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Daily Column
US Papers Thursday: Arrest, Appointment
Giving Birth in Iraq; Saddam's Last Poem; U.S. Debate Cont.
By SETH SMITH 01/04/2007 01:42 AM ET
The arrest of a guard that allegedly shot footage of Saddam Hussein's execution moves that story forward today. The NYT, continuing to dominate coverage of the story, has an Iraqi officials claiming, counterfactually, that “What has happened is not an insult or degradation,” and “There was no rush,” in attempts at damage control. The Times also says that it erred in reporting yesterday that Mowaffaq Al Rubiae was one of two people in the execution chamber with a cell phone, and that Al Rubiae did not in fact have a phone at the time. The article also raises the possibility that a guard is being forced into the role of fall guy. The WP has more on the controversy and dueling accounts from high-level Iraqi officials. USA Today has a straight report that covers little or no new ground.

The days other big story is Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte being shifted to deputy secretary of state as part of the U.S. government's overhaul of Iraq policy. Negroponte served as ambassador to Iraq June 2004-February 2005, and is expected to concentrate on Iraq policy at State. The NYT account focuses on the shift from DNI to State, with quotes from lawmakers concerned that an expected post-9/11 intelligence overhaul would falter. The WP plays the angle of Negroponte's about-face in taking the job after denying he planned to do so, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's attempts to recruit him. USA Today focuses on anger about the position of DNI itself, with policymakers complaining that it has done little to streamline intelligence. The WSJ offers a short account with no additional details.


Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes about the White House's refusal to condemn the Iraqi government's conduct in the execution of Saddam Hussein. The White House decided that the execution did not “rise to the level of a presidential comment."

John F. Burns and Marc Santora write about a final poem written by Hussein in the days leading up to his execution. In the poem, Hussein portrays himself as a martyr and berates the occupation and Iraq's new ruling class.

Jeff Zeleny has a story about supposed splits in the Senate Democratic caucus, with some considering support for a short-term increase in troops. However, he found only one Senator, Carl Levin, to go on the record with very conditional support.

An unsigned editorial condemns the way Hussein was treated in the moments before his death. The editorial faults the Iraqi and U.S. governments for creating the conditions leading up to the execution, albeit for different reasons.

Guest columnist Brent Scowcroft creates a nightmare scenario of what a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would bring.To avert such dire consequences, Scowcroft recommends greater engagement with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, peeling Syria away from Iran, and an increase in troops in Iraq.


Nancy Trejos writes a devastating account of the difficulties surrounding childbirth in today's Iraq, through the lens of Noor Ibrahim, an expectant mother whose baby was stillborn. Doctors leaving the country, unceasing violence and hospital closures have all contributed to a persistent sense of doom.

Jim Hoagland has a column questioning whether the current Iraqi government has the ability to maintain order countrywide if it could not maintain a semblance of decorum at Hussein's execution. To stop the situation from further deteriorating, Hoagland proposes setting " radical political goals." The one such goal offered is turning over the Green Zone to the Iraqi government.


William Welch reports on countrywide commemorations of the 3,000th U.S. death in Iraq, primarily by anti-war activists.


See introduction.




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