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Daily Column
US Papers Saturday: "This is Unacceptable"
Bush, Gates Fume, Heads Roll -- Figuratively in Washington, Literally in Iraq
By EASON JORDAN 03/03/2007 02:00 AM ET
“This is unacceptable to me, it is unacceptable to our country, and it is not going to continue.” – President Bush commenting on the shoddy treatment of patients (many wounded in Iraq) at the U.S. Army’s Walter Reed Medical Center

The Washington Post and the NY Times top with the ouster of U.S. Army Secretary Francis Harvey – the latest casualty in the scandal over the awful conditions at outpatient housing at Walter Reed. The page one Post story by Michael Abramowitz and Steve Vogel is solid in providing the hard news on Harvey’s ouster. The more insightful Post reporting comes in a page eight sidebar headlined "Defense Secretary Sends Stern Message About Accountability" by Tom Ricks Ann Scott Tyson. The Ricks-Tyson piece provides context and color and includes this key paragraph:

Harvey's firing sent a strong message across the top of the military establishment that the new Pentagon chief, though a newcomer to the world of defense, would not be a passive manager and would hold senior leaders accountable for their actions. "There's a new boss in town, and the message is 'You guys need to do your job right,'

As the scandal played out in Washington, there was horrific news on several fronts in Iraq. In the NY Times, Alissa Rubin provides a report headlined "Iraqi Soccer Players Killed; 16 Policemen Found Dead." She opens by reporting on two soccer players being executed in Ramadi when gunmen interrupted their game and shot them dead as other players and fans looked on in stunned silence. Rubin’s reporting on the discovery of the 16 killed policemen includes these gruesome details:

The bodies of 16 of the men were found Friday in Baquba, according to the police officer in Diyala. He said 9 of the 16 were shot in the head and had marks of torture, at least one had the skin peeled off his face and at least 2 others were partly disemboweled. Four of the 16 were beheaded, he said.
The Washington Post’s similar story by Sudarsan Raghavan provides greater context, pointing out, as the headline notes, “Sunni Insurgents Ascendant in Iraq’s Cauldron of Violence.” While providing details of the bloodiest incidents, Raghavan notes Sunni-instigated killing is increasing seemingly unchecked, while Shia militias have retreated and largely abstained from violence lately as the “surge” has started to take hold in Baghdad.


Top-notch correspondent Ed Wong provides a fascinating profile of a 35-year-old Sunni sheik who's leading the fight in Anbar province against al Qaeda of a 35-year-old Sunni sheik who’s leading the fight in Anbar province against al Qaeda. He’s in a fight for his life, however, and he complains that his forces are handicapped in combating al Qaeda because the Iraqi and U.S. governments are not providing adequate support and supplies. Wong quotes him as saying “if we have good weapons, if we have good vehicles, if we have good support, I can fight Al Qaeda all the way to Afghanistan.”


The U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, provides an upbeat commentary, saying the tentative Iraqi oil agreement (yet to be ratified by the Iraqi parliament) “demonstrates that the leaders of Iraq's principal communities can pull together to peacefully resolve difficult issues of national importance.” He closes by saying the deal “should give us confidence that Iraqis are willing and able to take the steps needed for Iraq's success.”


The U.S. should move vigorously to help the Iranian people overthrow the regime there, writes American Enterprise Institute Scholar Michael Ledeen in a commentary. He writes that true democracy in Iran would undermine many U.S. enemies and make the Mideast more secure.


No weekend publication.


No weekend publication.


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