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Daily Column
US Papers Sunday: Dear Brothers -- Help Us
A "Zombie Idea," a "Notification Script," and a Big Retraction -- Again
By EASON JORDAN 03/11/2007 01:56 AM ET
The best reading on Iraq today involves food fights, missed targets, and challenges overcome.

The NY Times is relatively light on Iraq-related reporting today – at least for a Sunday, when the hefty print edition is usually packed with Iraq-focused reporting and commentary. For the first Sunday in ages – unless I am missing something – there’s not a single NY Times editorial, column, or op-ed on Iraq.

The New York Times and the Washington Post take different approaches to the big Iraq story yesterday: the one-day Baghdad conference at which Iraq, its neighbors, and the big world powers talked about bringing peace to the embattled country. The Times’s Alissa Rubin leads with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki pleading with neighboring countries to help stop the violence in Iraq: ““Confrontation of terrorism, dear brothers, requires ceasing any form of financial and media support and religious cover, as well as logistical support and provision of arms and men that would turn out to be explosive tools killing our children, women and elders and bombing our mosques and churches.” In the Post, Sudarasan Raghavan tops her story with the conference bringing together the US and Iran in multilateral and informal bilateral sessions, with the US ambassador sounding cautiously optimistic about the exchanges, while the Iranian chief rep was, at least publicly, strident in condemning the US in Iraq. The countries agreed to form working groups and to reconvene in a big way in April at the foreign ministers’ level – if they can agree on where to meet. Iraq and Iran want that April meeting in Baghdad. The US wants the meeting in Istanbul.

The rest of what's in the big papers.

NEW YORK TIMES

From Baghdad, Kirk Semple provides a round-up of violence in Iraq Saturday, topping with a suicide car bomber being intercepted en route to Sadr City but killing seven policemen who blocked his way to the Shia neighborhood. Semple also reports on Iraqi authorities retracting for the second time this week their claims that Al Qaeda’s top man in Iraq, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, had been captured.

From Karbala, Edward Wong provides a colorful narrative on the procession of millions of Shia pilgrims making their way to that holy city to mark the anniversary of the killing of Imam Hussein, the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, in the year 680. Wong apparently accompanied Shia Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi on the journey. Wong points out that Mahdi made the trip even though he has three shrapnel wounds sustained in a recent attempt to kill him. “I feel dizzy sometimes,” Wong quotes Mahdi as saying, as Mahdi presses on toward Karbala despite the masses and having to walk for hours.

From San Diego, Rachel Swarns reports on a desperate Iraqi refugee’s illegal entry into the US after an astounding trek through Turkey, Greece, Spain, Brazil and Mexico. The profile of the 21-year-old identified only by his first name – Assad – is the peg to the story of an increasing number of Iraqis struggling against all odds to make their way to the United States. The US is being tight-fisted with visas but is beginning to issue just a few more in response to an outcry for the US to do more to accommodate Iraqi refugees.

WASHINGTON POST

One of our favorite writers, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, provides the best read of the day: a report on Iraq-focused US government infighting complete with name-calling and back-stabbing. Read it to learn about the food fights sparked by the “zombie idea” – a controversial scheme by some US officials and contractors to eliminate Iraq’s free food rationing system. It’s a stellar example of government dysfunction. And one Iraqi official quoted in the story says ending free food rationing any time soon would be “political suicide” in his country.

From the traveling White House in Uruguay, Peter Baker reports on President Bush approving the deployment of 8,200 more troops to Iraq and Afghanistan – a $3.2 billion expense. News of the planned Iraq deployment isn’t new, but the size of the Afghanistan deployment surprises some.

In a story headlined “Securing Iraq Votes, One Vote at a Time; House Democratic Leaders Methodically Build Support for War Plan,” Jonathan Weisman reports on Nancy Pelosi’s intense and creative efforts to win over more members of the House in the Democratic leadership’s attempt to pass a bill funding the war with a timeline to end the conflict. While she’s having some success, she’s come up short of the needed votes thus far.

In the unique, often offbeat, and always enlightening weekly column entitled “Tom Ricks’s Inbox” – he’s the Post’s Pentagon correspondent – Ricks shares with us the “NOTIFICATION SCRIPTS” memo distributed to U.S. military officers whose job is to notify family members of loved ones killed or missing or seriously hurt while deployed overseas.

The headline says it all – “The ‘Surge’ Is Succeeding.” So writes Robert Kagan of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in his monthly Post column. Kagan cites positive comments about the “surge” from Iraqi bloggers and NBC’s Brian Williams. Kagan claims the news media overall are unduly negative about Iraq and urges journalists to start reporting more even-handedly on the war.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

No Sunday edition.

USA TODAY

No Sunday edition.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

No Sunday edition.

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