Abu Grim

Abu Grim

Abu Grim

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 4 2004 4:43 AM

Abu Grim

The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal worldwide news box, and USA Today lead with the administrative reprimands given to seven supervisors at Abu Ghraib prison, where abuse seems to have been encouraged by military and private interrogators. The move essentially ends the soldiers' careers. The Los Angeles Times leads with the record fund-raising pace for the presidential race. About $400 million has been raised so far, and the $1 billion mark will probably be broken by the elections. Already 700,000 more individuals have donated to the campaigns compared to the entire 2000 race. The New York Times leads with news that once high-flying investment banker Frank Quattrone was convicted on charges of obstructing justice. Quattrone, who the NYT dubs "perhaps the most prominent banker in Silicon Valley during the 1990's," had his first trial end in a hung verdict. Investigators had suspected Quattrone and his bank of soliciting kickbacks for access to IPOs, and he was caught sending an e-mail to his employees stating, "Clean up those files."

The officers at Abu Ghraib aren't facing criminal charges. "They did not know or participate in any crimes," said one unnamed American officer in Baghdad. "Their responsibility is to set the standards in the organization. They should have known, but they did not."

The papers continue to mine the now infamous internal Army report first uncovered by TheNew Yorker. The Post notices that the report states a military team from Guantanamo Bay visited Abu Ghraib last year and recommended that the untrained military guards serve as "enablers" for interrogations.  

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The Post says that after the internal report was finished two months ago, the military sent a team of about 25 specialists to Abu Ghraib to shore up training. The piece notes that the Army has a total of about 1,000 soldiers trained as prison guards.

A front-page LAT piece looks at the wider criticisms in the Army report, which portrays Abu Ghraib as understaffed, overcrowded, and run by dullards. In the LAT's words, it was "a prison in which mismanagement and unprofessional behavior had become routine." The Times mentions one stat that seems headline-worthy but hasn't gotten one yet: According to the report, 60 percent of prisoners there were "not a threat to society." The report added that many innocent civilians were being held indefinitely, partly due to bad record-keeping.

The Journal notes that the private interrogators suspected of encouraging abuse fall into a legal gray zone. The internal Army report recommended that they be fired or even have charges brought against them. But Iraq doesn't have an effective judicial system, and as civilians, the contractors aren't subject to court martial. Congress passed a law a few years ago meant to provide a legal basis for prosecuting American contractors abroad. But a Justice Department official said the administration "isn't rushing in" to apply the law.

As the Journal and other papers briefly mention, the companies where the contractors in question work said the Pentagon hasn't notified them of any suspected wrongdoing—despite the internal report's conclusions. Only the NYT drives this home, "CONTRACT WORKERS IMPLICATED IN FEBRUARY ARMY REPORT ON PRISON ABUSE REMAIN ON THE JOB."

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One GI was killed and two wounded in an attack near Baghdad, and a Marine was killed west of the capital. Gunmen from cleric Muqtada Sadr's militia attacked U.S. troops near Najaf, though there were no American casualties. Citing military officials, the Post says 20 gunmen and "an unknown number of civilians were killed in the fighting." TheNYT says that "heavy fighting" had broken out near Baghdad's airport, with the U.S. calling in artillery. The LAT also describes "an artillery barrage," and a military spokesman said he believed four guerrillas were killed. Given the range artillery operates at, it's worth considering how the military would know that.

Most of the papers say that as expected, the military has replaced the Iraqi general who had been set to lead a force in Fallujah. The Iraqi commander appointed in his place had been imprisoned by Saddam for seven years. The LAT, reporting from Fallujah, says the residents like the first general and might not accept the change. The paper also says that young men looking very much like guerrillas—dressed in black and carrying AK-47s—were "seen sauntering through the streets."

Post columnist David Ignatius sees a few hopeful signs in southern Iraq, where leaders have distanced themselves from the firebrand Sadr. "I think that the Iraqi people have seen over the abyss during the events of the last month, and it frightened them," said the British head of the regional CPA office.

The Journal and NYT note that nonpartisan congressional analysts have concluded that Bush administration officials appear to have violated federal law when they barred Medicare's top actuary from giving Congress his estimates of the prescription drug bill.

The Post and NYT front Sen. Kerry launching what his campaign billed as the largest single buy of advertising space in a presidential race, $25 million. The two ads offer warm fuzzies about Kerry's personal and professional accomplishments. The LAT fact-checks the ads and notes a few stretches. For instance, one ad claims that Kerry had a "decisive" vote in the 1993 balanced-budget bill "that created 20 million new jobs." By that standard, every Democrat who voted for the bill cast a decisive vote. Vice President Gore cast the tie-breaker.