Update: Iraq prison abuse scandal
WASHINGTON (CP) — Key
U.S. generals said Wednesday there may be more criminal charges
in the Iraq prison abuse scandal and denied that tough interrogation
tactics were endorsed by the Pentagon.
‘‘Things don’t have to go all the way to
the top to be approved,’’ said Gen. John Abizaid,
head of U.S. Central Command. ‘‘It’s our
Abizaid, appearing before the Senate armed services committee,
acknowledged that at least 75 cases of abuse plus a number
of wrongful deaths have been investigated in Iraq and Afghanistan
since December 2002.
‘‘It’s clear that there was some breakdown
in the process,’’ he told senators. ‘‘This
system is broken. We’ve got to fix it.
‘‘I don’t believe that a culture of abuse
existed in my command. I believe that we had isolated incidents
that have taken place.’’
The committee is trying to determine how high up the blame
should fall. The Pentagon continues to deny newspaper reports
that U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved a secret
interrogation program for Iraqi prisoners.
Lt.-Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. officer in Iraq, told
the committee that prisoner abuse will be investigated up the
chain of command, ‘‘and that includes me.’’
Sanchez also denied knowing that army officials tried late
last year to restrict inspections of Abu Ghraib prison by the
International Committee of the Red Cross.
A New York Times report Wednesday said the agency complained
in writing Nov. 6 about abuses at the Baghdad-area prison after
spot visits and that U.S. officials then said they’d
have to start scheduling appointments.
‘‘I never approved any policy, procedure or requirement
to do that,’’ said Sanchez.
The generals appeared before the Senate committee as a U.S.
court martial in Baghdad sentenced the first soldier in the
Specialist Jeremy Sivits received a penalty of a year in prison,
a reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge, the maximum
allowed under the charges filed against him.
While the U.S. military began a criminal investigation of
abuses in January, the extent of the scandal wasn’t clear
until news media outlets published graphic pictures last month.
More photos have been found and U.S. legislators will be able
to view them, said the Senate committee chairman, John Warner.
The anger they’ve provoked in Iraq has complicated U.S.
efforts to quell violence and transfer partial sovereignty
to an interim government at the end of June.
‘‘It is achievable,’’ said Abizaid, ‘‘but
it needs to emerge soon as to who is going to be in charge,
what their names are and what they’re going to do.’’
Three other American soldiers were arraigned on charges Wednesday.
Several have blamed military intelligence officers for ordering
them to ‘‘soften up’’ prisoners for
interrogation at Abu Ghraib.