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Daily Column
U.S. Papers Tuesday: Worse than Ever
Pentagon Produces Grim Iraq Report; Dramatic Iraq Jailbreak
By EASON JORDAN 12/19/2006 01:49 AM ET
The big three U.S. east coast-based dailies - NYT, WP, USAT - go big with the Pentagon reporting the worst quarter of violence in Iraq since the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein. I find it disappointing that all three papers report the news at face value and fail to mention the fact the Iraq Study Group just weeks ago complained that the U.S. military routinely underreports the level of Iraq violence - and that practice clearly continues. The ground truth is most violence in Iraq in recent months has been Sunni-Shia bloodshed, and much of that violence is not known to, or tallied by, the U.S. military.

The NYT provides the best overall Iraq reporting today, with two compelling off-lead stories.

NEW YORK TIMES

From Baghdad, James Glanz reports on the city nearly being starved of electricity due to frequent insurgent attacks on power lines into the capital city. Enterprising Baghdad residents are increasingly turning to generators for electricity rather than rely on sporadic traditional electricity.

In a bizarre, fascinating story, Marc Santora reports from Baghdad on the jailbreak of a former Iraqi official and American citizen who Santora profiled in the NYT just days ago. Aiham Alsammarae, who has dual U.S.-Iraqi citizenship, escaped from his low security Green Zone jail with the apparent help of western security contractors. He was the senior-most former Iraqi official facing corruption charges. Now his whereabouts are unknown.

WASHINGTON POST

The WP tops with a Robin Wright and Peter Baker report that's not as clear as its headline: "White House, Joint Chiefs at Odds on More Troops." While that may be the case, the story suggests that the military chiefs are pushing back but not necessarily outright opposed to surging more troops into Iraq.

Josh White reports on new Defense Secretary Robert Gates promising he'll listen and learn and go to Iraq.

On the opinion page, Eugene Robinson says a U.S. military surge of troops in Iraq would be senseless and cost more American lives.

Columnist Richard Cohen blasts John McCain, saying McCain's proposal to send tens of thousands more troops to Iraq will cost him the presidency in 2008 and be a lost cause in Iraq.

USA TODAY

Only the Iraq violence story linked at the top of this page.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

Nada.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

From Washington, Howard LaFranchi reports on what he says is a conundrum: as many Americans call for Iraqis to take on more of the burden in Iraq, "the Iraqi state, in many respects, does not exist."

Also from DC, Richard Whittle reports on the U.S. Air Froces growing problems: "Aging planes, budget shortages, and ground casualities." So reads the story's headline.

On the opinion page, former U.S. official Lincoln Bloomfield says U.S. leaders might make fewer ill-advised decisions if their subordinates war-gamed scenarios more often.

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