U.S. Tries to Calm Furor Caused by Photos
- U.S. Tries to Calm Furor Caused by Photos
Bush Vows Punishment for Abuse of Prisoners
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 1, 2004; Page A01
Arab countries reacted with rage and revulsion yesterday after images of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi
prisoners were broadcast around the world.
Bush administration and U.S. military officials scrambled to contain the furor and to assuage
concerns among allies. The photos showed U.S. troops celebrating as prisoners were sexually
humiliated and otherwise abused.
"I shared a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were treated," President
Bush said in a Rose Garden appearance with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin. "Their treatment
does not reflect the nature of the American people. That's not the way we do things in America. And
so I didn't like it one bit." Bush said the abuses will be investigated and the perpetrators "will
be taken care of."
Analysts said the strong response by Bush appeared directed less at an American audience than at an
international audience skeptical about U.S. intentions in Iraq. The United States and Britain are
struggling to meet a June 30 deadline for a transfer of sovereignty in Iraq, and the images
threatened to undermine already tenuous international cooperation.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said he was "deeply disturbed" by the photos, and the British
government called the matter appalling, though later it confirmed it was investigating allegations
of abuse by British soldiers.
Arab countries were more strident, with the Arab League calling the mistreatment "savage acts" and
Arab broadcast networks describing the incidents in similar terms. Arab newspapers and students and
even a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council said the images could be pivotal in
turning Iraqis against the United States.
"This is the logic and modus operandi of imperialist conquest and colonial occupation," the Tehran
Times wrote. "The pictures of torture, brutality and sexual sadism are representative of the entire
criminal operation being conducted in Iraq."
The photos, first broadcast Wednesday on CBS's "60 Minutes II," showed hooded prisoners piled in a
human pyramid and simulating sex acts, as U.S. soldiers celebrated. One photo showed a hooded
prisoner standing on a box with wires attached to his hands; the prisoner was told, falsely, that he
would be electrocuted if he fell off the box.
"It provides a graphic portrayal of many of the worst impressions that much of the world has about
America," said Andrew Kohut, who, as director of the Pew Research Center, has polled extensively in
Arab and European countries. "It's red meat to large numbers of people all around the world who are
increasingly anti-American and don't think we represent the things Americans pride themselves on."
Foreign policy experts said the photos could cause lasting damage to U.S. efforts. "It is a
disaster," said Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and until
earlier this year a political adviser to the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority. "Five or six
people have managed to soil the reputation of American soldiers worldwide."
Arab commentators said the images were particularly damaging because of Muslim restrictions on
nudity. The photos also invited parallels to Saddam Hussein's regime because the abuse occurred in
Abu Ghraib, a prison used by Hussein for torture.
Without detailing the abuses, the military brought criminal charges in March against six soldiers
over incidents, allegedly the ones in the photos, at the prison in November and December 2003.
Charges included indecent acts with another person, maltreatment, battery, dereliction of duty and
aggravated assault. The military has also recommended disciplinary action against seven U.S.
officers involved in running the prison.
In addition, the commander of the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D.
Miller, is being sent to Iraq to take over the coalition detention facilities. And the CIA said
yesterday that its inspector general has two long-standing probes into abuse of prisoners at Abu
Ghraib, including one investigation into a prisoner's death. But a CIA spokesman said there is "no
direct evidence" connecting the CIA to the incidents in the photographs.
In Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a military spokesman, said he tried to limit the damage before
the CBS show on Wednesday. "I talked with the Arab press two nights ago, before the '60 Minutes'
show was broadcast because I wanted the Arab press to understand and possibly communicate to their
fellow Iraqis a couple of key points," he said. Kimmitt said the U.S. military is "absolutely
appalled" by the photos and that the perpetrators are facing criminal charges. He also said
authorities believe the incident involves fewer than 20 of about 8,000 prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
"Please don't for a moment think that that's the entire U.S. Army or the U.S. military, because it's
not," Kimmitt said in remarks directed at Iraqis. "And if you think those soldiers that are walking
up and down the street approve of what they saw, condone what they saw or excuse what they saw, I
can tell you that I've got 150,000 other American soldiers who feel as appalled and disappointed as
I do at the actions of those few."
Staff writers Sewell Chan in Baghdad and Glenn Kessler and Dana Priest in Washington contributed to
© 2004 The Washington Post Company