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Daily Column
US Papers Fri: Iraq Captains Own Their Missions
But the military is losing a generation of young leaders; Grim mark approaches
By CHRIS ALLBRITTON 03/21/2008 01:44 AM ET
After yesterday's massive newsgasm on Iraq, today's is a little lighter. But no one takes the day off. (That's presumably for Easter weekend.) No great scoops or breaking news, but some good enterprise from The New York Times on the role of Army and Marine captains in the war, and a package from USA Today on U.S. casualties.

Over there
Captains in Iraq are masters of all they're assigned, calling down air strikes one day, distributing millions in contracts the next, reports the Times's Michael Kamber. These captains are the "linchpins" for success in Iraq, the military believes, but it's had a hard time keeping them -- as has been widely reported. They're tired of fighting and corporate America is snatching them up for their leadership skills. It's a good overview of the challenges facing the captains and the military hoping to hold on to them.

USA Today's Jim Michaels reports that a growing number of foreign fighters are leaving Iraq, at least according to the U.S. military.

Home front
Amy Shipley of the Washington Post reports on Melissa Stockwell, a vet from Iraq who lost much of her left leg to a roadside bomb four years ago. Now she's training for the Paralympic Games, a global competition for athletes with disabilities that takes place immediately after the Olympic Games. She's looking to add a gold or a silver medal to her Purple Heart and bronze star. She plans to compete in the 50-, 100- and 400-meter freestyle swimming and the 100 butterfly.

Rick Hamson and Paul Overberg of USA Today analyze the statistics behind the almost 4,000 American dead in Iraq, finding that 9 percent were officers, the most common age was 21, three-quarters were non-Hispanic white and almost one in five died from "non-hostile causes." Kudos to the reporters for noting that the 3,999th or the 4,001st deaths are no less meaningful, but that the 4,000 number is just a "good round number people can grab hold of."

But then Hampson ruins it by wondering who might be the 4,000th troop killed and discussing how difficult it is to determine that. If the 4,000th death is no more meaningful than the 4,001st, why concern with who it is? Isn't it enough to hope it doesn't happen at all? And dread its occurrence?

The Christian Science Monitor's Jill Carroll finds two veterans of the same Marine platoon who have mustered out and have followed very different paths. It's a very human story, but unfortunately, it's a bit one-sided. One of the veterans, Travis Pinn, was practically absent from a story about "two paths" of a couple of Marine buddies.

Washington doings
The Times's Jeff Zeleny and Michael Cooper report that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., blamed the fragile U.S. economy on "careless and incompetent execution" of the Iraq war, saying the trickle-down effects of the conflict were hurting voters. "When you're spending over $50 to fill up your car because the price of oil is four times what it was before Iraq, you're paying a price for this war," said Obama. It's smart campaigning to link the economy -- which has become the No. 1 concern among voters -- to the war, the opposition to which has been Obama's main claim to leadership.

The Wall Street Journal's Jess Brevin reports that two Americans imprisoned in Baghdad are fighting to avoid being turned over to the Iraqi government for trial of alleged kidnapping and insurgent activity. The two men, U.S. citizens, have asked that U.S. courts halt the transfer, but the Bush administration says they're held by a United Nations-mandated forces exempt from American court jurisdiction and not the U.S. government. What a crock of an argument.

IN OTHER COVERAGE

New York Times
One thing missed in the tidal wave of coverage yesterday was the very good interactive timeline on the war's progression.

USA Today
James Key, a U.S. Army chaplain, writes of the number of young men who have come to him in Iraq contemplating suicide. None followed through, thankfully, and Key uses his moral position to argue that the best way to combat mental anguish that can lead to taking one's life is to "bring more soldiers home from the war zones so that they can reconnect with the most stabilizing force in their lives: their families."

Wall Street Journal
Karl Rove writes for the Journal's op-ed page that Democrats are still weak on national security.

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