Abu Ghraib: Crime Seen

Abu Ghraib: Crime Seen

Abu Ghraib: Crime Seen

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 26 2004 3:41 AM

Abu Ghraib: Crime Seen

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal worldwide news box, and Washington Postall lead with the latest report on abuses (in some cases "torture," said one of the report's authors) at Abu Ghraib. As expected, the report implicated about two dozen military intelligence soldiers as well as four contractors, despite the Pentagon's previous assertions that abuse was limited to a few guards. It also faulted top commanders for the now-familiar charge of "lack of oversight." USA Today, in an interesting choice, fronts the abuse report and instead leads with the revelation that police aren't sure what caused Tuesday's near-simultaneous crash of two Russian planes.  

Most of the papers pick up on the report's conclusion reiterating others' findings that the abuses may in part have happened because the interrogators in Iraq lacked guidelines. And so, taking their cues from the administration, they imported or tried to mimic the bare-knuckled interrogation techniques used on al-Qaida suspects in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The Army's former top intelligence officer in Iraq acknowledged this back in May during congressional hearings, but the initially papers flew past that.

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The New Republic details how and why the interrogation policies, in the bland wording of one of the investigations, "migrated" from Afghanistan to Iraq.

Alone among the papers, the LAT fronts the report's broadside of the CIA for, among other things, hiding at least eight prisoners from the Red Cross. According to the Army report, one such "ghost detainee" was kept for four months in a 3-feet-by-6-feet cell that didn't have a "window, latrine or water tap, or bedding." The Post, which stuffs a similar take, emphasizes that the CIA hasn't announced any public inquiries while the LAT says Army investigators suggested the CIA stonewalled them, by declining to chat.

One more major report on the abuses is left, and it should be done next month. Like the majority of the others, it's limited in scope; it will look only at the Navy's treatment of detainees.

With the exception of USAT, everybody fronts Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah ali-Sistani's call for "all believers" to march on Najaf "to stop the bloodshed." Sistani himself, who just had heart surgery in Britain and made a surprise return to Iraq yesterday, is going to take part. But the details are sketchy as is Sistani's motivation. One Sistani aide said both Muqtada Sadr's forces and U.S. troops will be asked to leave town. Police in Najaf warned people to stay away from the city, and the LAT says police might try to close down the roads.

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In Najaf, GIs are now within a few hundred yards of the Imam Ali shrine, and the NYT describes Sadr's men as on the "brink of disintegration." With Sadr himself MIA, Iraqi police in town arrested one of his top aides, an act the NYT says would have been "unthinkable" a few days ago.

The fighting is still rough. According the Post, "Several officers repeated an account of one Marine who entered a room, found a militiaman holding a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and killed him with a K-bar knife."

The NYT says there is "hardly a habitable building left standing" around the shrine.

The Post notes that some apparently peaceful demonstrators in support of Sadr were on their way to Najaf but were fired on by Iraqi police after they gathered outside a U.S. base; at least two people were killed. One of the wounded contradicted that, telling an Australian paper they weren't near a base.

The LAT fronts a poll showing President Bush with a slight lead among registered voters (49 percent to 46 percent), suggesting that the vet ads have had a bit of an impact.

The NYT off-leads, Post fronts, and LAT stuffsthe resignation of the Bush campaign's top elections lawyer, who had also been advising an anti-Kerry Vietnam vets group that has made some ill-supported ads questioning Kerry's war record. A wire piece highlighted by the NYT shoots another hole in the ads, finding some Navy records contradicting some of the group's assertions. The Times also notes inside that Sen. John McCain said he's planning "to express [his] displeasure" at President Bush for not condemning the ads. (He also has asked the Kerry campaign to stop using video from McCain's 2000 primary fight against Bush.)

Back to Najaf ... Iraqi police, apparently with some free time on their hands before the marchers arrive, flowed into Najaf's main journalist hotel last night, "beat some of the reporters and fired assault rifles in the lobby" (WP). The reporters were taken to police headquarters, where a commander, as the Post puts, explained "they had simply been summoned for a news conference."