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Daily Column
U.S. Papers Saturday: "Long Haul"
Gates to Brief Bush; Washington Post Shines, Slips
By EASON JORDAN 12/23/2006 01:22 AM ET
The Washington Post impresses and disappoints today.

There's a beautifully-written profile of Monica Beltran, who as a Virginia teen "party girl" enlisted in the Army, became a war hero in Iraq, saw an Army buddy die, was awarded a Purple Heart, and returned home a super-serious and focused adult. The story, penned by Donna St. George, deserves its page one placement.

Disappointing: the Post, at least online, overlooks a seemingly significant story. With Defense Secretary Robert Gates just back from his Iraq fact-finding tour and readying to brief President Bush at Camp David this morning, it's mystifying why the Post makes no mention of Gates or the big meeting.

In the NY Times, correspondents David Cloud and John O'Neill wrap up Gates's Iraq visit, quoting him as saying U.S. and Iraqi officials agreed that success "will only be achieved with a joint effort with the Iraqis taking the lead." While Gates said things in Iraq are difficult but moving in a positive direction, he added, "But it's still going to be a long haul."

Other Iraq coverage today (there's no much):


Sabrina Tavernise would have been better headlined "Shiites Cleansing Baghdad of Sunnis." The story, compelling in many ways, would have been better if blunter. This is a clear case of sectarian cleansing - arguably a war crime -- and the Iraqi government and U.S. authorities don't seem to be doing anything meaningful to try to stop it.


Karen Young reports on al Qaeda in Iraq boasting of gains in that country, with the group's leader purportedly stating in an 18-minute audiotape that 70% of Sunni tribal sheikhs and several insurgent groups have pledged allegiance to what the Al Qaeda in Iraq leader branded the Islamic State of Iraq, whose leader is the same man whose voice is supposedly on the tape: Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. He went on to invite Saddam-era officers and troops to join his movement, and he gave an ultimatum to U.S. forces: leave Iraq in 30 days (with a guarantee of safe passage) and leave your weapons and munitions behind, or else.


Dark Saturdays and Sundays.


Correspondent Gerald Seib explains why Bush is waiting until January to announce his Iraq game plan. In short, it's complicated, it's hugely important, not everyone agrees, and there's a new defense secretary who must assess things and chime in.


Dark Saturdays and Sundays.


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