Bush Shows 'Deep Disgust' for Apparent Treatment of Iraqi Prisoners
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 30, 2004 American officials are "appalled" by photos of U.S. soldiers allegedly mistreating Iraqi prisoners, and are urging the Iraqi people to not let the images taint their view of coalition forces.
At the White House, President Bush said he has a "deep disgust" for the way the prisoners apparently were treated. "Their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people," Bush said during a media availability with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin.
U.S. news organizations released photos April 28 that apparently show U.S. soldiers mistreating and humiliating prisoners at Abu Ghuraib prison outside Baghdad. The soldiers in question all were assigned to guard the prisoners. They have been relieved of their duties, and officials are investigating the charges.
"There is no excuse for what you see in those photos," Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7 in Iraq, said today in Baghdad. "And I'm not going to stand up here and try to apologize for what those soldiers did."
Kimmitt noted that the fewer than 20 soldiers in question "wear the same uniform as 150,000 other soldiers that are operating proudly and properly here in Iraq."
He said all the soldiers in the photos are facing criminal charges. "If, in fact, the pictures are what they appear to be, they will face a court of law, a criminal court of law, and they will have to face a judge and jury for their actions," Kimmitt said.
Military officials said six soldiers have been charged. Several others, including an Army brigadier general overseeing prison operations, have been suspended pending criminal and administrative investigations.
"There will be an investigation, and they will be taken care of," Bush said.
Kimmitt said officials also are looking into why leaders of the soldiers' unit didn't know what was going on or take action to correct the problems. They also said they've taken several steps to make sure such incidents aren't repeated.
Pentagon officials have brought Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller to Iraq from his previous post overseeing operations at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Kimmitt called Miller "probably the military expert in the world today on conducting appropriate detainee operations."
Units dealing with prisoners and detainees are receiving addition training on standards of the Geneva Conventions and on detention operations.
Kimmitt said other service members share his disgust and disappointment in the alleged actions of the soldiers at the prison.
"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," he said.
Bush's later comments echoed those of the general. "I also want to remind people that those few people who did that do not reflect the nature of the men and women we sent overseas," the president said. "It's not the character (of the service members) that are serving our nation in the cause of freedom."