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Americans React to Iraqi Prisoner Abuses - 2004-05-04

Americans citizens are joining the rest of the world in condemning the apparent abuses of Iraqi prisoners by some U.S. servicemembers in Iraq. The abuses are reported to have occurred late last year at a Baghdad prison used by the U.S. military to interrogate Iraqi detainees. Their mistreatment came to light last week after the CBS television news program "60 Minutes" aired photographs apparently taken by the abusers. The photographs show American men and women in military uniforms posing with naked Iraqi prisoners. There are also shots of prisoners stacked in a pyramid and some of them show male prisoners positioned to simulate sex with each other.

VOA's Coast to Coast program went to Times Square in New York and to the National Mall here in Washington to gauge how some Americans are reacting to the images and the news that at least a few American soldiers have mistreated Iraqi prisoners.

"I think it's pretty disturbing. I think America ought to hold itself to a higher standard in how it treats its prisoners and that's certainly not going to make us any more popular with the Arab and Muslim worlds, as it is."

"It's awful. It's awful what was done and America is a just country and the perpetrators will be tried justly."

"I think that that was just a couple of young kids who got involved in the wrong thing over there. That's all. They just took their anger out on a few guys and that's it. An isolated incident, hopefully." "I don't think you can base what a few people have done over there [to make a] kind of a blanket statement for the whole American population."

"It hurts all of us. I just came out of the Holocaust Museum [the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.]. It's a constant battle against prejudice and ignorance and when people who are in our military are doing that, it undermines all the good we're trying to accomplish."

"I think it's terrible. They shouldn't be allowed to abuse the soldiers, just like we wouldn't expect them to abuse ours."

"I'm not surprised. I mean, this is war. There's a lot of things that go on in war that people never hear of. This is one of them that happened to be exposed in the light."

"They shouldn't be abused, but at the same time, it's war."

"In all cultures in life, you have some good people and some bad people. Unfortunately, the bad people always take everybody else down with them. It's not going to do anything to really help our position in the Middle East at the moment."

"With what they've done to their people and children and [to] our soldiers, it doesn't bother me."

"It's very distressing. I think that it's inexcusable if, in fact, it occurred. It really makes a difference in our credibility. Our credibility is already suffering, I think, in the world and this just doesn't help. It's inhumane. Plus, it makes us look horrible to the rest of the world."

"It's obviously horrible. I have no sense of how widespread the mistreatment is, but I agree with [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair and [President] Bush that it has to be investigated and resolved."

"This country kind of prides itself on the way we value civil liberties and human rights, whether they're ours or they're even our enemies'. That's a fundamental core value that we hold true and I'm sure that whatever injustices were done, were a momentary lapse by a small minority of people. I'm sure that the powers that be will correct them."