Monday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
June 14, 2004 5:21PM (UTC)

"Biggest bombs yet to be dropped"
If a report this morning in the U.K. Telegraph is accurate, the hits will keep on coming this week in the torture chain of command story.

"The Telegraph understands that four confidential Red Cross documents implicating senior Pentagon civilians in the Abu Ghraib scandal have been passed to an American television network, which is preparing to make them public shortly.

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"According to lawyers familiar with the Red Cross reports, they will contradict previous testimony by senior Pentagon officials who have claimed that the abuse in the Abu Ghraib prison was an isolated incident."

"'There are some extremely damaging documents around, which link senior figures to the abuses,' said Scott Horton, the former chairman of the New York Bar Association, who has been advising Pentagon lawyers unhappy at the administration's approach. 'The biggest bombs in this case have yet to be dropped.'"

Over the weekend, the Washington Post published leaked documents revealing that Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the senior U.S. officer in Iraq, approved the use of dogs, temperature extremes, reversed sleep patterns and sensory deprivation for prisoners at Abu Ghraib. And the Post also posted on its Web site Sunday night the 2002 DOJ memo Attorney General John Ashcroft refused to give to senators last week. (Update: To clarify an earlier version of this post, which was mangled due to artless cutting/pasting/editing on my part, Ashcroft did not cite executive privilege in refusing to produce the memo -- he cited no authority.)

Ex-diplomats and military leaders urge ousting Bush
More than two dozen former diplomats and military officials, including many who served in Republican administrations, have a signed a statement calling for the defeat of President Bush in November because he has made America less safe, the Los Angeles Times reports today.

"The group, which calls itself Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, will explicitly condemn Bush's foreign policy, according to several of those who signed the document. 'It is clear that the statement calls for the defeat of the administration,' said William C. Harrop, the ambassador to Israel under President Bush's father and one of the group's principal organizers."

"It is unusual for so many former high-level military officials and career diplomats to issue such an overtly political message during a presidential campaign."

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Political appointees approved Halliburton contract
Last October, the State Department spokesman said career procurement officials made decisions about contracts in Iraq, and that a wall separated them from "political level questions." Dick Cheney has also said he didn't "know any of the details of the contract because I deliberately stayed away from any information on that.'"

Now we learn, as the New York Times reports today, that Pentagon officials admit they sought and received the assent of senior Bush administration officials, including the vice president's chief of staff, before hiring Halliburton to develop secret plans for restoring Iraq's oil facilities.

"In November 2002, a Pentagon energy group led by Michael H. Mobbs, a political appointee and adviser to Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense, gave Halliburton a $1.9 million 'task order,' under another contract, to develop secret contingency plans for the Iraqi oil industry.

The proposal was had been described at a meeting in late October of the Deputies Committee, a foreign policy body. Participants included the deputy national security adviser, deputy secretaries of state and defense, deputy director of central intelligence and I. Lewis Libby, Mr. Cheney's chief of staff. Pentagon officials, including Mr. Mobbs, provided the new details of the oil contracting to staff members of the House Committee on Government Reform at a June 8 briefing. In a letter faxed Sunday to Mr. Cheney and given to reporters, Representative Henry A. Waxman, the minority leader of the panel, asked him for all records of his office's communications on the oil contracts and for records of Deputies Committee meetings where the Halliburton deals had been discussed.

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'These new disclosures appear to contradict your assertions that you were not informed about the Halliburton contracts,' Mr. Waxman, Democrat of California, wrote. 'They also seem to contradict the administration's repeated assertions that political appointees were not involved in the award of the contracts to Halliburton.'"

Red Cross: Charge Saddam or release him
The Red Cross has warned the U.S. government that Saddam Hussein and other prisoners of war in Iraq must be charged or released from custody by June 30 if the U.S. and the new Iraqi government are to conform to international law, the Guardian reports.

"[Spokeswoman Nada Doumani's] comments came as the international body, the only independent group with access to detainees in U.S. custody, becomes increasingly concerned over the legal limbo in which thousands of people are being held in the run-up to the transfer of power at the end of the month. The occupation officially ends on June 30 and US forces will be in Iraq at the invitation of its sovereign government."

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"Saddam and other senior officials of the old regime are the only Iraqi detainees to have been given POW status. Hundreds of other Iraqis have been seized since the war often, according to critics, on flimsy suspicion and held for long periods without charge, usually without their families knowing for weeks where they are."

"The ICRC visited the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in early June and found 3,291 detainees, including three women and 22 boys under 18. This was less than half the 6,527 it found in March."

"The ICRC is angry that it has not been given exact figures for releases or the whereabouts of those who are moved from Abu Ghraib and it is hoping the end of the occupation will put pressure on the authorities to clean up their act. 'If we consider the occupation ends on June 30, that would mean it's the end of the international armed conflict. This is the legal situation.'"

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Are Dems pro-Kerry or anti-Bush?
The Washington Post takes stock of John Kerry's candidacy and concludes that even though he has broken fundraising records, is leading President Bush in national polls, has united various factions of the Democratic Party to an extent few expected at this point in the race, and is doing better than Al Gore was in 2000 on several fronts -- he's in trouble.

The potential danger ahead for Kerry stems from "an ambivalence -- or angst -- about their presidential candidate that belies this strong public standing," from "voters, officials and even members of Kerry's staff."

"The chief reason: The senator from Massachusetts, they say, has not crisply articulated what a Kerry presidency would stand for beyond undoing much of the Bush agenda. So far, these concerns have not slowed Kerry. But if Kerry cannot change this perception coming out of next month's Democratic convention in Boston, it could prove much harder for the party to maximize turnout, win over Ralph Nader voters and keep independents from swinging to Bush, they say."

Clinton prepared to pitch in
This story will perhaps reassure some Democrats that the party's nominee in 2004 will not run away from Bill Clinton as Al Gore did. John Kerry and Bill Clinton speak on the phone every 10 days or so, the New York Times reports, and as Clinton prepares for his book tour, he's consulting with the Democratic Party and the Kerry campaign "about ways that Mr. Clinton can lend a political hand in the process."

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"Mr. Clinton received an advance of more than $10 million to write his memoirs, 'My Life,' and aides to the former president say his first priority now is to sell as many books as possible. But they also say that whenever his book-selling obligations allow, Mr. Clinton is eager to pitch in for the party by plugging Mr. Kerry and subtly putting down Republicans at book-selling events, and by speaking at fund-raisers or campaign stops on his tour."

"He is also going out of his way not to overshadow Mr. Kerry."


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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