Let's start by noting that John F. Burns has a story in the paper (not on the front page, where I'd argue it should be). In "Across Baghdad, Security Is Only an Ideal," Burns break the news about the likely voter turnout in Baghdad:
In one Baghdad office, only one of 20 people who were asked said he intended to vote; the others, all citing the fear of being attacked by insurgents, either as they walk to the polls - all civilian vehicle traffic has been banned on election day - or after they return home. American commanders have included Baghdad among four Iraqi provinces where they say security issues pose a major threat to the voter turnout.
Burns highlights one Iraqi in particular (highlights throught the article) to give us a sense of the mood of the people:
When American troops entered Baghdad and overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein 21 months ago, Raad al-Naqib felt free at last.
But Dr. Naqib, a 46-year-old Sunni dentist who opposed Mr. Hussein, will not vote Sunday when Iraqis will have their first opportunity in a generation to participate in an election with no predetermined outcome. It is, he said, far too dangerous when insurgent groups have warned that they will kill anybody who approaches a polling station.
Starkly put, Baghdad is not under control, either by the Iraqi interim government or the American military.
Dr. Naqib also expresses this sentiment: "The Americans, they are part of the terrorism. They're so frightened, anything that happens to them, they start shooting right away."
That's a view that grows more common and it's one that's important the Times gives voice to so that readers can understand what is going on over there and the perceptions that some Iraqis may or may not have. My opinion, this is the strongest piece in this morning's paper.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes up the vote on Condi Rice (and the fact that she's already been sworn in -- Andrew Card supervised, the Bully Boy didn't attend).
Most laughable line from the article? First of all, it's not Stolberg, who's pretty straight forward in this article, but note this paragraph where a vote for Condi is explained:
"She does have the president's ear," said Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the New York Democrat. She said she was swayed by Ms. Rice's promises to place a priority on halting proliferation of nuclear arms and improving public diplomacy.
Even Elisabeth Bumiller does some real reporting in today's paper. (Frank in Orlando has already e-mailed regarding that article and asked that she be noted.) Look at her opening:
President Bush's opening statement at his news conference on Wednesday was striking for what it left out: any mention of the 31 Americans who died overnight in the crash of a Marine helicopter in Iraq, the largest number of American deaths in a single incident since the war began.
You'll also learn that the "on message" point this weekend (Condi's already scheduled for This Week on Sunday and John D. Negroponte & Major General David H. Patraeus will appear on other programs) is that elections won't be perfect, but they are happening. Yes, they are. After what, twenty-two months? (Check my math.) After constant postponements and delays.
David E. Sanger and Richard W. Stevenson also cover the press conference. (That's not a complaint, they're working it from another angle and differing entry points can only help increase our understanding.) They note:
He [Bush] dismissed the criticisms of his Iraq policy leveled by Democrats in Senate proceedings to confirm Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, arguing that the debate in the United States could leave the Iraqi people "wondering whether or not this nation has the will necessary to stand with them as a democracy evolves."
This echoes the point that Democracy Now! reported in a segment yesterday:
Speaking on the Senate floor, Sen. George Allen (R-VA) said his Democratic colleagues should "be careful" when criticizing Rice for making false statements about the war in Iraq lest they "diminish Dr. Rice's credibility in capitals around the world."
Strange that we're so concerned over how Condi will be "perceived," that an honest discussion might be damaging. Strange because I'm not remembering any such restraint during the presidential campaign when senators, Cheney and everyone (when Rick Perry, governor of Texas, is weighing in, the spin has reached saturation)?
Dexter Filkins attempts to nail down the helicopter crash in Iraq yesterday that killed 31 Americans. This is a story that won't be nail downed in one day (as I'm sure Filkins knows) but Filkins is exploring the crash and provides some basics worth reading.
This morning's edition isn't an A+ edition and it's not equal to the paper's first two weeks of tsunami coverage; however, it is, my opinion, a pretty strong edition. (John F. Burns' reporting may have colored my perception, true.)
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