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Daily Column
US Papers Monday: Choppers Shot Down
Senate Debate to Begin; GOP Threatens Filibuster
By ANNA SHEN, GREG HOADLEY 02/05/2007 01:52 AM ET
Little breaking news from Iraq is available in today’s papers, as most of our East Coast dailies gear up for the “historic” debates set to begin in the Senate, even while the GOP leadership threatens to shut down all Senate floor activity. The Post does report that the US military has confirmed that four helicopters that went down in Iraq last month all fell to hostile fire.

Damien Cave and Richard Oppel Jr. write for the Times that in the wake of Saturday’s deadly bombing, many Iraqis in Baghdad fault the US for the poor security situation in Iraq, citing the lag between the announcement and implementation of the new security plan. US and Iraqi forces have not arrived en masse to the capital, but the local militias which might have prevented the attack have been laying low in anticipation of the crackdown. They also write that it was Mahdi Army militiamen, not Iraqi forces, who were visibly present to provide security and direct the scene after Saturday’s suicide bombing in predominantly Shi`i Sadriya. Fifteen died yesterday in the predominantly Sunni area of Adhamiya in what may have been retaliatory shelling attacks. Seven Iraqis were killed in Western Baghdad in fighting between militias. Around the city, 35 bodies were recovered, many bearing evidence of torture.

The US military confirms that four helicopters that had crashed over the last two weeks were shot down, Ernesto Londoño reports in the Post. Londoño writes that the military is considering new procedures for the deployment of choppers.

The Post leads its Iraq coverage with the image of Sen. John Sununu sprinting away from reporters who would have liked to question him about Iraq. Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman report that many in Congress, especially in the GOP, are nervously eyeing 2008 as they develop their positions on upcoming anti-escalation resolutions. No groundbreaking news here, but a useful rundown of the moving parts as the Senate gears up for this week’s debates. The Post might have pointed out that it was only about four years ago when many Democrats were voting for an Iraq war, with the 2004 elections in mind.

Gail Russell Chaddock catches the Monitor up on the various Senate Iraq bills,. She notes that for different reasons, the vote will be risky for both Republicans and Democrats.

Kathy Kiely writes in USAT that the GOP Senate leadership may lead a filibuster of all debate on the bipartisan anti-escalation measure, if the majority does not agree to also hold votes on two other measures, one which would offer qualified support for the Bush plan, and one which would put the Senate on record opposing funding cuts to the Iraq war. Democrats have indicated that they have counted enough votes to pass the bipartisan measure, but not enough to overcome a filibuster. GOP Senators allied with the White House must be grateful they didn’t exercise the “nuclear option” in the last Congress.

In other coverage:


James Glanz files a report on the state of the Iraqi air force. After a series of delays, Iraqi pilots are starting to get new aircraft, beginning with a shipment of Russian helicopters. 125 US Air Force personnel are in Iraq to conduct training. The US will establish a pilot school in the fall. Glanz points out that there are no fighter planes on order for the Iraqi forces, which indicates that the US will continue to be responsible for major air defenses over Iraq. The Iraqi air force once had over 500 aircraft.

The NYT prints a staff editorial on the release of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. Echoing Marc Santora’s article from last week, the editors argue that the recent fighting near Najaf is evidence of the unpreparedness of the Iraqi security forces. They also call on the Bush administration to impose “enforceable deadlines” on the Iraqi government to purge the security forces of militia loyalists, end excessive de-Ba`thification measures, and develop a fair system for distributing oil revenues. “Otherwise,” they write, “Iraq seems headed over the cliff.”


Thomas Ricks files an interesting front-page report on a group of high-ranking officers with PhDs in anthropology, political science, and economics that Gen. Petraeus has assembled to advise him on his military and administrative operations in Iraq. Ricks writes that the influence of the group is a signal that “the Army is turning the war over to its dissidents, who have criticized the way the service has operated there the past three years, and is letting them try to wage the war their way.” However, some analysts express doubts that such a “brain trust” can salvage the US effort in Iraq.

Matthew Mosk reports that former senator John Edwards has again stated that he was wrong to vote to authorize the Iraq war, this time on NBC. "It wasn't just the weapons of mass destruction I was wrong about," Edwards said. "It's become absolutely clear -- and I'm very critical of myself for this -- become absolutely clear, looking back, that I should not have given the president this authority." Mosk quotes one analyst, who says "It's pretty clear . . . that antiwar people don't really have a candidate yet. And he's trying to capture those people."


Dan Murphy files from Cairo on the growing sectarian violence in Iraq.


On the domestic side, the Journal’s front page features an article by Deborah Solomon, who writes that the Iraq war has not had a measurably negative effect on the US economy, or at least not yet. Inflation and interest rates remained relatively low as military spending climbed. However, she writes that some have argued that Bush’s war spending has weakened the US current account position, made the inevitable reckoning with entitlement reform more costly, and encouraged Federal borrowing, often from foreign lenders. It’s unclear how long the country can run higher levels of military spending without facing economic consequences similar to those of the Vietnam era. Although the article points to trouble brewing ahead, you wouldn’t know it from the Journal’s blithe headline: “How War's Expense Didn't Strain Economy.”


Tom Vanden Brook files from Washington on the effectiveness of homemade bombs fashioned by sandwiching a plastic charge between baking sheets, known among US forces in Iraq as “speed bumps.” The devices can be buried in roads and set to detonate with pressure from traffic rolling over the tray, and have been very potent against US vehicles which are often unarmored underneath. He writes that the Pentagon is increasingly turning to V-shaped hulls and “mine rollers” to defend against pressure-detonated roadside bombs.

USAT prints a lengthy staff editorial on the Warner resolution. Without explicitly saying so, the editors seem to support the bill: “The public is no more enthusiastic about abrupt withdrawal than it is about staying the current failing course, and even critics of Bush's strategy warn that abrupt withdrawal would backfire. If a resolution can be worded to draw bipartisan support, it might point a path to unity, not underscore division.”

Sen. Jon Kyl, a staunch Bush administration ally, contributes an op-ed defending the administration’s Iraq plan. He argues the usual White House talking points and makes a veiled suggestion that those who oppose the Bush administration’s Iraq plan are in de facto alliance with Osama bin Laden.


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