The Washington Post leads with a Red Cross report—submitted to the U.S. government in February and first reported in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal—that counters the notion that only a few guards were behind the abuses in Iraq. The report said military intel officers “confirmed that it was part of the military intelligence process … to use inhumane and degrading treatment, including physical and psychological coercion.” Among the most frequent abuses cited were “beatings with hard objects including pistols and rifles” and being “paraded naked outside cells … sometimes hooded or with women’s underwear over their heads.” The report notes that as prisoners were naked, “they were sometimes photographed.” The New York Times, WSJ world-wide newsbox, and USA Today—abiding by the fine “not created here” credo—all stuff the Red Cross’ conclusions and lead with President Bush moseying over to the Pentagon and giving SecDef Rumsfeld a pat on the back. “You are doing a superb job,” said Bush. “You are a strong secretary of defense, and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude.” The president, who had a phalanx of top officials around him, including Secretary of State Powell, said a “small number” of soldiers were involved. In a feat, the Los Angeles Times’ lead is even more pro forma, headlining Bush’s look at a dozen abuse photos yesterday.
Doing plenty of extra digging, the Post details the Red Cross’ conclusion that detainees were deprived of many rights: They didn’t get to see lawyers, and families of suspects were told so little that, as the report put says, it amounted to “the de facto ‘disappearance’ of the arrestee for weeks or even months.” (The Post says the Pentagon appears to have gotten better about this.) Red Cross officials said after getting unsatisfactory responses in Baghdad, in January they took their complaints to the White House officials, many of whom tell the Post they don’t recall that. The Baltimore Sun quotes generals saying that the top administration officials knew about the photos in January, too.
While NYTimes’ Red Cross article itself is tough—noting that the Red Cross’ report contradicts recent statements by Rumsfeld and other top officials—the placement and headline are noodly and misleading: “RED CROSS FOUND ABUSES AT ABU GHRAIB LAST YEAR.” Compare that the Post’s Page One play, “MISTREATMENT OF DETAINEES WENT BEYOND GUARDS’ ABUSE.”
According to the Geneva Conventions, security detainees are allowed to appeal their detention and to have their cases reviewed every six months. The Post’s lead says the military won’t say whether it’s following those rules. The military has set up an “open” court to try some detainees. But it’s not clear what’s going on inside. The WP’s reporters tried to visit the court, but were told by a guard, “You cannot go in.”
As the LAT emphasizes in its stuffed Red Cross piece, intel officers told the agency that they think the majority of detainees in Iraq, between 70 percent and 90 percent, are innocent and there by mistake. (The internal Army report that became public last week also made that point, but the papers didn’t headline it.)
Of 43,000 Iraqis who’ve been detained since the invasion, only about 700 have made it into a court, and about 8,000 are still being detained. The military says it’s going to reduce that to 2,000 soon.
None of the papers seem to get into it, but the Arab world doesn’t appear to have been thrilled by Bush’s endorsement of Rumsfeld.
The general who wrote the scathing Army report, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, is going to give Senate testimony this morning. The military plans on showing Congress some pictures tomorrow. And the NYT says the president’s “political and communications advisers” are pushing him to publish them.
Everybody has news that the U.S. had an hourslong firefight with Moqtada Sadr’s militia in Baghdad, destroying Sadr’s HQ in the capital and reportedly killing about 15 militiamen. The Post says a few GIs were lightly wounded by shrapnel. The military announced the deaths of three soldiers, two in separate attacks over the weekend and one in an accident. Two foreign construction workers, a South African and a New Zealander, were killed in a drive-by shooting in Kirkuk. Also, one Russian contractor was killed, and two were taken hostage.
USAT fronts a poll that has Bush at the lowest approval rating of his presidency, 46 percent. The poll also has him effectively tied with Sen. Kerry.
The Post goes inside with a Republican congressman suggesting that Bob Woodward was on-target when he wrote that the White House spent money preparing for the Iraq invasion without the proper congressional go-ahead.
Most of the papers tease on Page One new federal regulations that will reduce by 90 percent diesel emissions from off-road vehicles such as bulldozers. The Clinton administration had proposed stronger diesel regulations, but these go farther, and even enviro-types were celebrating—sort of. “It’s remarkable that these strong rules come from the same administration that has otherwise turned back the clock on 30 years of environmental progress,” said one.
According to early morning reports, several Israeli soldiers were killed when their troop carrier hit a roadside bomb in Gaza. At least three Palestinians were also killed in fighting, including two Hamas gunmen.
The NYT and LAT front the Justice Department reopening the case of Emmett Till, whose murder nearly 50 years ago helped galvanize the civil rights movement. Two men, who repeatedly bragged about killing Till, were acquitted by an all-white jury. They have since died, but two documentaries recently concluded that more people were involved. “At the end of the day, there may not be a prosecutable crime,” said one unnamed Justice official. “But it’s a case of such importance that it’s worth taking a chance to see what’s there.”