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.”
The Guardian’s coverage of detainee abuse highlights a coalition “fragmentary order” called “Frago 242.” A “frago,” as the story explains, is a military order “which summarises a complex requirement.” Frago 242 was a decision not to investigate any instances of detainee abuse in which coalition troops were not directly involved (in other words, torture by Iraqi soldiers or police). The result was that U.S. medical examiners treated victims of torture, documented the incidents, and sent them through the proper channels, only to hear back that no investigation was required. The Guardian explains that Frago 242 resulted in both isolated and “systematic” instances of detainee abuse being buried—that is, until WikiLeaks brought them to the surface. - Michael Meyer
Al Jazeera English
Al Jazeera English focuses on the same secret U.S. military order not to investigate Iraqi torture. “The reports reveal how torture was rampant and how ordinary civilians bore the brunt of the conflict,” reporter Gregg Carlstrom writes. “The files record horrifying tales: of pregnant women being shot dead at checkpoints, of priests kidnapped and murdered, of Iraqi prison guards using electric drills to force their prisoners to confess.”
The site bolsters these findings with a dozen or so feature articles, focusing on individual topics such as civilian deaths at checkpoints, additional revelations about the helicopter squadron “Crazy Horse” that was responsible for the deaths of two Reuters journalists in 2007, a closer look at Iraq’s deadliest suicide bombing in August 2007, and the story of the murder of a Catholic archbishop by al-Qaeda in Iraq in February 2008. In the “Showcase” section of the site, thirty-four reports are provided for readers in full and translated into plain English, but with most names redacted.