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Bush Denounces Photos of Iraqi Prisoner Abuse - 2004-05-05


President Bush has strongly denounced photos showing the humiliating treatment of some prisoners by American soldiers in Iraq. The president told Arabic language television the actions are abhorrent and Americans are just as appalled about the incident as Iraqis.

The Bush administration spent another day Wednesday trying to contain the damage caused by the abuse, which the Army said may not have been an isolated incident. ?It's a matter that reflects badly on my country,? he said.

President Bush, appearing on the Dubai-based al-Arabiya television, expressing sorrow, but no apology, for the photographs of naked Iraqi prisoners being forced to simulate sex acts as smiling American soldiers looked on. ?The practices that took place in that prison are abhorrent and they don't represent America,? he said.

It is far from certain whether his comments can stem what has been a tide of Arab anger over the abuse that has led to criminal charges against six American soldiers and reprimands against at least six more. David Gergen served as a communications advisor to four American presidents.

?It's a significant step forward for the president to be doing that,? he said. ?I hope it signals it's the beginning of a more sustained American effort to reach the hearts and minds of the Muslim world.?

A sampling of reaction from Iraqis who watched the address in Baghdad suggests the extent of the outrage over what happened at Abu Ghraib prison. ?How would the Americans feel if this happened to them by Iraqis in America?? an Iraqi said.

?There's no difference,? another Iraqi said, ?between the security of Saddam Hussein's regime and the Americans.?

In his first public comment on the matter, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry warned what happened in Iraq could have grave repercussions for the United States. ?It has the potential of putting our troops, the rest of them in further jeopardy, it can increase acts of terror against America and Americans and it undermines the overall effort of the United States in the region,? he said.

A wider Pentagon investigation is underway into the assault and deaths of prisoners at other detention facilities run by the military, including in Afghanistan. At the same time, members of Congress charge Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld failed to keep them informed about what have been at least six inquiries into prisoner abuse in Iraq since January. Some are now suggesting he may have to resign, but President Bush said that he continues to have confidence in his defense chief.

In his first public comment on the matter, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry warned what happened in Iraq could have grave repercussions for the United States. ?It has the potential of putting our troops, the rest of them in further jeopardy, it can increase acts of terror against America and Americans and it undermines the overall effort of the United States in the region,? he said.

A wider Pentagon investigation is underway into the assault and deaths of prisoners at other detention facilities run by the military, including in Afghanistan.

At the same time, members of Congress charge Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld failed to keep them informed about what have been at least six inquiries into prisoner abuse in Iraq since January. Some are now suggesting he may have to resign but President Bush said that he continues to have confidence in his defense chief.

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