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US Papers Monday: US Prisons in Iraq Improving
Sadr City wall counterproductive; Call for contracts reveals multi-year plans
By CHRIS ALLBRITTON 06/02/2008 01:39 AM ET
It's a bit of a light day today, and no more McClellan, thank you very much. (It's now become a media story rather than an Iraq story.) But The New York Times has a hefty enterprise piece on U.S. prisons in Iraq while USA Today looks at how the best intentions in Sadr City often backfire.

Over there
Alissa J. Rubin of the Times reports that even as the U.S. has improved its detention system in Iraq, it's still an arbitrary and capricious system that imprisons people on the flimsiest of evidence (or none at all.) Still, it's a lot better than the Iraqi system, former detainees say. “The Americans are better than Ministry of Interior prisons," said Mahmoud Abu Dumour, a former detainee from Fallujah. "They will torture you. Maybe you will die. With the Americans, if you enter Abu Ghraib, they will only wage psychological war on you." Good to know. The "psychological war" is actually part of the plan, and Rubin describes the theory of Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, who runs detainee operations countrywide. He sees the detainee operations as another part of the counter-insurgency campaign being waged in Iraq, with the goal to separate the hard-core jihadis from the civilian population. Perhaps the best part of the article -- which has a welcome thoroughness -- was the blow-by-blow of a review board looking at an individual's case. Definitely the must-read of the day.

The Times's Andrew E. Kramer reports that May 2008 was the least deadly of the entire war, with only 19 American deaths. That's the lowest monthly level since the invasion in 2003. But even as casualties and attacks fall, for both Americans and Iraqis, there was a setback in the negotiations over the state of American forces for 2009, after the U.N. mandate expires. The Iraqi government vowed to reject any deal that violated Iraqi sovereignty. Shi'ite politicians, including those allied with Moqtada al-Sadr oppose a strong U.S. military presence while the Kurds (of course) and some Sunnis favor one, seeing GIs as a bulwark against Shi'ite hegemony. Meanwhile, Australian diggers ended their combat mission in Iraq and began heading home over the next several weeks. Left behind will be two surveillance planes, a ship to patrol oil platforms in the Gulf and troops to protect the embassy.

Charles Levinson of USA Today reports that walled in merchants in Sadr City are going broke instead of flourishing as the U.S. wall-builders had hoped. Imagine that! The Americans had built a three-mile wall around the "good" part of Sadr City, but now merchants complain no customers can get into the prison/enclave. So, the "bad" side enjoys business. Smart. Mr. Bush, tear down this wall.

Washington doings
Walter Pincus of the Washington Post reports that new contract proposals show that the Americans plan to stay in Iraq for a long time. He reports the contracts call for mentors to officials in Iraq's Defense and Interior ministries to a U.S.-marshal-type system to protect Iraqi courts. Also included are calls for more than 100 linguists with secret clearance and contractors to deliver food to Iraqi detainees in a new, U.S.-run prison. These are all, as Pincus notes, multi-year commitments.

IN OTHER COVERAGE

Christian Science Monitor
Monica Duffy Toft, a professor of public policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, writes that the U.S. must leave Iraq to prevent a wider civil war. It reads like it was written in late 2006 and just now published.

Wall Street Journal
No Iraq coverage today.

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