Bush: 'Justice Will Be Served'

George W. Bush, as US President, interviewed by Al Hurra, Washington DC, 2004/5/5 AP

President Bush on Wednesday told Arab television viewers that the abuse of Iraqi detainees was "abhorrent," as military commanders apologized and reports of wider mistreatment and deaths in custody emerged.

Mr. Bush was conducting interviews with U.S. sponsored al-Hurra and independent al-Arabiya television amid mounting controversy over the alleged abuse by U.S. soldiers.

"The people of Iraq must understand that I view those practices as abhorrent," Mr. Bush told al-Hurra. "They must also understand that what took place in that prison does not represent the America that I know."

"The America that I know has sent troops to Iraq to promote freedom," he said.

Fourteen deaths of detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan are now either blamed on U.S. troops or under investigation.

The military said Tuesday it was probing 10 suspicious deaths. In addition, one U.S. soldier has been court-martialed for killing an Iraqi prisoner in September, and a CIA contract interrogator is alleged to be responsible for the death of an Iraqi prisoner last November.

An intelligence official said Wednesday that the CIA inspector general is investigating two other deaths involving CIA interrogators. One took place at an Afghan prison near the Pakistan border in June 2003 and involved an independent contractor. The other death occurred at another, unspecified location in Iraq and involved a CIA interrogator, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

"We're an open society … We're a society that is willing to fully investigate what took place in that prison," Mr. Bush told al-Hurra. "Justice will be served."

About 2,000 Iraqis on Wednesday protested the treatment of prisoners, chanting "democracy doesn't mean killing innocent people." They demonstrated outside the Abu Ghraib prison, a torture center under Saddam Hussein and now the epicenter of the abuse allegations against U.S. troops.

Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the new commander of the prison, apologized for "the small number of soldiers who committed illegal or unauthorized acts" at the prison and said he wanted the International Red Cross and Iraq's interior and human rights offices to have permanent offices there.

"These are violations not only of our national policy but of how we conduct ourselves as members of the international community," Miller added. "It has brought a cloud over all the efforts of all of our soldiers and we will work our hardest to re-establish the trust that Iraqis feel for the coalition and the confidence people in American have in their military."

In Baghdad, the spokesman for the U.S. command, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, also apologized for the abuse, which he said had "shamed" the Army.

"My Army has been embarrassed by this. My Army has been shamed by this. And on behalf of my Army, I apologize for what those soldiers did to your citizens," Kimmitt told reporters. "It was reprehensible and it was unacceptable."

As Miller spoke to reporters in cellblock 1A, five women inmates screamed, shouted and waved their arms through the iron bars.

"I've been here five months," one of the women shouted in Arabic. "I don't belong to the resistance. I have children at home."

At a tent camp inside the prison used for detainees with medical conditions, prisoners ran out shouting as the bus of journalists pulled in. Some hobbled out of tents on crutches. A one-legged man hopped out, waving his prosthetic leg in the air.

"Why! Why," he shouted in Arabic. "Nobody has told me why I am here."

Another prisoner complained of "random capturing from the streets," soldiers stealing property during raids on homes, "illogical questions with no relation to reality" and "mental and psychological interrogations for no obvious reasons."

Asked about claims by many prisoners after their release that they were picked up by mistake and have no connection to the anti-U.S. resistance, Col. Foster Payne, head of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib, said, "Some people are in the wrong place at the wrong time, but clearly everyone is not a farmer."

The prison scandal began when photographs were showing prisoners hooded and nude, forced into sexual positions and piled together. One was attached to wires and was allegedly told that he might be electrocuted.

The military, which had reviewed Iraq prison policies in the fall for an undisclosed reason, launched five probes after the photographs came to light in January. Six military police face are facing criminal charges as a result of the probes and seven officers have been disciplined administratively.

CBS National Security Correspondent David Martin reports one investigation found that military police were instructed by military intelligence officers to soften up the Iraqi prisoners to make them more compliant during interrogations.

Joint Chiefs vice chairman Gen. Peter Pace said Pentagon officials agreed with the internal Army report's findings that the prisons in Iraq were understaffed, and that those serving as prison guards had been inadequately trained.

"Those soldiers were not following orders," Pace told the CBS News Early Show.

U.S. officials have said that the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was an aberration.

But Iraqis freed from coalition jails are stepping forward with new allegations. An Iraqi human rights group, the Human Rights Organization in Iraq, claimed interrogation methods allegedly include jolts from cattle prods or stun guns. Beatings during arrest and interrogation were said to be routine.

One former prisoner, Muwaffaq Abbas, on Tuesday displayed scarred wrists, black eyes and a gouge on his eyebrow that he said came from nine days in a U.S. lockup. Abbas, like many other former prisoners, said he was prevented from sleeping by booming rap music and sadistic guards.

"Sometimes we fell asleep despite the loud music. The soldier would put a bullhorn next to my ear and scream," said Abbas, a Baghdad lawyer.

On Tuesday, the U.S. military said it was ordering troops to use blindfolds instead of hoods, and requiring interrogators to get permission before depriving inmates of sleep — one of the most common techniques reported by freed Iraqis.
  • Jarrett Murphy

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