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Daily Column
US Papers Wednesday: Wiley the Wonder Dog
Christmas Day Carnage; Shiites Feud; Turkey Bombs; Iraq in Morocco; "Ugh"
By EASON JORDAN 12/26/2007 01:12 AM ET
After a bloody Christmas Day in Iraq, the Washington Post devotes twice as much ink to its one-time Baghdad bureau dog than to a separate Post report on "some of the worst carnage in the country in recent weeks."

Despite that dubious editorial call -- in fairness, the story of Wiley the dog fronts the Post's Style section -- the Post carries the day thanks to its superior hard news reporting and a page one enterprise report on the feuding Shiite factions headed by Moqtada al-Sadr and his U.S.-friendly rival, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.

The globe-trotting Wiley even gets a bigger bite of the Post than the important Shiite feud story -- the classic clash between reporting that matters and reporting that makes tongues wag.

The New York Times makes an unusually weak showing today (as the Post did yesterday), USA Today fronts a poll of what U.S. military families think of the war and President Bush, the Wall Street Journal antes up two Iraq reports, and the Christian Science Monitor ignores Iraq today.

Let's start with the Christmas Day bloodshed: more than two dozen Iraqis killed in two attacks north of Baghdad. At least 25 were killed in a suicide bombing near Baiji, with several others killed in a suicide bomber attack on a funeral procession for two U.S.-allied Iraqi guards in Diyala. The Post's Joshua Partlow provides the best account of the carnage. The much shorter Times report by Stephen Farrrell falls far short, although it includes a nugget missing in the Post account: Iraq's interior minister sacked Baiji's police chief after the bombing. The Post report provides important details missing from the Times story -- most notably fury among Iraqis in Diyala who believe the two U.S.-allied Iraqis were actually killed by U.S. forces. If that belief persists -- it's unclear who killed them -- this incident could complicate matters for U.S. forces in that difficult province.

The New York Times continues devoting far more attention than the Post to Turkey's attacks on Kurdish rebel PKK positions in northern Iraq. As the Times's Sebnem Arsu and Stephen Farrell report, Turkey on Tuesday claimed it air force killed more than 150 rebels and attacked more than 200 PKK targets in recent days. There's no independent account of the hostilities because Kurdish authorities have barred journalists that PKK-held areas.

Back to that page one Washington Post report on the feuding Shiite factions. The Post's Baghdad bureau chief, Sudarsan Raghavan, provides the Karbala-datelined story, which details the rift between Sadr's forces and those of U.S.-allied Hakim in their fight for control of southern Iraq. There's a history to the feud. Their fathers clashed. Hakim's forces are surging, but Sadr's gang cannot be counted out.

Now the saga of Wiley, the pet Australian shepherd of one-time Post Baghdad correspondent Ellen Knickmeyer, who pens the story. The dog criss-crossed the world with Knickmeyer, braved hell in Iraq, and then was hustled out to Oklahoma not so long ago. Shortly after Wiley made his way to the tranquility of Oklahoma, Knickmeyer received an e-mail headed "ugh" from a caretaker cousin there. He wrote that Wiley had vanished and speculated the dog had been eaten by a mountain lion or hit by a speeding car. Knickmeyer closes her essay with the whimsical hope that Wiley is "hoofing it cross-country, trying to get back home, to safety, to Baghdad."


The paper fronts a Gregg Zoroya report whose first two graphs are these:

Close family members of U.S. troops are split on whether the Iraq invasion was a mistake, and 55% disapprove of President Bush's job performance, according to USA TODAY/Gallup Polls focusing on immediate relatives of servicemembers.

"They've maxed out on the troops. You've got guys who are over there on their fourth or fifth tours. It's ridiculous," says Jeanette Knowles, 40, of Mountain Home, Idaho, whose brother, Jeff, served a tour in Iraq with the Oregon National Guard.


In a page one report, Yochi Drezean reports "the war in Iraq has given the Moroccan film industry a new shot of adrenaline." He goes on to write, "The North African country is rapidly becoming the destination of choice for Hollywood production crews looking for cities and deserts that can pass for those of Iraq -- but aren't remotely as dangerous." The report rightly points out, however, that Iraq War films thus far have been a financial flop, raising the prospect that Morocco's film-making boom will go bust.

Yochi Dreazen teams with Jay Solomon to report on the State Department and Pentagon spat over how much credit Iran deserves for recent security improvements in Iraq. As reported in other major U.S. papers in previous days, State gives much credit to the Iranian leadership, with the Pentagon taking a more cautious approach.




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