Ghost-Slip

Ghost-Slip

Ghost-Slip

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Sept. 10 2004 3:42 AM

Ghost-Slip

The Los Angeles Timesleads with U.S. moves around Iraq: It launched airstrikes in Fallujah and a combined air and ground attack in the border town of Tal Afar, where the head of the local hospital said at least 45 people had been killed, most of them civilians. The military also made its first show in Samarra in months. No shots were fired as they promised local leaders they would open a key bridge and would not try to disarm militants. The soldiers accompanied the deposed (and elected?) city council into town, sat for a meeting, and then left. The New York Timesleads with Army generals testifying that the military let the CIA keep dozens of prisoners hidden from the Red Cross, far more than previously known. The Washington Postleads with Secretary of State Powell saying Sudan's government "bears responsibility" for "genocide" in Darfur. That's the first time the administration has referred to it as that. But as the Wall StreetJournal notes up high, the wording doesn't mean much at the moment. As Powell put it, "No new action is dictated by this determination." The U.S.'s proposed Security Council resolution has only "tepid language" (WSJ) that doesn't specifically threaten sanctions, and even that might not get passed since some countries are more concerned with Sudan's oil than mass murder. USA Today leads with Hurricane Ivan, which has 150 mph winds and killed 23 people in Grenada, damaging an estimated 90 percent of the island's houses. Ivan is scheduled to hit Jamaica today,then Cuba, and perhaps Sunday: Florida.

The military insisted early in the day that it hadn't killed civilians in Fallujah. The NYT notes that video and witnesses contradicted that, showing dead women and children. The military later revised its story, saying an "unknown number" of civilians had been killed; it said militants had been hiding among them.

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The number of so-called ghost detainees was "in the dozens, to perhaps up to 100," said one general who oversaw an investigation into Abu Ghraib abuses. Another one of the investigators put the number at "two dozen or so." Neither officer was sure because: 1) No records were kept on the prisoners and 2) the CIA has refused to cooperate with the investigation, saying they're doing their own, thank you. The NYT buries the refusal to cooperate; the LAT flags it in its second sentence.

A Post editorial points out that there are plenty of outstanding questions about the U.S.'s treatment of prisoners. There's the missing backstory to the ghost detainees, of course. And then there's the mystery of how Geneva Conventions–defying interrogation techniques approved by SecDef Rumsfeld for use in Afghanistan turned up in Iraq. However, says the WP, the administration for some reason has yet to appoint a high-level panel to explore it all.

In a Page One piece, the Journal's Greg Jaffe details his travels with one of the Army's few intel specialists in Iraq who speaks Arabic. Unlike many of his few specialists, Sgt. John McCary goes out on raids, often doing interrogations on-the-spot. That way he doesn't detain loads of men, ticking them off unnecessarily. The move is innovative, and rare. "We don't have enough [intel specialists] to use them in this war on a regular basis," said an Army spokesman. Jaffe's lengthy piece is an impressive ground-level glimpse of the struggle to get intel.

The Post off-leads a poll of likely voters showing President Bush leading Sen. Kerry 52 percent to 43 percent. Bush's rating remained steady while Kerry has taken a 15-point dive in the past five weeks. A piece inside the WP says Iraq doesn't appear to be hurting Bush. Fifty-three percent of respondents to the poll said they thought Bush would do a better job on Iraq than Kerry (37 percent said the opposite).

The Post fronts word that many independent experts doubt the authenticity of memos 60 Minutes aired about Bush's National Guard duty, suggesting the documents appear to have been created by a word processor. CBS is standing by the memos, saying another officer confirmed that the author of the memos spoke to him back at the time about what he wrote. Meanwhile, FWIW, the NYT teases a piece emphasizing that the son of the commander who purportedly wrote the memos doubts his dad wrote at least one of them.

The Post fronts word that South Korea has admitted to extracting a wee bit of plutonium about 20 years ago. Just an experiment, it said. International inspectors told the Post they've long suspected South Korea had done something like that. "They had a fairly elaborate plan involving denial and deception in order to evade detection by inspectors," said one diplomat. The admission comes a week after Seoul admitted to enriching a touch of uranium.

Pulling Your Cheney, Part MCIV... The LAT notices inside that Vice President Cheney insisted yesterday that Saddam Hussein "provided safe harbor and sanctuary for al-Qaida." He didn't happen to provide evidence.

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