—a move that has the whiff of a compromise between an ambitious writer and an editor not sure just how clever the paper's readers are. "The merely affluent … are among those giving inter vivos (Latin for "giving amid life")," USAT helpfully explains.
Correction, Aug. 27, 2007: This column originally misstated that the Los Angeles Times led with a statement from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. That was, in fact, Thursday's lead story. Friday's paper led with news that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will likely urge a force reduction in Iraq next year. ( Return to the corrected sentence.)