Everyone leads with word that Iraqi police backed by American soldiers raided the home of Ahmad Chalabi, former darling of the U.S. administration and current Iraqi Governing Council member. They were looking for about 15 employees of Chalabi—not Chalabi himself—who are charged with kidnapping, torture, embezzlement, and the theft of government property. U.S. soldiers also swept two offices of Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress and took files, rifles, and computers.
An agitated Chalabi told reporters he had drawn the Americans’ ire because of his recent criticism of the American management of Iraq. He also announced that he has cut ties with the U.S.-led coalition government.
American authorities tried to distance themselves from the raid, saying the arrest orders came through the Iraqi judicial system and that occupation officials didn’t know about the warrants until they were served. Iraq administrator Paul Bremer approved the initial investigation, but that’s it, coalition authorities claimed.
Iraqis weren’t buying the American line, noting the Iraqi police force works for the American occupation authorities and wouldn’t have acted autonomously. Members of the Governing Council are distressed because they feel the raid indicates how little respect the U.S. holds for the council. They have arranged an urgent session of the council to address this problem.
The papers trace Chalabi’s fall from favor with the U.S. His recent offenses, the Americans believe, include: stymieing the U.N.’s attempts to investigate corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program, maneuvering to make sure he and his buddies get important positions in whatever government takes places post-Provisional Coalition Authority, and possibly passing on classified information on U.S. security operations and political plans in Iraq to Iran. His INC was recently bumped from Pentagon payrolls, possibly, the Wall Street Journalsays—citing “officials”—because of the allegations that he is spying for Iran.
The Washington Post fronts sworn accounts of Iraqi detainees who say they were abused at Abu Ghraib and publishes new pictures of the abuse. Among the previously unreported kinds of abuse the WP details: detainees being ridden like horses and forced to bark like dogs, being made to fish their food out of toilets, being forced to eat pork and drink liquor, and being sexually fondled by female soldiers. Some detainees explained the abuse was punishment for fighting or breaking rules. Others were able to name their abusers, among whom were soldiers already charged for their roles in the abuse. Neither the photos nor the accounts give any new information about who was responsible for this, the paper says.
The New York Times front says that the military intelligence unit in charge of interrogations in Abu Ghraib was exported from Afghanistan—where the Geneva Conventions, the administration had ruled, don’t apply—and set up in Iraq, an important bit of news TP sniffed out of the newspapers yesterday. The unit freelanced from rules for interrogation written by the unit’s leader until her rules were supplanted by some devised by head commander in Iraq Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. Sanchez authorized the intelligence officials at Abu Ghraib to work with military police to “manipulate an internee’s emotions and weaknesses,” the WP says. Also noteworthy, the NYT says, attributing the scoop to the DenverPost, is the fact that members of this military intelligence unit have been punished, quietly, with fines and demotion, in connection with the abuse of an Iraqi woman at the prison.
Elsewhere in Iraq, the papers report, U.S. forces withdrew from a mosque in Karbala that they had taken from Shiite Muslim fighters loyal to cleric Muqtada Sadr. The battalion commander said the move did not amount to a cease-fire but rather an opportunity to allow the political process to go forward. He did not say specifically what sort of progress on the political front was being made.
The chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq defended the recent strike that killed 40 foreign insurgents/members of a wedding party, saying, the NYT reports, that the weapons, foreign passports, satellite communications equipment, and other paraphernalia gathered after the strike are “inconsistent with a wedding.”
The papers go inside with word that the House easily passed a $447 billion military package. The plan includes an extra $25 billion President Bush wants to pay for Iraq and Afghanistan for the next several months. It would also expand the armed services—by 39,000—for the first time since the Cold War.
In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military continued its offensive, killing seven more Palestinians, the papers report, while an Israeli court convicted a popular Palestinian leader who was once considered a successor to Yasser Arafat of murder for terrorist attacks.
The papers report, the NYT in its off-lead, that the New York attorney general has nailed another money manager, this one, Richard Strong of Strong Capital Management, for trading mutual funds for his own enrichment at the expense of investors in his funds. Strong himself will pay $60 million, the largest penalty an individual has paid since the mutual fund investigation began. He made $1.8 million on his shady trades.