The Times leads with Michael R. Gordon's story on an Army history to be made public tomorrow that faults Gen. Tommy Franks and the Pentagon for the poor planning around the Iraq occupation. The nearly 700-page account says Franks revamped the command in Baghdad because he assumed major fighting was over and felt "a short-staffed headquarters led by a newly promoted three-star general" would be sufficient. This revamping was done over the objections of the Army's vice chief of staff. This is a big report from the Army's Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, and it's based on 200 interviews conducted by military historians. It's going to be very hard for war boosters to refute this, although in all probability, they probably won't even bother. Since 2006 the likes of Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, L. Paul Bremer III et al., have decided the war's problems aren't their fault and blame everyone else for the "planning" that went into the war.
Josh White has the story for the Post, and notes the report can be downloaded from the Army's Combined Arms Center's Web site. (Warning: big honkin' PDF file)
Ernesto Londoño and Saad Sarhan of the Post report that Iraqis in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's home town of Hindiyah are calling for an investigation into an American raid that may have killed a relative of the prime minister. Oops! The reported raid went down in Karbala province, which has been handed over to Iraqi security forces, but the Iraqis say the Americans didn't consult with the Iraqis before staging the assault. The Americans have no comment. This incident might hinder negotiations on the security agreement between the two countries.
Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for a Thursday attack in Anbar province that killed 20 Iraqis and three marines, reports the Times's Alissa J. Rubin. Elsewhere, 25 bodies were found near Lake Tharthar in Samarra, near an area of active AQI cells. Near Hilla, police captured three fuel tankers with 29 tons of hydrochloric acid, which is used to make explosives.
Andrew E. Kramer of the Times has a great story on Iraq's Paralympics team, which is a better team than the country's Olympics roster. With three wars in two decades, Iraq, unfortunately, has a lot of disabled people. But they love sports and they're filling out Iraq's team list. The determination these men and women show is inspiring.
Due to an editing error (and a late posting), this column missed yesterday's New York Times roundup from Baghdad. I regret the error.
The Post's Dan Balz and Anne E. Kornblut report that Sen. Barack Obama is looking to make a Middle East trip soon, which might include Iraq and Afghanistan. The two reporters note that Obama has shifted his rhetoric from emphasizing an urgent withdrawal to a "responsible" withdrawal.
Jeff Zeleny of the Times reports Obama's itinerary will include Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and Britain, and that Iraq and Afghanistan will get a separate trip some other time.
IN OTHER COVERAGE
New York Times
Peter S. Goodman has a meaty piece on those non-competitive Iraq oil contracts to ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Total -- all countries that had been kicked out of Iraq by Saddam Hussein. He doesn't really break much new ground on this story, except to tell an anecdote that paints some American troops in a very bad light, but he rounds up the issue and admits the whole thing sure looks shady from an outsider's perspective.
Andrew Carroll, the editor of "Operation Homecoming," reviews "Final Salute: a Story of Unfinished Lives" by Jim Sheeler. Sheeler evolved the book out of his Pulitzer-winning coverage of the families of fallen soldiers for the Rocky Mountain News. Carroll writes approvingly of Sheeler's book, which has been a long time coming.
All of these moments that Sheeler has so meticulously gathered act as a powerful counterpoint to the impersonal statistics and verbal camouflage of military euphemisms that sanitize the true horror of war and dehumanize those who serve. Sheeler reminds us that every one of them is distinct, imperfect and real.
Christian Science Monitor, USA Today and Wall Street Journal
No Sunday editions.