Telegraph vs Obama

Rumours have long been floating around that the Abu Ghraib photos that Barack Obama has been battling to keep secret are much more graphic than anything yet published. A week ago the Telegraph dived into the fray to confirm the story:

Photographs of alleged prisoner abuse which Barack Obama is attempting to censor include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse… At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube. Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.

Shocking stuff and all the more credible because their source, Major General Anthony Taguba, conducted the original investigation of Abu Ghraib and has since played a key role in continuing to describe “a systematic regime of torture” authorised directly by George Bush. Taguba believes that there is “no doubt” that the Bush adminstration was guilty of war crimes.

The Telegraph, however, had Obama in its sights, not Bush. He’d promised to release the photos, then relented when lobbied by the military. He’d then lied about their content: “I want to emphasise that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib.” Rape? Sodomy? Not particularly sensational! It was quite a scoop.

The Obama adminstration was unamused, trying to divert attention by attacking the British meda, with an Obama spokesman describing the British press as the last place you’d look for “something that bordered on truthful news.”

The Telegraph was apoplectic, publishing three furious responses. Nile Gardiner: “‘juvenile,” an “absolute disgrace.” Toby Harnden: “a smokescreen,”  “as arrogant as anything the Bush administration ever said about the press.” James Delingpole: “stop pooping on our lawn.”

One problem. It turns out the Taguba had been misquoted. He was referring to other photos that he’d seen – and which have already been published in 2006 – by Salon. Scott Horton, who had also been promoting the story, issued this apology:

The 44 photos subject to the ACLU lawsuit and reviewed by President Obama do not contain sexually explicit images. I regret my errors.

And the Telegraph? Well, so far it’s just kept digging. Indeed, it reported Taguba’s clear denial as confirming its story, while claiming Scott Horton’s reporting also backed them up. Apologies, as James Delingpole would no doubt put it, are clearly for “pantywaists”.

Expect more “robus”‘ reporting from the Telegraph in the future, now it’s cemented in its role as the scourge of the political class, and as it acts to correct the failings of America’s “congenitally libtard Mainstream Media.” According to Delingpole:

We don’t respect politicians any more. Not our politicians, and not yours either. Imagine how this new strain of irreverence bordering on utter contempt is going to affect our reporting of political affairs.

It’s going to be a fun ride…