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US Papers Tue: 5 G.I.s killed in Baghdad Blast
Suicide bomber walked right up to them; Cheney goes to MidEast to promote peace
By CHRIS ALLBRITTON 03/11/2008 01:38 AM ET
The killing of five American soldiers in Baghdad by a suicide bomber leads Iraq coverage today. Contractors return to the news with Blackwater and KBR in hot water again, and the Veep is going to the Middle East on a ... peace mission?

Over there
The Washington Post's Joshua Partlow reports on the five soldiers who were killed in a suicide attack in Monsour in Baghdad. The story starts out strong, setting the scene, in which soldiers stood among the mundane. Five were killed and three others wounded. The bombing also killed two bystanders, and wounded an Iraqi interpreter and four civilians. It was the deadliest day for Americans in Baghdad in six months, and the deadliest in Iraq since Jan. 28. Witnesses said the soldiers stood around for longer than usual -- almost an hour -- giving the suicide bomber time to get close to them. What's disturbing is that more and more attackers are using suicide vests. U.S. commanders are questioning why the soldiers were there and for so long. "Everyone is pretty mystified what that many guys were doing dismounted in that area," an official said. And while suicide vests have long been the provinces of foreign jihadis, more Iraqis are using the tactic now, too. Elsewhere, a car bomb exploded outside the Sulamaniyah Palace in Sulamaniyah, Kurdistan, a breach of security in the normally placid area. One person was killed and 29 wounded. Another suicide bombing occurred in Diyala province, killing Ghadhban al-Karkhi, an Awakening leader and his 5-year-old niece. And a second bombing in the province rocked Muqdadiyah, killing two people and injuring 20.

Erica Goode and Richard A. Oppel Jr. have the story for The New York Times, with gruesome detail from a shopkeeper who chatted with the soldiers just moments before the bomber struck. More witness accounts show the soldiers allowed Iraqis to come right up to them to chat, a change in the normal force protection posture. In Basra, gunmen killed Dr. Khalid Nasir al-Mayah, one of only two psychiatrists left in the region.

The Wall Street Journal's John D. McKinnon reports that Vice President Dick Cheney will travel to the Middle East to -- get this -- push for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Seriously? Cheney? I guess only Nixon could go to China, but still. ... Anyway, he's also in the region as a show of support to Iraq's government. There are a lot of unanswered questions about this trip. Why now? Why Cheney? What's the real goal? In the very last graph, McKinnon reports that Cheney, "a former oil-company executive," will also push Saudi Arabia for an increase in oil production. Hmmm.

Contractor contretemps
Dana Hedgpeth of the Post picks up the story of the KBR water that sickened soldiers at Camp Q-West about 180 miles north of Baghdad.

Likewise, the Post's Karen DeYoung reports that the Blackwater investigation broadened yesterday as the House Oversight Committee called for a wide-ranging federal inquiry into the company's hiring practices. Turns out that Blackwater classifies all its workers as "independent contractors," allowing it to obtain $144 million in contracts set aside for small business and avoid paying as much as $50 million in withholding taxes.

IN OTHER COVERAGE

New York Times
John F. Burns reports that the cost for keeping British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost twice what it did last year, despite there being fewer troops in Iraq? Why? Combat bonuses and new armored vehicles designed to combat IEDs. This year's costs will be $6.7 billion.

Glenn Zorpette, the executive editor of I.E.E.E. Spectrum, the magazine of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, reports that electricity is still scarce in Iraq because the ministries of Oil and Electricity can't play nicely together. More than $6 billion has been spent on rebuilding Iraq's power capability, but it's still producing only 500MW a day more than it was shortly after reconstruction started five years ago. What gives? The Electricity Ministry has to beg for whatever oil to run its generators the Oil Ministry can spare. But the Oil Ministry wants to export as much as possible, since that's Iraq's revenue stream. Anything consumed domestically and not exported is considered money wasted. So the Electricity Ministry has to make do with scraps or buy from Kuwait. There's a lot of data in this op-ed and it's well worth a read.

USA Today
Michael O'Hanlon, chief Iraq analyst for the Brookings Institution, writes for the op-ed page that Democrats -- and Americans in general -- don't know how far Iraq has come in the last 12 months.

Washington Post
Speaking of people not know how well things are going, regular columnist Eugene Robinson writes that Iraq is getting worse, not better, as violence surges in the last few months.

Christian Science Monitor
No Iraq coverage today.

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