USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and the Christian Science Monitor are shuttered for the holiday (surprisingly, the Monitor's December 26 print edition is already online, and there's nothing on Iraq in it).
So let's get right to the 365-day-a-year workhorse papers.
The best writing of the day comes in a brief dispatch from New York Times correspondent Damien Cave, who provides a strong narrative on the somber Christmas Eve service at Baghdad's Sacred Heart Church. Most of Iraq's Christians have fled the country, but some of the few who remain turned out for the service. The colorful report is just right for this Christmas Day. An excerpt:
Yet the priest, the Rev. Thaer al-Sheik, soon turned to more local themes. He talked about the psychological impact of violence, kidnapping and a lack of work. He condemned hate. He denounced revenge.Bravo. This 646-word report is proof thousands are words are not required to make a compelling read.
“We must practice being humane to each other,” he said. “Living as a Christian today is difficult.”
A few moments later he asked, “If the angel Gabriel comes today and says Jesus Christ is reborn, what do we do? Do we clap or sing?”
His parish, quiet and somber — with the drab faces of a funeral, not a Mass on Christmas Eve — took the question seriously. And responded.
“We ask him for forgiveness,” said a woman, her head covered by a black scarf. Her voice was just loud enough for everyone to hear.
Then another woman raised her voice. “We ask for peace,” she said.
Father Sheik looked disappointed. “We are always like beggars, asking God for this or that,” he said. “We shouldn’t be this way. First, we should thank God for giving us Jesus Christ. He would say, ‘I came to live among you. I want to teach you how to be compassionate. I want to teach you how to be more humane.’”
Also from Baghdad, the Times's Stephen Farrell and Damien Cave report that U.S. officials doubt Turkey's claim that it bombed Kurdish rebel bases in northern Iraq Sunday. This doubt is based on anonymous U.S. officials saying any such attack is supposed to be preceded by an official Turkish phone call to the U.S. embassy in Ankara. One anonymous U.S. official is quoted as saying since there was no call, the attack must not have happened. That's a leap of faith, in my view. What's the significance of the report, anyway, when there's no doubt Turkey has attacked PKK forces in northern Iraq several times recently? Okay, it's time for me to get out of ba-humbug mode.
The Times's Cara Buckley provides a snappy report on the motor scooter craze in Baghdad. Iraqis buy the scooters to speed their way through otherwise gridlocked traffic and to avoid drawing attention to themselves at checkpoints and among coalition forces and insurgents.
There is one Iraq story on the Web site of the Post, which for some reason has yet to post its full Tuesday edition online. From Baghdad, Joshua Partlow and Saad Sarhan report kidnappers nabbed 13 Iraqi Shia civilians from a minibus in Diyala province -- a once-routine occurrence that's now increasingly rare as violence ebbs in Iraq. Iraqi police blame al Qaeda in Iraq. Partlow and Sarhan's round-up also notes a controversy over the naming of a new police chief in Babil province. Finally, it's noted a car bomb killed two people near the Green Zone. I can't help but question whether such bland round-ups are worthy of publication. We expect and usually get better from the Post, which has a top-notch reporting team in Baghdad.
Although not an Iraq-focused report, I urge you to read the Post's story headed "The U.N. insignia emerges as a global target for al Qaeda attacks." Colum Lynch's report examines al Qaeda's determination to strike U.N. targets, including in Iraq, and its success in doing so. The U.N. is fortifying its branches around the world, but has refused thus far to adapt the bunker mentality of U.S. outposts. Will these attacks slow the U.N's plans to up its presence in Iraq?
I wish you and yours a merry Christmas.