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Daily Column
US Papers Sun: Petraeus Reports to Congress
2nd Christian priest killed in weeks in Baghdad; New war study finds little hope
By CHRIS ALLBRITTON 04/06/2008 01:35 AM ET
Most of today’s news in the Washington Post and The New York Times are curtain raisers on this week's report by Gen. David H. Petraeus to Congress. But violence in Iraq also takes its toll, again on the country's Christians.

Over there
Stephen Farrell of the Times reports that a second senior Syrian Orthodox Priest has been killed, this time in Baghdad. Faiz Abdel -- or "Father Youssef," as he was called -- was shot dead outside his home while his wife stood next to him. He was killed while still in his religious robes, suggested he was killed solely because he was a priest. His killing has alarmed Iraq's besieged Christian population. Syrian Orthodox are the second largest Christian denomination in Iraq, and about 40 percent of them have fled since the March 2003 invasion. One mourner, Abu Noor, complained that things were better under Saddam. "I heartily believe that we were living better under the old regime," he said. "No one could threaten the Christians then." Hours before Father Youssef's killing, a bomb on a minibus exploded, killing three people and wounding 13 on Palestine Street. In Diyala, four Kurdish police officers working as guards at an oil station were kidnapped and killed.

Ernesto Londoño has the story for the Post, but calls Father Youssef an "Assyrian Orthodox" priest. The Post and Times are both wrong, actually, although the Post is way more wrong. Father Youssef was actually part of the "Syriac Orthodox Church," which is the official name of the denomination. ("Syrian Orthodox Church" is an old name.) There is no "Assyrian Orthodox Church," but there is the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East. It's a common mistake to make. In addition to the minibus bombing, the U.S. military announced it had filed assault charges against a civilian contractor accused of stabbing a colleague in Iraq. This is the first time a civilian has been charged under military law since the 2006 alteration of the law. Also, the State Department renewed the Blackwater contract, despite last year's shoot-'em-up in a public square that killed 17 Iraqis.

Michael Gordon of the Times has a full story on the charges against the civilian contractor in Iraq, Alaa Mohammad Ali, who holds Canadian and Iraqi citizenship. He was an interpreter, and he's accused of stabbing another interpreter.

Military matters
The Times's Thom Shanker reports on the growing alarm in the Pentagon about rising incidents of mental illness among troops sent repeatedly to Iraq. This is an acute problem, given the likelihood that Gen. David H. Petraeus will recommend no further troop drawdowns after the surge ends at the end of July.

Speaking of Petraeus, the Post's Michael Abramowitz reports on the close ties between the general and President George W. Bush. Everyone reading this probably knows of the two men's relationship, but Abramowitz does a good job of illuminating it for the lay reader, pointing out that Bush has bypassed several layers of military command to give Petraeus a privileged voice in the White House. Democrats complain Bush should be listening to Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen. "Not only are they General Petraeus's superiors," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., "but they have the broad view of our national security needs, including Afghanistan, and the risks posed by stretching the force too thin." But Bush doesn't want to hear that, and Petraeus is focused on Iraq, so that's the White House's approach.

Others see Bush's reliance on Petraeus as part of a larger pattern. "It is part of Bush's overall management style -- to cede responsibility to a lower level and not look carefully at critical issues himself," said Kenneth Adelman, a Reagan-era official who has parted company with such longtime friends as Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney over the war. "Originally on Iraq, it was whatever Rumsfeld wanted. Then it was whatever Jerry Bremer did," he said, referring to the former Coalition Provisional Authority chief. "And now it is whatever Petraeus wants."
These stories are all run-ups to the general's report to Congress this week.

Steven Lee Meyers of the Times also tackles the relationship between Bush and Petraeus, penning another curtain raiser. This one, however, examines the possibility of Petraeus having a political future, a la Dwight Eisenhower.

Washington doings
Robin Wright of the Post reports on a new study by the same experts who advised the Iraq Study Group. The study, she writes, concludes that "political progress is 'so slow, halting and superficial' and political fragmentation 'so pronounced' that the United States is no closer to being able to leave Iraq than it was a year ago." That's under a section called "No political solution." Given that Petraeus and others have said there's no military solution to Iraq, and this report says there's no political solution in sight, that doesn't leave much to hope for, does it?

Presidential politics
Jodi Kantor reports that Sen. John McCain puts his war views front and center in the campaign, but fails to mention that his son, Jimmy, served seven months in Iraq. The military ideals that permeate the McCain clan are still alive and well.


New York Times
Frank Rich pens another omnibus column on Iraq, politics and everything else that happened this week. He's predictably angry about most of it.

Washington Post
David Stafford, author of "Endgame 1945: The Missing Final Chapter of World War II," writes that, like Iraq, Germany was a mess, too, and that worked out OK. But there's some pretty big differences, such as the fact that Germany had a plan, enough troops and the political will to have the troops suppress looting.

Christian Science Monitor, USA Today and Wall Street Journal
No Sunday edition.


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