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US Papers Tue: Over 30 Killed in Iraq Bombings
Gates in Iraq: Ex GOP House Leader says Cheney linked Hussein and al-Qaeda
By DANIEL W. SMITH 09/16/2008 02:00 AM ET
Nothing kills Iraq coverage like bad news from Wall Street. Still, there’s Gates in Iraq for Petraeus’ departure, some opinions, and a new book makes claims about VP Dick Cheney perhaps bending the truth a little to a congressional leader that was wavering on whether or not to support the invasion of Iraq.

From Baghdad
Ernesto Londoño for the Washington Post reports that more than 30 people were killed in bombings in Iraq on Monday, including one in the city of Balad Ruz in Diyala province, in which a female suicide bomber attacked policemen gathered to celebrate the release of a fellow officer from an American detention facility, Iraqi officials said. At least 20 people were killed and 30 injured in the bombing, according to Lt. Gen. Abdel-Karim al-Rubaie, the commander of military operations in the province. "Despite the fact that a lot of police officers were invited, I notice that there were no security procedures to search the guests," said an Iraqi Red Crescent employee who was wounded in the explosion. Twin bombings near Baghdad’s main passport office killed at least 12 people, and wounded at least 40, including at least 22 soldiers. On Sunday night, an Iraqi policemen was among two killed outside a popular Baghdad ice cream shop.
Gen. Mizher Mishaher, the commander of the Iraqi army's 11th division, said his troops were targeted Monday while they were on patrol. "They try to challenge us with these criminal attacks but it will only increase our insistence to abolish them," Mishaher said. He said insurgents have stepped up attacks against his troops because they have been successful in running insurgents out of havens in Baghdad.
...The blasts occurred seconds apart, according to a Washington Post employee who was trying to renew his passport at the time. Shortly after the explosions, Iraqi soldiers began shooting in the air to dispel the crowd gathered at the site because they feared a third explosion might take place.
Londoño also makes brief mention of Gen. Petraeus’ farewell letter to Iraqi troops, as he officially moves on to Central Command.

The New York Times’ Thom Shanker and Stephen Farrell cover Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arriving in Iraq to meet Iraqi officials and preside over Tuesday’s change-of-command ceremony, as Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno takes over from Gen. David H. Petraeus as the senior American officer in Iraq. General Petraeus “has played a historic role” in his “translation of a great strategy into a great success in very difficult circumstances,” Mr. Gates said, and described the challenge of the months ahead, saying the central question was “how do we preserve the gains that have already been achieved, and expand upon them, even as the numbers of U.S. forces are shrinking?”
On the eve of the formal change-of-command ceremony, Mr. Gates hosted a dinner Monday night during which he presented General Petraeus with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal and, in a surprise, presented Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador here, with the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Civilian Service, the Pentagon’s top honor for someone not in uniform. Mr. Gates joked that the general and the ambassador played “good cop, bad cop” — but alternating the roles — and he praised them for having forged the strongest, most successful diplomatic-military working relationship in more than a generation. Speaking before the blasts in Baghdad and Diyala, General Petraeus said the average number of attacks a day was down to 25 from 180 at the height of the violence in June 2007, and praised the role of Iraqi and American-led coalition forces during his time in command.
“I don’t use words like victory or defeat,” he said. “In fact, I am a realist, not an optimist or a pessimist. And the reality is that there has been significant progress but there are still serious challenges.” Among them are the dissolution of Awakening councils, or “Sons of Iraq”, the U.S.-backed fighters that are credited with breaking the back of many Sunni insurgent groups in much of Iraq. On Oct. 1, funding and control of Awakening forces will begin to be switched to the Iraqi government.
Many of the groups are filled with former Sunni insurgents who are now on the American payroll, and some of their leaders are unhappy at the Shiite-led government’s plans to absorb only around 20 percent of them into the police and army, and the remainder into other programs. Asked if 20 percent was enough to satisfy the Sunni groups, General Petraeus said: “Clearly it depends on what is done for the other 80 percent.” He said that Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki had given a commitment to him and other American commanders “that the government of Iraq will honor the Sons of Iraq and ensure that it recognizes appropriately the services that they have provided to Iraq in the fight against extremism.” Speaking at a podium alongside General Petraeus, Iraq’s defense minister, Abdul-Kader Jassem al-Obeidi, insisted that the Iraqi government was working to move the Sons of Iraq into the government system “gradually.”
Also included is a basic explanation of the recent bombings.

Stateside
Jeff Leen of the Washington Post reports that, according to a new book by Washington Post investigative reporter Barton Gellman, a GOP congressional leader who was wavering on giving President Bush the authority to wage war in late 2002 said Vice President Cheney misled him by saying that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had direct personal ties to al-Qaeda terrorists and was making rapid progress toward a suitcase nuclear weapon. Could Dick Cheney have really misrepresented the threat to America in the events that led to the invasion of Iraq?(*insert sarcastic remark here)
Cheney's assertions, described by former House majority leader Richard K. Armey (Tex.), came in a highly classified one-on-one briefing in Room H-208, the vice president's hideaway office in the Capitol. The threat Cheney described went far beyond public statements that have been criticized for relying on "cherry-picked" intelligence of unknown reliability. There was no intelligence to support the vice president's private assertions, Gellman reports, and they "crossed so far beyond the known universe of fact that they were simply without foundation." Armey had spoken out against the coming war, and his opposition gave cover to Democrats who feared the political costs of appearing to be weak. Armey reversed his position after Cheney told him, he said, that the threat from Iraq was actually " more imminent than we want to portray to the public at large." Cheney said, according to Armey, that Iraq's "ability to miniaturize weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear," had been "substantially refined since the first Gulf War," and would soon result in "packages that could be moved even by ground personnel." Cheney linked that threat to Hussein's alleged ties to al-Qaeda, Armey said, explaining that "we now know they have the ability to develop these weapons in a very portable fashion, and they have a delivery system in their relationship with organizations such as al-Qaeda."
"Did Dick Cheney . . . purposely tell me things he knew to be untrue?" Armey asked. "I seriously feel that may be the case. . . . Had I known or believed then what I believe now, I would have publicly opposed resolution right to the bitter end, and I believe I might have stopped it from happening."

Opinion
Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt gives a good deal of credit for President Bush’s decision to order the “surge” to his national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley. He begins by writing “It's easy to forget the utter hopelessness that had settled on Washington with regard to Iraq less than two years ago,” and sets the stage for a very unpopular decision which Hadley began pushing for.
With the State and Defense departments opposed, Congress in Democratic hands, and the public skeptical of anything Bush would say on Iraq, he realized the limits of the president's power. A decree from the White House that was seen as directly opposing Pentagon wishes would undermine morale, confuse the country and fail in implementation. So Hadley patiently worked the interagency system, the tedious task forces and review groups, to garner at least the appearance of consensus. He didn't seek credit and in fact tried not to be viewed as an advocate of any one idea. But he made sure that the one idea that counted would not get quashed. "You have got to give the president the option of a surge in forces," he told an interagency task force in November 2006, as Woodward recounts. "You can all take your positions for or against or in between, but you have to present him that as an option."
Wall Street Journal “Main Street” columnist William McGurn tries to revive the debate about whether or not Iraq was ever in a “civil war”, the idea being that, since security has improved, it couldn’t have been. He gloats thusly...
If the editors of the New York Times changed the paper's line on Iraq and no one called them on it, would it make a noise? Like the proverbial tree falling in an empty forest? Something of the kind seems to have happened to the Times use of "civil war" to describe the conflict in Iraq. In the fall of 2006, the Times began insisting Iraq was in a civil war. And in the year that followed, the paper's editorials routinely castigated George W. Bush for refusing to acknowledge it.
He finishes with “The fact is, though some of its columnists call Iraq a civil war, the Times hasn't run an editorial saying so since last November. Could that editorial silence be the Gray Lady's way of admitting a mistake? If I were the president, I think I'd take that as a ‘yes.’”

Iraq on the Stage
The New York Times offers a review by Charles Isherwood “Beast”, a new play about U.S. veterans, wounded in Iraq and on their way home from a military hospital in Germany. Isherwood finds it effective on some counts, but falling a little short, due to the focus on politics, instead of people.
Ben (the main character) is presumably meant to be some sort of supernatural manifestation of the collective psyche of the soldiers who have suffered and died in the Iraq war. But a real man grappling with the painful challenges of reintegrating into society after enduring a terrible ordeal would more powerfully illustrate the cost of the war.

Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, no Iraq coverage.

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