Prewar Memo Saw Gaps

In Planning for Postwar Iraq

One month before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, three State Department bureau chiefs warned of "serious planning gaps for post-conflict public security and humanitarian assistance" in a secret memorandum prepared for a superior.

The State Department officials, who had been discussing the issues with top military officers at the Central Command, noted that the military was reluctant "to take on 'policing' roles" in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The three officials warned that "a failure to address short-term public security and humanitarian assistance concerns could result in serious human rights abuses which would undermine an otherwise successful military campaign, and our reputation internationally."

The Feb. 7, 2003, memo, addressed to Paula Dobriansky, undersecretary for democracy and global affairs, came at a time when the Pentagon was increasingly taking over control of post-invasion planning from the State Department. It reflected the growing tensions between State Department and Pentagon officials and their disparate assessments about the challenges looming in post-invasion Iraq.

The question of whether the United States planned adequately for the post-invasion occupation echoes today, as the insurgency continues to challenge U.S. policy in Iraq. Many senior State Department officials are bitter about what they see as the Pentagon's failure to take seriously their planning efforts.

The memo was one of several documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and made public by the National Security Archive, a nonprofit research group.

-- Bradley Graham

Health Care Still Poorer

For Blacks, Studies Find

Black Americans still get far fewer operations, tests, medications and other life-saving treatments than whites, despite years of efforts to erase racial disparities in health care and help African Americans live equally long and healthy lives, according to three major studies.

Blacks' health care has started to catch up to whites' in some ways, but blacks remain much less likely to undergo heart bypasses, appendectomies and other common procedures. They receive fewer mammograms and basic tests and drugs for heart disease and diabetes, and they have fallen even further behind whites in controlling those two major killers.

Studies have found that blacks and other racial minorities are much less likely than whites to receive many types of medical care. They are significantly more prone to illness, tend to experience more complications and take longer to recover when they get sick. They are more likely to succumb to their illnesses and generally die younger.

The cause of the persistent disparities has been the focus of intense research and debate. Blacks and other minorities tend to be poorer and less educated, which accounts for some of the differences. Some experts argue that blacks also tend to live in places where doctors and hospitals provide inferior care. Others suspect that cultural, or even biological, differences may also play a role. The most intense debate has centered on whether subtle racism pervades the health care system.

-- Rob Stein

CBO Expects Deficit

To Shrink to $331 Billion

The federal budget deficit will shrink this year to $331 billion from the record $412 billion last year, largely because of surging tax payments in a strong economy, the Congressional Budget Office forecast.

The CBO deficit estimate for the 2005 fiscal year, which will end Sept. 30, is slightly below the Bush administration's forecast of $333 billion, released last month. In both cases, the figures show the budget gap narrowing more quickly than expected because of a rise in individual and corporate tax revenue.

But CBO Director Douglas J. Holtz-Eakin said that much of the increase in tax revenue is likely to prove temporary.

At $331 billion, this year's deficit would be the third-largest on record. But it would mark the first decline after three years of growth. And the CBO has forecast that the deficit will keep receding, to $314 billion in fiscal 2006, which will start Oct. 1.

President Bush inherited a $128 billion budget surplus when he took office in 2001, but the black ink soon turned red as tax revenue fell because of the bursting of the stock market bubble, the recession, continued job losses and tax cuts, while federal spending rose to cover the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and other expenses.

Republicans on Capitol Hill view the CBO forecast as a vindication of the president's tax-cut policies, which they want to make permanent.

But congressional Democrats, who want to let the tax cuts expire as scheduled by the end of 2010, warned that the short-term deficit improvement should not distract attention from the looming, long-term budget problem of covering rising Social Security and Medicare costs as the baby boomers retire in the coming years.

-- Nell Henderson

Businesses Are Loath

To Pass On Energy Costs

Businesses stung by higher bills for gasoline, electricity and other items are being forced by competition to largely absorb these costs and to operate more efficiently, rather than to pass them on to consumers through higher prices.

Wholesale prices jumped twice as fast as consumer prices last month, the Labor Department said in a pair of reports last week, adding to other signs of inflation pressures in the briskly growing U.S. economy.

Retail stores, for example, are paying more to truck their merchandise and air-condition their stores. But retail clothing prices have plummeted in the past two months, while auto dealers have offered "employee discounts" to draw shoppers into showrooms.

Prices paid to manufacturers for finished goods climbed 1 percent in July, the fastest increase since October, as measured by the Labor Department's producer price index (PPI). That was double the 0.5 percent rise in the department's consumer price index.

Producers' energy costs rose 4.4 percent last month, driven by increases in the cost of gasoline, diesel fuel, electricity and natural gas. Consumers' energy costs rose less rapidly, by 3.8 percent.

-- Nell Henderson

Indonesia, Aceh Rebels

Sign Accord on 30-Year War

Indonesia signed a peace agreement with rebels in Aceh province who have fought for nearly 30 years for a separate state, lending a crucial boost to efforts at rebuilding the tsunami-battered region.

Under the accord signed Monday, the Free Aceh Movement set aside its long-standing demand for independence and agreed to immediately begin turning over its weapons to international observers, drawn mainly from the European Union. Disarmament is to be completed by year's end.

In return, the Indonesian government agreed to revise electoral laws so Acehnese can form local political parties and nominate candidates for offices at all levels of government. Indonesia will significantly scale back its security force in Aceh, estimated at 35,000 soldiers and police officers.

Both sides acknowledged that the turning point was the massive Dec. 26 tsunami, which killed at least 150,000 people in Aceh, on the northwestern tip of Sumatra island. With much of the province in ruins and foreign governments offering hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, Indonesian and rebel leaders decided to set aside the conflict for the sake of reconstruction.

-- Alan Sipress