Blast Reverberations

Blast Reverberations

Blast Reverberations

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 18 2004 4:59 AM

Blast Reverberations

The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal worldwide news box, and USA Today all lead with the suicide bombing in Baghdad that killed the Governing Council's president and at least six other people. The New York Times puts the bombing above the fold but leads with other news you already know: There were hundreds of state-sanctioned gay marriages in Massachusetts yesterday. Four towns in the state said they would issue licenses to out-of-state couples.

Members of the GC called for Iraqis—or GC members' militias, as the Post clarifies—to have a greater role in security. "The Iraqis know their country," said one council member. "They know a good man and a bad man, and who has been with Saddam. The Americans don't know anything about Iraq."

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An Islamist Web site posted a claim of responsibility by a group calling itself the Arabic Resistance Movement. The claim, which included the purported names of the bombers, said attacks will continue "until the liberation of glorious Iraq and precious Palestine."

Others invoked the usual suspects: U.S. officials pointed the finger at al-Qaida franchisee Abu Musab al Zarqawi, and GC members blamed former Baathists.

A Page One WP piece looks at the pessimism that pervades among Iraqis and occupation authorities. "Just look around," said one clothing salesman in Baghdad. "Do you see any police? Any soldiers? There is a complete lack of security."

"It will take a lot of doing for this not to end in a debacle," a "senior occupation official" told the Post. "There is no confidence in the coalition. Why should there be?"

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The Post's pessimistic piece also details the long list of recent attacks by insurgents against Iraqis, which often don't make it into the papers anymore. One example cited by the WP: "Over the weekend, U.S. Marines reported on a goodwill visit to the town of Kharma, on the road from Baghdad to Fallujah. As soon as they left, insurgents peppered the town with rockets."

According to the NYT's off-lead, the intelligence officer who had been in charge of interrogations at Abu Ghraib told investigators that his officers sometimes ordered MPs to strip detainees naked and shackle them before interrogations. But that's not really news, and the Times seems to miss the larger context: Gen. Taguba recently testified that keeping prisoners naked was part of the interrogation process at Abu Ghraib, and a now public Red Cross report says that was the case throughout Iraq. In fact, the practice appears to have been de facto policy across the globe: A Pentagon official said in Senate testimony last week that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are sometimes forced to undergo interrogations naked. And a piece last year in the Times reported that some prisoners in Afghanistan were forced to "stand naked, hooded, and shackled." That story ran on Page 14. (TP recently looked at how, in the pre-picture days, the public and press never paid much attention to reports of systemic abuse.)

The LAT fronts interviews with former detainees in Iraq who say they were abused at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. The abuses—which mesh with descriptions given by the Red Cross—range from neglect to beatings and don't include sexual humiliation.

The NYT goes inside with testimony from Abu Ghraib MPs not charged in the abuse scandal, who said their co-workers were off the reservation when they beat and sexually humiliated prisoners. Intelligence officers "would tell us to take away something from an inmate, like a pillow or something, to make him uncomfortable," said one guard. "If I had sensed they wanted someone 'roughed up,' then I would have said something."

Everybody goes inside with the military's announcement that it discovered an artillery shell filled with sarin. The shell, planted as a roadside bomb, appears to have been made before the first Gulf War. A military spokesman said the guerrillas probably didn't know they had a chemical weapon, which the spokesman said would have been "ineffective" as a bomb. Former top weapons inspector David Kay told the Associated Press that he suspected the round had been overlooked by Saddam's regime. "It doesn't strike me as a big deal," he said.

Everybody mentions the United States' decision to transfer 3,600 hundred troops from South Korea to Iraq. That's about 10 percent of the U.S. force in the Korean peninsula.

NYT misleads White House!!! ... In a story that has yet to be picked up by the majors, Knight Ridder reported yesterday that the White House kept publicizing an Iraqi defector's claims about Saddam's supposed banned weapons months after the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency decided the guy was probably full of it. (This isn't the first time an intelligence agency's doubts about an Iraqi defector went unheeded.) A still-available September 2002 White House paper promoted the dodgy defector's claims, which a footnote in the dossier attributes to an interesting source: the New York Times. The footnote cites a Dec. 20, 2001, Page One article, "SECRET SITES: IRAQI TELLS OF RENOVATIONS AT SITES FOR CHEMICAL AND NUCLEAR ARMS." The story's author: Judith Miller.