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Unauthorized Photographs of Saddam Hussein Released

  • Malini Bawa

The U.S. military has launched an investigation into how Western newspapers obtained unauthorized photographs of Saddam Hussein in his prison cell.

The New York Post, an American tabloid newspaper... and its sister publication in Britain, the Sun, both splashed one of the photos across their front pages, Saddam Hussein, bare-chested, wearing only his underpants, a far different image than the former Iraqi dictator while in power, smoking cigars and firing guns.

The U.S. military said the prison photos appeared to be taken last year, some months after Saddam's capture, and that the Pentagon has already begun an aggressive investigation into how the images ended up as front page news.

White House spokesman Trent Duffy says, "These photos were wrong. They're in clear violation of DOD directives and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines for the human treatment of detained individuals."

But after the prison abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib, some Iraqis are skeptical about U.S. military investigations. Samer Shehata, with the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University says, "I must say that in the Arab and Muslim world, there is not a great deal of faith in the Department of Defense and it's ability to investigate it's own wrongdoings. We've seen in the Abu Ghraib scandal for example only one senior officer, General Karpinski, really punished."

The newspapers say they got this photo, and others of Saddam in prison, from U.S. military sources who hoped to demoralize the Iraqi insurgency, by showing the once-mighty Saddam, powerless behind bars.

Sun Editor Thomas Newton Dunn says the former Iraqi leader was a brutal dictator who is getting what he deserves. He says, "The man has no moral rights for anything as far as we are concerned."

In Washington, U.S. President George W. Bush said he doubted a photo alone would instigate more anti-American violence by insurgents in Iraq.

"I don't think a photo inspires murderers. I think they're inspired by an ideology that is so barbaric and backwards that it's hard for many in the Western world to comprehend how they think," says president Bush.

But the degrading photos could raise questions about justice in the new Iraq.

"There needs to be a perception in the Arab and Muslim world that Saddam is being tried fairly, that there is justice being administered that there is a process there that is fair," says Samer Shehata.

Saddam Hussein is expected to stand trial later this year, on charges of genocide, torture, and crimes against humanity.

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