New photos show abuse of Iraqi prisoners

Congress to see evidence

lawmakers back release

Crisis In Iraq

May 10, 2004|By Julie Hirschfeld Davis | Julie Hirschfeld Davis,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - More photographic evidence surfaced yesterday graphically depicting U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison, as Democrats continued their calls for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign amid the widening scandal.

The Pentagon will give Congress this week hundreds of photos and digital images of the prisoner abuse, said Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, chairman of the Armed Services Committee. They include one published yesterday by The New Yorker , showing a naked Iraqi prisoner cowering before two dogs held by U.S. soldiers.

Lawmakers will view the evidence in the soundproof vault in the Capitol where they receive secret briefings.

Warner, appearing on the NBC program Meet the Press, said the material is classified and that he did not know if the images would be released publicly. But several lawmakers, including some Republicans, urged the Pentagon to disclose them immediately.

"To hold back these pictures, or to hold back the videos and only show them to members of Congress or something like that, first, is foolish, because they'll leak out, but second of all, it is sending the wrong signal," Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, said on Fox News Sunday. "All the information concerning this situation should be brought out completely, aired, ventilated."

Photographs of U.S. soldiers watching cheerfully as Iraqi prisoners are humiliated sexually and subjected to threats and degradation have enraged the Arab world, shocked Congress and the American public, and thrown the Bush administration into a furious damage-control effort.

The Bush administration is working to quiet Democrats' calls for the resignation of Rumsfeld, who expressed apologies Friday before Congress.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, asked Rumsfeld during last week's hearings whether he could continue to be an effective defense secretary. Graham said yesterday on NBC's Meet the Press that the Pentagon should release the pictures quickly to show it is willing to be open about the abuses.

"If there are more photographs out there detailing abuse and terrible behavior, if there's a videotape out there, ... let's talk about it, because men's and women's lives are at stake, given how we handle this," Graham said. "I want to get it all out on the table."

Several lawmakers, including some Republicans, said Rumsfeld's job is far from secure.

"This is as serious a problem as we've had since Vietnam," Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, said on CBS' Face the Nation. "It's still in question," he said, whether Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "can command the respect and the trust and the confidence of the military and the American people."

As new evidence surfaces, some lawmakers in both parties are calling the current crisis part of a pattern of grave missteps in Iraq and warning that the Bush administration risks losing support for its mission.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois added his voice to the chorus of Democrats - including John Kerry, the presumptive presidential nominee - calling for Rumsfeld to resign.

Rumsfeld "needs to step forward and say, as an important act, to show that we are changing course: `This will never happen again. I am stepping down,'" Durbin said on CNN's Late Edition.

But Hagel and other Republicans said it is too early to call on Rumsfeld to step aside.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who chairs the House Armed Services panel, expressed strong support for Rumsfeld, saying that he has done an "excellent job" managing U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. "You can't give a person who is managing a 2.5 million-member armed forces across the world the responsibility for what happened at 2:30 in the morning in a remote prison in Iraq," Hunter said on CNN.

But lawmakers in both parties seem determined to make sure that responsibility does not fall solely on the low-ranking soldiers seen in the pictures.

Members of Congress said they will scrutinize the chain of command with an eye toward whether the conduct of higher-ranking officers or the policies of military or civilian leaders contributed to the abuses.

In particular, lawmakers are eager to find out whether the military set or approved a policy under which military intelligence officers were put in charge of prisons and encouraged mistreatment of prisoners to get better results in interrogations.

McCain complained that Rumsfeld was unable during his testimony Friday to answer "perhaps the fundamental aspect of this, and that is, what was the chain of command?"

In a now widely distributed 53-page report detailing the abuses at Abu Ghraib, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba found that military intelligence interrogators directed military police guards to "set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses."

"This was part of a new intelligence policy, which goes right up to the Pentagon and perhaps even beyond," Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, told NBC. "These guards were told to soften up these inmates. ... This is not a few guards in some sort of aberrant conduct; this is a much more systemic problem."

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