Arab Outrage Over Photos

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Images of smiling U.S. military police humiliating Iraqi prisoners appeared in newspapers around the Middle East on Saturday, angering Arabs who condemned the United States as a champion of rights only for Americans.

Egypt's Akhbar el-Yom newspaper splashed photographs of the U.S. soldiers posing by naked, hooded inmates on page one with the banner headline "The Scandal." Al-Wafd, an opposition paper, displayed similar photos beneath the headline, "The Shame!"

President Bush condemned the mistreatment, saying he shared "a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were treated." He said that is "not the way we do things in America."

Arabs first saw the photographs on the satellite television stations Al-Arabiya, based in the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, which led their news bulletins with them Friday. Most newspapers don't publish on Fridays in the Arab world.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Army report obtained by The New Yorker magazine says Iraqi detainees were subject to "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses" at the Abu Ghraib prison.

The internal report detailed such abuses as pouring phosphoric liquid from chemical lights on detainees, pouring cold water on naked detainees and threats of rape, the magazine says in an article for its May 10 issue.

Other mistreatment of prisoners included "beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair" and "sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick," the report said, according to the magazine.

The report, written by Major General Antonio M. Taguba and completed in February, said the findings were based on "detailed witness statements and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence," The New Yorker said.

Six U.S. soldiers facing courts-martial in the overall abuse allegations have been reassigned in Iraq; their boss, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, and at least seven others have been suspended from their duties at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, according to the U.S. military.

The soldiers who've been criminally charged are members of the 372nd Military Police Company, a unit that's based in western Maryland, according to The Baltimore Sun.

In Baghdad, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said the commander of the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, was being sent to Iraq to take over the coalition detention facilities.

Kimmitt said the Army is taking "very aggressive steps" to minimize the chances of such acts happening again, and "we are also taking a hard look at interrogation practices."

The prison was notorious under Saddam Hussein's rule, and Mr. Bush has made a point of taking credit for shutting down the ousted dictator's "torture chambers."

"Shame on America. How can they convince us now that it is the bastion of democracy, freedoms and human rights? Why do we blame our dictators then?" asked Mustafa Saad, who was reading morning papers in a downtown Cairo cafe.

Mohammed Hassan Taha, an editor at Nile Sports News Television, said Arabs should not allow the matter to pass quietly. "This is not humiliation of Iraqis, it is humiliation of all Arabs," Taha said while buying Akhbar el-Yom at a newsstand.

During Saddam's brutal rule, Arab media rarely criticized or even highlighted news of atrocities reported by world human rights watchdogs. Iraq activists always complained that ignoring the abuses encouraged the Iraqi dictator to carry out gross human rights violations.

The photographs were first . Two of the images were published in The New York Times on Saturday.

Britain also confirmed Friday it was investigating its own prisoner abuse scandal, with the Daily Mirror newspaper publishing photos of a hooded prisoner reportedly beaten by British soldiers.

The photos at Abu Ghraib prison, taken last year, were inflammatory in an Arab world already angry about the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

One of them showed a hooded prisoner standing on a box with wires attached to his hands. CBS News reported the prisoner was told that if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted, although the wires were not really connected to a power supply. Other photos, with the genitals blurred, simulated sexual acts.

"They were ugly images. Is this the way the Americans treat prisoners?" asked Ahmad Taher, 24, a student at Baghdad's Mustansiriyah University. "Americans claim that they respect freedom and democracy - but only in their country."

Hussein al-Saeedi, spokesman for Kuwait's al-Salaf radical Islamic group, said the images "make every sensible person doubt all the principles Western democracies are offering" and show the need for an end to the U.S. occupation.

"America justified its invasion of Iraq by saying the country was under a dictatorship. Unfortunately, Americans are now torturing the Iraqi people in the same place Saddam tortured them," he said.

In Syria, Damascus merchant Sahban Alawi, 45, asked, "What's the difference between them and Saddam Hussein? They are doing to Iraq more than what he did."

Dara Nor al-Din, a former judge and member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, said the torture of prisoners and detainees or showing them naked contradicts principles of human rights.

"We used to criticize Saddam's regime regarding the beating of detained people, so why should we accept to repeat the same tragedy. This is not acceptable," Nor al-Din said.

Part of the problem, said Hurst Hannum, a professor of international law at the Fletcher School at Tufts University outside Boston, is that Mr. Bush has "put this war on such a high moral plane that any moral deviance will be taken more seriously by critics, and will be interpreted as either being arrogance or hypocrisy."

Amnesty International has warned the evidence of prisoner abuse "will exacerbate an already fragile situation." And New York-based Human Rights Watch said any investigation should also include the superiors of soldiers involved.

"The brazenness with which these soldiers conducted themselves ... suggests they felt they had nothing to hide from their superiors," said Kenneth Roth, the group's executive director.