The Times’s second report appears at first more in line with the outraged approach being taken by the Guardian and Der Spiegel. Lehren teams with reporter Sabrina Tavernise for “A Grim Portrait of Civilian Deaths in Iraq,” which summarizes several instances of civilian deaths—a particularly numbing example being the incident in which a sniper accidentally shoots a U.S.-employed interpreter. Almost jarringly, though, it opens with a defensive tone. The second paragraph begins, “The reports make it clear that most civilians, by far, were killed by other Iraqis.” And there is little emphasis, unlike at other outlets, on the fact that many of the civilian casualties revealed in the logs were previously unreported.
A third story, also by Tavernise and Lehren, “Detainees Fare Worse in Iraqi Hands,” reports on abuses carried out by the Iraqi army and police forces against prisoners. Despite the headline, though, the U.S. is not exonerated; Lehren and Tavernise note that “while some abuse cases were investigated by the Americans, most noted in the archive seemed to have been ignored, with the equivalent of an institutional shrug: soldiers told their officers and asked the Iraqis to investigate.” Readers learn that the most serious abuses often come during arrests, when there is resistence, and damningly, the authors point out that the “worse examples of Iraqi abuse came later in the war.” The implications are dark:
It is a frightening portrait of violence by any standards, but particularly disturbing because Iraq’s army and police are central to President Obama’s plan to draw down American troops in Iraq. Iraqi forces are already the backbone of security in Iraq, now that American combat troops are officially gone, and are also in charge of running its prisons.
Elsewhere, Gordon and Lehren burrow into one specific report for a shorter story to reveal that the three American hikers taken into Iranian custody for illegally crossing into Iran in July 2009 were in fact on the Iraqi side of the border.
On first read it appears that for the Times, the Iraq war logs reveal much about that country, ours, and Iran. - Joel Meares
The Guardian calls its package “Iraq: The War Logs”, and goes high with revelations of “serial detainee abuse” and “15,000 [previously] unknown civilian deaths.” (A subhed on the homepage bills the Guardian’s coverage as the summary of “five years of carnage.”) As of this posting, there are two ambitious multimedia components, the most impressive—and difficult to stomach—being “every death mapped,” which breaks down the new data on both civilian and military deaths into little pink dots scattered across the country.
The lede for the Guardian’s introduction to the package doesn’t mince words, saying that the WikiLeaks documents detail “torture, summary executions and war crimes.” The intro focuses on the sheer volume of incidents, while breakout stories—on detainee abuse, an Apache helicopter that killed insurgents trying to surrender, civilian deaths at checkpoints, etc.—turn the data into vivid anecdotes.
The paper puts the most emphasis on the 15,000 previously unreported civilian deaths revealed in the logs. It also emphasizes repeatedly the fact that U.S. and British officials have both denied the existence of military data on civilian deaths, noting a 2002 quote from General Tommy Franks: “We don’t do body counts.” The story on deaths at checkpoints is the best of the Guardian’s more anecdotal stories; a very good subhed also provides context on checkpoint violence from both the soldier and civilian perspective: “Fear of suicide bombers means troops have shot drivers and passengers who were simply too scared or confused to stop.”