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Daily Column
US Papers Sunday: Worse than Walter Reed
Iraq's Wounded Vets Fall Through Cracks; Woodward on Tenet
By GREG HOADLEY 05/06/2007 01:59 AM ET
Iraq-related writing in this week's Sunday papers takes a decidedly American tone, with very little reporting about Iraqis or life outside of the Green Zone. The one exception is the Post's important story on wounded Iraqi security troops, whose condition makes Walter Reed Hospital seem like a desirable place to receive care -- and whose numbers are growing as the security plan unfolds. The Times reports on the efforts to strip a key Sunni MP of his immunity from prosecution -- but is a bit late and incomplete in its coverage.

At home, the Post continues the Tenet debate, with the man who brought you the "slam dunk" quote reviewing the ex-DCI's book, and several articles look at DC politics.

Two Times stories focus on US forces: One recounts new information available about the official reaction to the Haditha slayings of 2005, and another checking out the report on the psychological strain on troops in the field and the relationship to violations of military code, including attacks on civilians.

No vote in Parliament has been scheduled in the matter of the parliamentary immunity of Adnan al-Dulaimi, the leader of the largest Sunni bloc in the chamber, Damien Cave reports for the Times. The Iraqi Parliament has been requested to lift Dulaimi’s immunity by the judicial authorities in connection with sectarian killings. Cave writes that Muhannad al-Esawi threatened :“we have other alternatives — not just from parties within Parliament — but also with parties outside the political process that consider Adnan al-Dulaimi their leader.”

While Cave does write that Esawi called the charges against Dulaimi “politically motivated,” he misses some of the important context: Firstly, many Iraqi politicians, including members of the governing coalition, are suspected of links to death squads and paramilitary forces in Iraq, but it seems only members of Dulaimi’s Sunni party are being prosecuted for these accusations. Secondly, Dulaimi’s party has on a number of occasions threatened to withdraw from the political process over the prosecution, which could have a destabilizing effect on the current arrangement of Iraqi politics as a whole. IraqSlogger has covered the Duliami case and the bid to strip Dulaimi’s (and other Sunni MPs’) parliamentary immunity . In an audio statement released on the Internet, Abu Hamza al-Muhajjir, the alleged leader of al-Qa'ida in Iraq, apparently criticized the Iraqi Islamic Party of Tariq al-Hashemi, denied infighting among Sunni militant groups in Iraq, and denied fighting between al-Qa'ida and Iraqi tribes, Al-Muhajjir’s death had been announced, apparently in error, by a spokesperson of the Iraqi Interior Ministry early last week. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s number two, released a video taunting the US and Bush in particular over the security plan in Iraq, mentioning the recent bombing in the Iraqi Parliament. Two bombs killed at least 10 Iraqis, all of them policemen or recruits. 11 bodied were recovered in the capital. A sniper in Baghdad’s al-Amil district killed one person. The US military said it disabled a large truck bomb.

“Though Iraqis fight alongside Americans, their destinies diverge upon injury,” Karin Brulliard writes in the Post. Brulliard describes the miserable situation of two Iraqi solders who were seriously wounded in an explosion, one losing a leg and suffering internal damage, and another disfigured. Both complain of inadequate care. One of the wounded soldiers says that his family had to buy all basic food, drink, and care while he was in the hospital. Iraq has no military hospitals, Brulliard writes.

“Senior officers viewed the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha in late 2005 as a potential public relations problem that could fuel insurgent propaganda against the American military, leading investigators to question whether the officers’ immediate response,” according to recently unclassified docouments, Paul von Zielbauer writes for the Times. “As Marine Corps prosecutors prepare their evidence against Captain (Randy) Stone and his fellow officers (under investigation in relation to the attack), the unclassified documents suggest that senior Marine commanders dismissed, played down or publicly mischaracterized the civilian deaths in ways that a military investigation found deeply troubling,” Zielbauer writes. Stone’s hearings are set to begin on Tuesday, with other officers’ hearings due in the coming weeks.

Michael Luo’s Times article on the coalition of antiwar groups that have had enough influence to “nudge” congressional debate forward reads like a who’s who of the movement: MoveOn, Code Pink, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, Win Without War, the National Security Network, Votevets.org, and Americans United for Change all make appearances. Luo describes the common goals and internal contradictions of the antiwar movement, noting that the unity of the coalition is by no means assured. Some of the above parties, such as MoveOn and Code Pink have expressed unease over the antiwar movement’s relationship to the Democratic leadership, whom, they say, may “capitulate” to the president over the issue of ending the war. Worth a full read.

In other coverage:

NEW YORK TIMES

Benedict Carey takes up the recently released mental health survey of US forces, reviewed in yesterday’s Post. Carey notes that, “The Pentagon’s analysis also identified sources of anger besides lengthy and repeated deployments that could lead to ethics violations, which would not be apparent from the outside: eight-day rest breaks that involved four days of transit; long lines to get into recreation facilities, especially for those who perform missions outside the relative safety of base camps; and inconsistent dress-code rules. Most of all, there were uncertainties about deployment: 40 percent of soldiers rated uncertain redeployment dates as a top concern.” Carey also reports that the military’s metrics of mental health of forces have improved since the 1991 Iraq war, and that “better cope with the current strains, the report recommended that suicide prevention program be revised, that soldiers and marines who have combat positions outside large bases have better opportunities for occasional rest and recreation, and that a more determined effort be made to teach battlefield ethics on dealing with civilians.” The Pentagon has also indicated that a increasing the size of the armed forces is part of its plan to reduce stress on soldiers in combat, but that this takes years to achieve.

Ever the optimist, neocon Frederick Kagan contributes an op-ed arguing that it is too early to draw conclusions as to the results of the increased troop numbers and security plan, and that many of the signs are positive for the Bush plan. Kagan argues that it is justifiable that there is no “plan B” for the US, because after the wide-ranging effects of the security plan, be they successful or unsuccessful, the situation in Iraq will not be the same as it is now. On that basis, Kagan dismisses the Iraq Study Group recommendations. He also endorses Gen. Petraeus’s prediction that results of the “surge” will not be clear until at least the fall.

After Kagan’s piece, Frank Rich’s op-ed is a polar opposite that reads quite jarringly: “IF, as J.F.K. had it, victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan, the defeat in Iraq is the most pitiful orphan imaginable. Its parents have not only tossed it to the wolves but are also trying to pin its mutant DNA on any patsy they can find.” Rich argues that the many architects of the Iraq war are devouring each other, politically speaking, to avoid owning responsibility for the war and its outcome. He argues that President Bush is misleading Americans about the nature of the al-Qa'ida organization inside Iraq, and he slams Sec. Rice for not testifying before Congress over her role in the war’s lead-up as national security advisor.

WASHINGTON POST

Fred Thompson’s Iraq positions mirror those of Sen. McCain, Perry Bacon Jr. writes in his profile of the Republican presidential candidate.

In a book review Bob Woodward joins the fray over George Tenet’s memoirs. Woodward argues that the ex-CIA director’s latest allegations are very late indeed. If Tenet had reservations as strong as he claims about the use of intel in the administration’s case for the Iraq war, or about its pre-9/11 about the bin Laden network, he ought to have raised these with the president and made a public case about them, Woodward writes. On the “slam dunk” comment, which Tenet alleges White House staff slipped into Woodward’s book to pin responsibility for the Iraq war on him, Woodward responds that he had at least four sources for the comment, and that he provided Tenet with a relevant transcript. He continues, "But 10 weeks after the 'slam dunk' comment, Tenet and the CIA provided Secretary of State Colin Powell with the intelligence he used in his famous Feb. 5, 2003, presentation to the United Nations and the world, arguing that Saddam had WMD. Tenet writes that he believed it was a 'solid product.' That, of course, is a less memorable and less colorful way of saying 'slam dunk'." Powell, Woodward writes, was "hung out to dry," as the substance of the UN presentation didn't hold water. "In truth, Powell blames Tenet for hanging him out to dry," Woodward writes. "But the other critical intelligence assessment he didn't carry to the Oval Office -- surely the most critical of his career -- was his misgivings about invading Iraq . . . . (H)e never said as much to the commander in chief. And he doesn't say it to readers of his memoir," Woodward concludes.

David Broder argues in his column that Washington politics has short-circuited the popular mandate for an Iraq withdrawal expressed in November, but that this will change after Petraeus’s assessments in the fall, which will either strengthen the president, or embolden Democrats and drive Republicans away from support of the White House.

“We are living in a post-9/11 world with a a pre-9/11 fiscal policy. Without a national dialogue on how to pay our future security bill, we have no plan to replace the hardware used up or destroyed in Iraq, finance the next generation of sophisticated weaponry, care for our wounded veterans, equip our firefighters and police to respond to terrorist attacks, or strengthen our ailing intelligence system,” Robert Hormats writes in a contributed op-ed. Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs, faults the Bush administration’s reliance on supplemental appropriations, rather than opening a direct conversation with the American public over war and national security funding, which has cost half a trillion dollars since 9/11. Hormats also draws a connection to entitlement programs and the federal deficit which he says will make military funding harder to allocate and leave the country “financially vulnerable.”

USA TODAY, WALL STREET JOURNAL, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

No Sunday edition.

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