Guantanamo II

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 26 2006 6:01 AM

Guantanamo II

The New York Timesleads with the military's quiet expansion of the detention center at Bagram, Afghanistan, where approximately 500 suspects are being held indefinitely and in poor conditions that seem to be worse than those in Guantanamo. The Los Angeles Timesand the Washington Postlead with the latest from Iraq, where leaders from different factions met to condemn the surge in violence, which claimed the lives of at least 50 Iraqis yesterday (the WP puts the number at 40).

As the administration decided to pretty much stop sending new detainees to Guantamo in 2004, the population of Bagram has soared. No one from the outside world, except the Red Cross, is allowed to visit the facilities. Officials who spoke anonymously to the NYT insist that Bagram was never meant to house long-term prisoners, but now some have been there for three years. Although conditions at the detention center seem to have improved since the military decided to renovate the facilities, by all accounts the situation is still bleak and prisoners are mostly held in large wire cages.

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As the leaders of Iraq's different factions met and the government decided to extend the curfew in Baghdad for 34 hours, Iraqi and U.S. officials tried to downplay the violence and the risks of a civil war breaking out. The Iraqi defense minister said the death toll had been exaggerated but also said he would be willing to "fill the streets with armored vehicles" to stop the violence. An Army official said that after "pockets of violence," they were seeing a "return to normalcy."

The NYT fronts the increasingly important role of younger clerics in fueling violent attacks. Some say the recent violence demonstrates the failure of U.S. officials to reach out to moderate religious leaders while relying on secular figures who now seem to be far from having any real power.

The WP off-leads a look at the changing roles of U.S. troops in Iraq. So far, the war has gone through three stages, and now that the elections have been held, the third phase consists of training Iraqi troops and trying to stay off the streets as much as possible.

A piece in the NYT Week in Review tries to paint a picture of how civil war in Iraq would actually play out. The reason so many fear this civil war is that it could spread quickly throughout the Middle East.

The NYT fronts news that, after two days of negotiations, the Dubai company that wants to take over six American ports will invite the Bush administration on Monday to perform a new review of any security concerns. The hope is that this announcement will prevent Republicans in Congress from taking any action next week to stop the deal from going through.

The WP goes inside with a look at how the Bush administration ignored the festering criticisms of the ports deal until it became big news. White House officials acknowledge that they did not step in early enough to prevent the issue from becoming a political liability. Aides delayed in informing Bush about the growing criticism of the deal, and, once he knew, it took him five days to make any public statements on the issue. The LAT wonders whether this controversy will hurt Bush's position within the GOP.

The NYT goes inside with a dispatch from a "model port" in Dubai to show how even the most secure ports are not safe enough. The uproar over the Dubai company also seems to be ignoring the fact that maritime security is dependent on the safety of several areas around the world, not just the U.S. ports. Thomas H. Kean from the 9/11 Commission says that a debate over who should run the ports is "the wrong question," adding that the actual issue of port security isn't being discussed.

The NYT fronts, while the WP goes inside with, hopes from Democratic leaders that they will be able to attain the majority of governors in this midterm election. Members of both parties seem to think that the Democrats have a greater chance, which could have a strong impact on the 2008 presidential election.

As President Bush prepares for his trip to Pakistan later this week, the WP's Outlook section takes an extensive, and enlightening, look into Osama Bin Laden. Ahmed Rashid affirms there that Bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan, where the government isn't doing enough to catch him. Besides offering a monetary reward, which they don't need since money is not scarce, officials aren't doing enough to convince Pashtuns to stop hiding him. Peter Bergen explains why it has been so difficult to catch Bin Laden and emphasizes that capturing him is still important, even if it's just for psychological reasons. He also theorizes that Bin Laden might not really be on the run, as is often speculated, but might, in fact, be hunkered down somewhere. John Brennan says that the United States is focusing too much on Bin Laden's strategy, which is terrorism, and not enough on his vision of global domination.

The NYT reefers the increasing concern over bird flu in France after it was discovered that a turkey farm was infected. It's the first time the virus was found in farm animals in the European Union. The WP reports on the panic in Egypt to buy bottled water after residents were warned to refrain from drinking tap water because farmers have been throwing sick birds into the Nile. 

A senior U.S. diplomat told the Palestinian leader that U.S. aid will continue, despite the appointment of a new Hamas government.

Ugandan President Youweri Museveni will continue his 20-year rule over the country after he won the first multiparty elections in 25 years. His main challenger immediately challenged the results, and there were violent clashes in the streets of Kampala between supporters of the two main candidates. 

NYT Baghdad correspondent Dexter Filkins reviews L. Paul Bremer III's memoir, My Year in Iraq, and discovers that the head of the American occupation harbored doubts about troop levels and Iraqi forces, even though he always sounded sure of himself when he spoke. Bremer reveals that at one point he secretly requested more troops from the Pentagon even though in public he never recognized that he thought it was necessary. 

Don Knotts, who played the fumbling Deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show,  died of lung cancer. Knotts received five Emmy Awards for his role as Fife. His other memorable role was as the landlord in the sitcom Three's Company.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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