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Daily Column
US Papers Monday: A Grim Milestone
3,000th U.S. Military Death Amid Fuss About Saddam's Hanging
By EASON JORDAN 01/01/2007 01:32 AM ET
Must-read, heartbreaking stories are showcased in the New York Times and Washington Post as Americans mark the 3,000th U.S. military service member death in Iraq. The papers also feature perspective and details on the tragic milestone.

The other Iraq story receiving prominent coverage: the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's execution.

On this New Year's Day, there's no print edition of USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, or the Christian Science Monitor.

NEW YORK TIMES

Lizettte Alvarez and Andrew Lehren provide a special report on the 3,000 U.S. service member deaths in Iraq. They provide brief profiles of several of those killed, and they note the death toll includes 91 self-inflicted wounds and hundreds of accidents. The most enlightening stats in the story: while 30 percent of those wounded in World War Two died from their wounds, and 24 percent did so in Vietnam, the percentage of wounded in Iraq who went on to die from those wounds is much smaller - 9 percent. That's mostly because of better body and vehicle armor and because wounded troops on average receive medical treatment far faster than they did in previous conflicts.

Surely many readers will be moved to tears by New York Times correspondent Dana Canedy's account of her fiancée's October 14 death in Iraq and the 200-page journal he left behind for their son, Jordan, who was seven months old when First Sgt. Charles Monroe Johnson was killed. Canedy quotes extensively from the journal.

From Baghdad, John Burns and Marc Santora provide a fascinating account of the clashes between U.S. officials and Iraqi leaders regarding the Iraqi leadership's rush to execute Saddam Hussein. Iraqi officials are said to have rebuffed repeated pleas from U.S. diplomats to delay the execution until after the Muslim Eid holiday. This story also includes details of Saddam Hussein's body being moved to his hometown near Tikrit.

Also from Baghdad, Sabrina Tavernise reports on the outrage among many Sunnis who view Saddam's execution as sloppy, rushed victor's justice. This story and the Burns-Santora report make clear that the way in which the execution was carried out, with such haste to kill Saddam during a religious holiday and Shia witnesses taunting Saddam in his noose, will heighten rather than alleviate sectarian tension, at least in the near-term.

TV critic Bill Carter writes of U.S. TV news executives struggling with whether and how to televise the grainy, uncensored cellphone-shot video of Saddam's actual execution. No U.S. TV network aired the video in its entirety, while it could be found in full on dozens of Web sites.

WASHINGTON POST

From Baghdad, Nancy Trejos reports on the U.S. death toll in Iraq reaching 3,000. The far more detailed NY Times story is a much better and more enlightening read.

The Washington Post provides a moving up-close-and-personal story on page one headlined: "Cold Ground for a Summer of Love, Arlington Shelters the Memories of a Young Virginia Marine's Romance." It's the story of teen lovers, Kira Wolf and Colin Joseph Wolfe, whose relationship was cut short when he was killed in Iraq and buried at Arlington Cemetery on September 11. She visits his grave often. Sandhya Somashekhar writes the story.

From Baghdad, Sudarasan Raghavan reports on mourners flocking to Saddam Hussein's coffin in his home village near Tikrit. Saddam loyalists vowed vengeance.

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