Sadr Fodder

Sadr Fodder

Sadr Fodder

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
May 24 2004 4:15 AM

Sadr Fodder

The Washington Post leads with word that U.S. forces moved into cleric Muqtada Sadr's stronghold of Kufa and according to the military killed 36 of his gunmen. The Post says that the military appears to be changing tactics and is now going after Sadr himself. One Marine and one GI were killed in an attack just outside Fallujah. The Los Angeles Times' lead says the criminal investigation into abuse at Abu Ghraib appears to be widening beyond just the military guards. Two intelligence soldiers, pictured in some of the abuse photos, have been ordered to stay in Baghdad. It's not clear whether they are about to be charged or will be called as witnesses. The New York Times'lead says the Department of Homeland Security is about to award upwards of a $15 billion contract for a system to track foreign visitors on their way into the U.S. There aren't many details about the program yet since it's basically still in the brainstorming stage, but the idea would be to integrate and standardize the various databases that already try to track visitors. In theory, the program could also be linked up with police databases. USA Today leads with a poll concluding that three-fourths of Americans support more affordable housing being built in their neighborhood. Apparently that counters conventional wisdom, which has it that people have a NIMBY attitude about cheaper housing. The poll was conducted by the National Association of Realtors, which the article notes in the third-to-last paragraph is calling for "changes in zoning and regulations to encourage construction of affordable housing."

The NYT fronts word that the military intelligence unit in charge at Abu Ghraib also oversaw interrogations at a prison in Afghanistan, where in December 2002 two prisoners died in what Army doctors ruled were "homicides." Two other Afghans who had been held at the prison told the Times they were tortured and sexually humiliated. As the NYT says, and TP mentioned last week, top commanders in Iraq failed to codify rules for interrogations, so units were left to free-style and often continued with the same practices they learned elsewhere, for instance in Afghanistan, where the U.S. had ruled that the Geneva Conventions didn't apply. As for the homicides, the Times says that 16 months after the deaths, the military says it hasn't completed the investigations.

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Everybody notes that a military spokesman denied the WP's Page One suggestions that Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, top U.S. commander in Iraq, may have actually seen some of the abuses. The officer who had been nominally in charge of Abu Ghraib, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, told the NYT that when she and her commanders learned of the specific abuses, she told Sanchez that the military should release details about them, an idea that she says Sanchez shot down.

An Associated Press story inside the Post details what appears to be a video taken at the wedding the U.S. says didn't happen and it didn't bomb. Some people pictured in the wedding video are the same ones later photographed dead. The AP reporter also found fragments of musical instruments, wedding decorations, and U.S. ordnance.

The NYT says inside that "federal investigators" are now wondering who gave fallen Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi the classified intel that they think he handed Iran."This was not the kind of stuff that he would have gotten by accident," said "one official." (Given how murky all this Chalabi stuff is, and how many knives are out, perhaps the Times could give readers a helping hand and offer a bit more ID then just "one official.") Chalabi—appearing on just about every Sunday talk show—denied the charges. He blamed CIA Director George Tenet for the "smear."

In an angle that the papers don't explore, Newsweek mentions that Chalabi's nephew, Salem Chalabi, has been accused of trying to buy off one of the Iraqi judges investigating the family. Salem is currently responsible for setting up the $75 million war crimes tribunal that's going to try Saddam. But that's not a full-time job. He is also head of the Iraqi International Law Group, a firm dedicated to greasing the wheels. Or as the firm's (now closed) Web site put it, "At IILG, our task is to provide foreign enterprise with the information and tools it needs to enter the emerging Iraq and to succeed."

Eric Umansky, previously the "Today's Papers" columnist for Slate, is currently a Gordon Grey Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism.