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US Papers Saturday: Insight, Enterprise
As the U.S. Nears Iraq "Surge" -- Or Is it "Escalation"?
By EASON JORDAN 01/06/2007 02:00 AM ET
Today’s papers feature first-rate reporting – hard news, an illuminating scoop, analysis, a newsmaker profile, and a compelling enterprise report.

The New York Time provides the best hard news reporting and analysis, while the Washington Post scores with an exclusive: details from the Pentagon’s multi-thousand-page report based on the U.S. military’s probe into the U.S. Marine killings in Haditha in 2005. The Wall Street Journal steps up with a strong up-close-and-personal story headlined “How Do You Repay A Hero’s Sacrifice?”


From Washington, correspondent Michael Gordon provides insight into the appointment of David Petraeus as the top general in Iraq. Among the reasons why: Petraeus and his top deputy in Iraq, Ray Odierno, support the troop surge strategy, unlike current top Iraq general George Casey, and outgoing Centcom commander John Abizaid.

Scott Shane profiles Ryan Crocker, the diplomat nominated as the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Crocker is a widely-respected Arabic-speaker and a veteran of such hot spots as Iraq (2003), Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, and Lebanon.

David Sanger and Jeff Zeleny report on Democratic leaders in the Senate and House urging President Bush to plot a drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq, not send more troops there.

From Beirut, Hassan Fattah reports on how many Arabs now view Saddam Hussein as a martyr. A key line from the story’s second graph: “Mr. Hussein has emerged as a Sunni Arab hero who stood calm and composed as his Shiite executioners tormented and abused him.”

From Paris, Elaine Sciolino reports on President Chirac, saying “the war in Iraq has sparked upheavals that have yet to show their full effects.” Chirac says France was right to oppose the war from the outset.

From Middle Grove, New York, Fernanda Santos reports on a local woman who has spent years planting small yellow flags to symbolize each of the U.S. military personnel who have died in Iraq – now more than 3,000 flags dotting a hillside.

Columnist Maureen Dowd provides a typically snarky commentary attacking Bush, McCain and others who believe the war in Iraq can be won. She even attacks anti-war Democrats, saying “They’re predetermined to want to have it both ways: not to be blamed for the war and not to blamed for pulling the plug on the war.”


The Washington Post lumps its wide-ranging but comparatively thin Iraq-related hard news reporting into a page one story authored by Peter Baker and Robin Wright. The headline: Pelosi, Reid Urge Bush To Begin Iraq Pullout,” with this sub-headline: “President Considering Three ‘Surge’ Options.” The story also covers key Iraq-related military leadership changes (short shrift, in my view). An interesting nugget in the story: Democrats intend to ratchet up their verbal spat with Republicans about the term “surge.” Democrats say they believe the idea of sending thousands of more U.S. troops to Iraq is more accurately described as an “escalation.” The Washington Post correspondents use the two terms without attribution and interchangeably in this story (it will be interesting to see how other news organizations deal with this issue).

The scoop of the day is Josh White’s page one story headlined “Death in Haditha: Eyewitnesss Accounts in Report Indicate Marines Gunned Down Unarmed Iraqis in the Aftermath of a Roadside Bombing in 2005.” The story is rich in detail, quoting extensively from the exhaustive Pentagon report on the incident. Four Marines have been changed in the killings, and four more Marine officers have been charged with not investigating the episode with proper vigor. All the Marines have proclaimed their innocence. One defense attorney is quoted in the story as being livid that the Pentagon’s report (not designated for public distribution) fell into the hands of the Washington Post.

From Baghdad, Joshua Partlow reports Iraqi Shia leaders look forward to U.S. Ambassador Khalilzad leaving that post (he's reported to be Bush's nominee as ambassador to the U.N.) because they view Khalilzad, a Sunni, as too friendly with Iraqi Sunni leaders.


Michael Phillips reports from Eureka, California on the plight of two Marines – one killed in Iraq, one survivor of the deadly incident – and their mothers and how the surviving Marine and their families have been shaken yet brought together through tragedy. The family of the heroic dead Marine will be honored at the White House next week.

On the commentary page, there’s an editorial lambasting Cindy Sheehan as anti-American disgrace for her bizarre, extreme statements that go far beyond calling on the U.S. government to bring home all the U.S. troops from Iraq.


Dark on weekends.


Dark on weekends.


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