Thursday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
May 6, 2004 5:32PM (UTC)

More images emerge
The Washington Post obtained more pictures of what appears to be abuse of Iraqi detainees at the hands of U.S. soldiers.

"Mixed in with more than 1,000 digital pictures obtained by The Washington Post are photographs of naked men, apparently prisoners, sprawled on top of one another while soldiers stand around them. There is another photograph of a naked man with a dark hood over his head, handcuffed to a cell door. And another of a naked man handcuffed to a bunk bed, his arms splayed so wide that his back is arched. A pair of women's underwear covers his head and face."

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"The graphic images, passed around among military police who served at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, are a new batch of photographs similar to those broadcast a week ago on CBS's '60 Minutes II' and published by the New Yorker magazine. They appear to provide further visual evidence of the chaos and unprofessionalism at the prison detailed in a report by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba. His report, which relied in part on the photographs, found 'numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses' that were inflicted on detainees."

"This group of photographs, taken from the summer of 2003 through the winter, ranges widely, from mundane images of everyday military life to pictures showing crude simulations of sex among soldiers. The new pictures appear to show American soldiers abusing prisoners, many of whom wear ID bands, but The Post could not eliminate the possibility that some of them were staged."

"The photographs were taken by several digital cameras and loaded onto compact discs, which circulated among soldiers in the 372nd Military Police Company, an Army Reserve unit based in Cresaptown, Md. The pictures were among those seized by military investigators probing conditions at the prison, a source close to the unit said."

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Bush spanks Rumsfeld
The New York Times reports that President Bush chastised Donald Rumsfeld for his handling of the Abu Ghraib scandal, and White House officials promptly told reporters.

"The disclosures by the White House officials, under authorization from Mr. Bush, were an extraordinary display of finger-pointing in an administration led by a man who puts a high premium on order and loyalty. The officials said the president had expressed his displeasure to Mr. Rumsfeld in an Oval Office meeting because of Mr. Rumsfeld's failure to tell Mr. Bush about photographs of the abuse, which have enraged the Arab world."

"In his interviews on Wednesday with Arab television networks, Mr. Bush said that he learned the graphic details of the abuse case only when they were broadcast last Wednesday on the CBS program '60 Minutes II.' It was then, one White House official said, that Mr. Bush also saw the photographs documenting the abuse ... Another White House official said, 'The president was not satisfied or happy about the way he was informed about the pictures, and he did talk to Secretary Rumsfeld about it.'"

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(But there are questions about when the president was informed about Abu Ghraib. The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that White House officials said Bush learned of the abuse investigation in late December or early January.)

"The disclosure of the dressing-down of the combative Mr. Rumsfeld was the first time that Mr. Bush has allowed his displeasure with a senior member of his administration to be made public. It also exposed the fault lines in Mr. Bush's inner circle that have deepened with the violence and political chaos in American-occupied Iraq."

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"Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who has often been at odds with Mr. Rumsfeld, went so far on Tuesday night as to talk about the prison abuse scandal in the context of the My Lai massacre of hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese men, women and children by American troops, a historical reference that was not in the White House talking points that sought to stem the damage from the scandal."

" ... Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, has told one Bush adviser that he believes that it will take a generation for the United States to live this scandal down in the Arab world, and that one of the dangers of basing a campaign on national security and foreign policy is that events can be beyond the president's control."

Bush approval rating at its worst
The USA Today reports that "Americans are more dissatisfied with the nation's direction than at any time in more than eight years and President Bush's job approval rating has sunk into a tie for his worst-ever showing, according to a new Gallup Poll."

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"The poll, released Thursday, indicates 62% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country. That is the highest dissatisfaction number since early January 1996 shortly after the federal government shut down briefly when Congress failed to reach a budget agreement. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed were satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. A Gallup survey in early April indicated 57% of Americans were dissatisfied with the way things were going in the country and 41% were satisfied. The job dissatisfaction numbers have been on the rise since early this year."

"The survey comes as Bush deals with a growing controversy over reports of American abuse of Iraqi prisoners ... In the survey, 49% of Americans said they approved of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 48% said they disapproved. The approval number ties the lowest figure Bush has reached in his president, and the disapproval number ties the highest figure."

Arab world not buying Bush
The AP says Bush's appearance on Arab TV stations yesterday, attempting to quell the furor over abuse of Iraqi prisoners, wasn't too convincing for many watching.

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"Taxi driver Mouwaffaq Fadhil watched President Bush's television appearance with his grown son, Sari, and the men were disappointed. 'We had hoped for much from the United States and Bush, but we have not seen anything,' said 55-year-old Fadhil. 'Bush had a whole year to fulfill his promises about bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq. He failed and now we are hearing the same promises.'"

"Their east Baghdad neighbor, Raad Youssef, saw it differently. 'As for the prisoners issue, I say that during Saddams time, there were many genocides that were committed and nobody dared to reveal them,' the 49-year-old teacher said. 'Officials of the former regime did not even try to apologize. Bushs attempt to repair the damage is a good thing.' Bush's televised interviews drew little notice in Medina, Saudi Arabia, where the broadcast occurred close to prayer time."

"I don't waste my time listening to Bush. I don't believe a word he speaks. He's the enemy of all Muslims and Arabs,' said a Saudi businessman, Waleed al-Mus'ab. 'Every time I see him on TV I switch it off or change the channel, because he just talks nonsense.'"

"Some Jordanians who watched Bush on television said the United States has done too much damage to its image for his words to mean much. 'What has been done has already been done, and is irreversible,' said Amer Mouasher. Wrongs inflicted on Iraqi prisoners cant be righted, he said. 'If a person in the United States is harmed the way those Iraqi prisoners were harmed, he could sue the government or the responsible person for such acts,' Mouasher said. 'But alas, the Iraqis do not have such a luxury.'"

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'I like where we are today'
The Boston Globe reports that John Kerry on Wednesday "countered whispers of criticism within some Democratic circles that he was running a lackluster campaign for the presidency, pointing to a recent poll indicating that he is leading President Bush and arguing that his own $25 million ad blitz begun this week projects a campaign 'that is active and on the move.'"

"'I only secured the nomination about 6, seven weeks ago and we had $2 million in the bank,' the presumptive Democratic nominee said during his first news conference in three weeks. 'I've raised $80 million and broken all records in seven weeks, and the last time that I looked, the CBS/ New York Times poll had me ahead after $70 million had been spent to distort, mislead, and destroy my record. I think the American people are waiting for a real conversation about where we are going to take the country and what we're going to do to make America strong. I have a plan.'"

"Kerry added: 'George Bush, sure he can make decisions and lead, but look at the direction he's taking us. It's the wrong direction. I can turn around and lead it in the right direction. We are now out on television advertising. I'm confident that over the next weeks, people are going to see a campaign that is active and on the move. We're six months from the election, and I like where we are today.'"


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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