Saturday, January 15, 2005

Zernike continues covering the Graner trial -- where are the other reporters for the Times?

Worth reading on today's New York Times front page is Kate Zernike's "U.S. Soldier Found Guilty in Iraq Prison Abuse Case" which deals with the conviction yesterday of "Charles A. Graner Jr., of assault, conspiracy, maltreatment of detainees, committing indecent acts, and dereliction of duty, as well as one battery count that the jury reduced from assault."

Graner is not, however, a period. This lower level person didn't change policies and guidelines or import techniques from Guantanamo Bay all by himself. Zernike's captured the events of the trial throughout the week (today is the sentencing and reports are that Graner will make some statements). A number of you have e-mailed that you were "outraged" by the comments made in court. (And one of you is sure that Graner's attorney deliberately set out to do a bad job defending Graner -- that he intended to outrage so that Graner would become the sole focus of our attention and we wouldn't engage in any type of connect-the-dots thought.)

Yes, what went on was outrageous. Yes, Graner is responsible for his actions. But again, there shouldn't be a period after his name. This goes up the chain and it should be followed up on. That's not a slam at Zernike's reporting. Her task was to cover the trial. (I think she did an outstanding job of that.)

But with her article, you may note a brief Associated Press story. It's brief in the Times, but it is longer in Florida's South Sentinel.

"U.S. soldier guilty in alleged mercy killing of Iraqi" notes the conviction yesterday of Staff Sgt. Jonathan J. Alban-Cardenas in Baghdad for the murder of a "wounded 16-year-old." Johnny M. Horne Jr. had already pleaded guilty to participation in the same crime. He'll face three years in prison, Alban-Cardenas has been sentenced to one year.

The sixteen-year-old was in burning truck and Alban-Cardenas and Horne's group felt he was burned so badly that there was no hope and a "mercy killing" was required.

The Times brief AP story notes the above. The longer version notes:

Separately, Army Capt. Rogelio Maynulet, of Chicago, faces a Feb. 22 court-martial in Germany for allegedly shooting and killing a man who was gravely wounded when U.S. fighters opened fire on his vehicle in May south of Baghdad.

as well as this:

And in a third case, a military court hearing in San Diego has ended for a Navy SEAL lieutenant accused of abuse and posing in degrading photos with a handcuffed and hooded prisoner who died a later in Abu Ghraib prison. [Note: "who died a later in Abu . . ." is the wording in the article and not a typo on my part.]
The five-day Article 32 hearing -- the military equivalent of a civilian grand jury -- ended Wednesday. The lieutenant, who was not identified, was accused of assault, maltreatment and conduct unbecoming an officer for his handling of detainees. The Navy officer who heard the evidence, Lt. Cmdr. William Boland, will recommend to the Navy's top SEAL whether the lieutenant should face a court-martial.

Zernike's been in Fort Hood, Texas (and presumably still is for the sentencing). She's covered the trial and, my opinion, done a good job of it. But where are the other writers at the Times with regard to these other stories? And where's the attempt by the Times to put this into some perspective? Possibly, at this point, that's an op-ed, Sunday Magazine or Week in Review feature. But there is a cultural element going on that's not getting commented on. The period shouldn't come after Graner, others were involved (at a much higher level). (The early "few bad apples" never flew if you stopped to count the number of non-prisoners revealed in the various photos in the torture photos from Abu Ghraib.)

But the spotlight currently shined on Graner also risks allowing others who are currently charged to remain in the shadows. Zernike's done her job, it's up to the Times to illuminate the other two stories.