Thursday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
May 13, 2004 5:35PM (UTC)

New images suggest wider scandal
The appalled lawmakers who saw hundreds of new photos depicting abuse of Iraqi prisoners say the images "convinced some legislators that the number of Americans who violated military protocol is larger than previously thought," the Washington Post reports. "The private screenings arranged by the Pentagon -- one for senators, one for House members -- surely ranked among Congress's more bizarre scenes. House members silently crammed into a standing-room-only committee room as hundreds of images, some described as pornographic, flashed on a screen for a few seconds each. Lawmakers emerging from that session, and from a less-crowded Senate room, seemed almost at a loss for words."

"'What we saw is appalling,' said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). 'I saw cruel, sadistic torture,' said Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.). Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) told Reuters: 'There were some awful scenes. It felt like you were descending into one of the rings of hell, and sadly it was our own creation.'"

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"Several lawmakers said the images differed more in quantity than in essence from photos beamed worldwide in recent days, and they questioned whether yesterday's revelations would substantially change the debate over U.S. treatment of Iraqi detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere.... Although it often was difficult to determine what was happening in the photos and videos, some legislators said the pictures suggest that abuses were committed by more than the half-dozen low-ranking military personnel directly implicated thus far. 'It's not just seven reservists' shown forcing detainees into sexually humiliating poses or threatening them with snarling dogs, said Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.). 'I think it goes beyond that.'"

"Gitmo-izing" Iraq
The New York Times reports that there was no effective system for "wringing intelligence" from Iraqi prisoners until Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller arrived in Iraq last August. Although Miller says the abuses at Abu Ghraib were the result of individual commanders misinterpreting his advice, the Times' report suggests his approach to interrogations, lifted from his experience running detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, became routine at Abu Ghraib.

"According to information from a classified interview with the senior military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib prison, General Miller's recommendations prompted a shift in the interrogation and detention procedures there. Military intelligence officers were given greater authority in the prison, and military police guards were asked to help gather information about the detainees."

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"Whether those changes contributed to the abuse of prisoners that grew horrifically more serious last fall is now at the center of the widening prison scandal. General Miller's recommendations were based in large part on his command of the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he won praise from the Pentagon for improving the flow of intelligence from terrorist suspects and prisoners of the Afghanistan war."

"In Iraq, General Miller's team gave officers at the prisons copies of the procedures that had been developed at Guantanamo to interrogate and punish the prisoners, according to the officer who traveled with him."

Powell: Bush was informed
The Baltimore Sun reports that "Secretary of State Colin Powell said yesterday that he and other top officials kept President Bush 'fully informed ... in general terms' about complaints made by the Red Cross and others over ill-treatment of detainees in U.S. custody."

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"Powell's statement suggests Bush may have known earlier than the White House has acknowledged about complaints raised by the International Committee of the Red Cross and human rights groups regarding abuse of detainees in Iraq ... Powell said that he, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld kept Bush 'fully informed of the concerns that were being expressed, not in specific details, but in general terms.'"

"Powell, in his comments yesterday, appeared to be trying to show that he and his department did not ignore or minimize early reports of the abuse when they began to surface last year."

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Reform endorses Nader
Ralph Nader has a new solution to his ballot access issues -- he won the endorsement of the Reform Party, which could get him on the ballot in the seven states where the party still has legal status, the New York Times said.

"The states include the crucial battlegrounds of Florida and Michigan, where Mr. Nader would not have to collect signatures and where he could conceivably swing the presidential election if the voting was close. He would have had to collect more than 92,000 signatures to get on the Florida ballot alone, and the Reform Party's action, which is essentially the party's nomination, relieves him of that requirement."

"Mr. Nader is not yet on the ballot in any state. The Reform Party's endorsement means that he will automatically qualify for the ballot in the seven states, which include five Colorado, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana and South Carolina that voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and are likely to do so again. Kevin Zeese, a spokesman for Mr. Nader, said Mr. Nader had not decided whether to list himself on the Reform Party line in any of those states."

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"Something of an afterthought?"
Knight-Ridder says all the bad news from Iraq has dominated public debate, and John Kerry is having a tough time being seen and heard by voters.

"As in the war in Iraq, success in the presidential contest means winning hearts and minds. Kerry's public standing has been damaged by Bush's onslaught of critical ads, and swing voters either don't know him or consider him a vacillating politician. And while Democrats have rallied to him in record numbers, he doesn't command their devotion. Nearly two out of three Kerry backers say their support is based more on antipathy toward Bush than regard for Kerry, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center."

"Kerry's efforts to introduce himself to independent voters are being drowned out by negative news from Iraq. Though the prison-abuse scandal and continuing casualties in Iraq have hurt Bush, they also are keeping Kerry out of the public eye. As a result, Kerry has become something of an afterthought, a secondary political figure at a time when he'd planned to begin shaking off the aftereffects of Bush's ad campaign."

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"Still, he remains slightly ahead of Bush in key battleground states. He's in the middle of a $27.5 million ad campaign -- most of it in swing states. For the past two weeks, he's been campaigning in those states, focusing on health care and education -- two issues on which voters prefer Kerry strongly over Bush. Though Kerry hasn't commanded much national attention lately, he's getting significant local press coverage in the swing states he visits."


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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