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US Papers Tue: 43 Killed in Karbala Bombing
Veep hails 'success' of war effort; Campaigns sharpen attacks over anniversary
By CHRIS ALLBRITTON 03/18/2008 01:27 AM ET
Cheney's in Baghdad! And death stalks Karbala. The New York Times and the Washington Post both compare and contrast the boneheaded comments by Cheney with the body count in Karbala, but the Post tops the coverage with subtle snark.

Over there
While Vice President Dick Cheney hailed the "phenomenal" security improvements in Iraq, rescue workers and wailing family members picked up body parts in Karbala, where a bombing killed 43 people and wounded 73, reports Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Qais Mizher of the Times. Whether the attack was a suicide bomber or a hidden bomb is in dispute. North of Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed two American soldiers. While violence has dropped, it's still at about 2005 levels (which is to say it's still very, very violent) and an average of one American troop a day is dying. Many more Iraqis are still dying. Cheney said a further drawdown in troop levels after the surge ends this summer is unlikely.

The Post's Joshua Partlow and Peter Baker lead with Cheney's visit and his pronouncements of success, and they throw in one of the veep's patented reality-denying assertions that Iraq and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda were linked before the war even though a Pentagon-sponsored report says there was no operational link. Hey, he says things are going great in Iraq on the day of the worst bombing in Karbala in more than a year. Must be more of those "last throes."

Reporting from the Persian stronghold next door, the Christian Science Monitor's Scott Peterson argues that for Iran, Iraq is a two-edged sword. Yes, Iran has emerged more powerful because of the removal of its main nemesis, Saddam Hussein, but the U.S. is going to keep thousands of troops in Iraq for years to come, he writes. That may give Iran a bit of pause sometimes, but how Peterson says it's a two-edged sword is never quite made clear.

Home front
Gregg Zoroya of USA Today reports that the Pentagon delayed scanning for veterans from Iraq for mild brain injuries because it didn't want them to blame vague illnesses on the still-mysterious effects of exposure to bomb blasts. In short, it doesn't want another Gulf War Syndrome controversy on its hands.

The Times' Adam Nagourney reports that all three presidential contenders used the fifth anniversary of the war to highlight their differences, indicating Iraq will be a major issue in the campaign this fall. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., was the most aggressive considering her 2002 vote authorizing the war, renewing her pledge to begin withdrawing troops within 60 days of becoming president. She also attacked Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., for being inconsistent on the war. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has long supported both the war and the surge strategy, said Clinton's suggestion was a surrender to al Qaeda. Obama fought back, questioning the judgment of both McCain and Clinton for supporting the war in the first place.

Antiwar protestors will disrupt Washington's daily life with demonstrations against the war this week, reports Michael E. Ruane of the Post.

Washington doings
Yochi J. Dreazen and John D. McKinnon of the Wall Street Journal report that Pentagon commanders are assessing whether security in Iraq can be maintained with fewer troops. The Journalistas then go over well-trod earth on worries about security gains and desires by military commanders to keep the troops coming home in order to rebuild the military's capacity. The White House and Gen. David H. Petraeus continue to focus on Iraq to the detriment of other trouble-spots, trying to keep as many troops in Iraq as possible for as long as possible.

IN OTHER COVERAGE

Christian Science Monitor
Peter Grier talks to some experts who predict (or "guess") how the Iraq war will end. One scenario says Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds live in a single state while uneasily sharing power and oil wealth. Another says Iraq splinters and savage sectarian violence kills a whole lot of people.

USA Today
USA Today's editorial page says the debate on Iraq five years after the invasion is shallow.

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