Abuse in Iraqi prisons is intolerable conduct

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Tribune editorial staff

The United States' attempt to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis has taken a major step back.

The photographs of American soldiers humiliating Iraqi prisoners that have been shown around the world have created quite an uproar in the Arab community and here at home. And, rightfully so.

Email newsletter signup

The pictures show American guards taunting naked Iraqi prisoners and forcing them to mimic sexual acts. Such conduct would be expected of college frat boys as they haze pledges, but not of U.S. service men fighting for our nation. We find the actions deplorable and an embarrassment to the thousands of men and women who are honorably serving

in Iraq.

President Bush has denounced the actions of the soldiers in question and is expected to offer an apology on Arab television today. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called the acts "un-American." Members of Congress, meanwhile, are outraged the issue was not brought to their attention sooner.

U.S. officials have held some of those responsible accountable. Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, in charge of the U.S. prisons in Iraq, was admonished by her commander and suspended and six U.S. military police face criminal charges.

But the issue of mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners raises important issues that need to be addressed quickly. Are high-ranking military officers encouraging this conduct? What other type of abuse has gone on behind closed doors?

Some people, including one of the accused soldier's attorney -

allege that the soldiers were following the orders of higher-ranking officers. The point, they say, was to use the photographs to coerce other prisoners into giving them information. Using such drastic measures to obtain information, however, is uncalled for.

Soldiers and civilians in Iraq need to respect international and military law. As the image of American bodies hanging from a bridge lingers, we need to set an example and prove we can accomplish our goals without stooping to such barbaric actions.