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Americans Speak Out on Iraqi Prisoner Abuse - 2004-05-06

Americans are expressing surprise, shock and anger to the news that U.S. troops abused Iraqi prisoners. VOA reporters sought reaction from people on the streets of New York, Houston and Los Angeles.

As fresh pictures of hooded prisoners in humiliating poses appear in the news media, people like Rose Soucias, a visitor to New York, who lives in Florida, called what happened to Iraqi prisoners "horrendous."

"I was really shocked to hear that they were being abused," she said. "And I am outraged."

A New York City lawyer put his feelings in even stronger terms.

"I can't imagine anyone who would not have the reaction right now that what is going on is an embarrassment," he said. "I do not believe I have ever seen the United States held in such poor regard around the world. It almost makes me ashamed to be an American."

This Houston, Texas, resident said that abuses are understandable in wartime. "War," he said, "is hell."

"Things are going to happen that way," he added. "It's a shame that it did, but there's nothing you can do about it."

Steve, in Los Angeles, traced the abuses to immature young soldiers. "We sent teenagers over there that are immature, so that's what you get when you sent people there ill-prepared," he added.

New York insurance broker Barry Hartglass said that the incidents being uncovered seem isolated. "It should be fully investigated and the people, as far as the command structure is concerned, should be dealt with and disciplined," he noted.

Karl Johannson in Los Angeles believes the enemies of the United States now have added fuel for their anger, but he said that in the long run, the friends of the United States will stand beside it. "I don't think it's going to change anything," he said. "It's just an unfortunate, bad situation."

This Texas mother believes there are problems in every country.

"Even in our military, as wonderful as it is, it's everywhere," she said. "You just have to understand that. I think we have a great president and that he's very frustrated with what happened and I think he'll do the right thing, as far as getting to the root of all of it."

Elizabeth Davis of Houston said that the revelations are damaging and that those at the top of the chain of command, including the Secretary of Defense, should be held accountable. She has lived in the Middle East as a contract worker for an oil service company.

"And having lived there, I think Donald Rumsfeld, if he were really thinking of the country, not of his own career, needs to fall on his sword," she said. "He needs to resign because otherwise, the rest of the world, especially the Arabs, they'll never have respect for us again."

New York computer technician Titus Thompson is outraged by what he is hearing, but thinks the President does not need to apologize. "He basically stated that it was inappropriate and whoever were responsible, will be dealt with according to the laws," he said.

A woman in Los Angeles understands the frustration of U.S. soldiers who have lost some of their comrades to attacks by Iraqi insurgents, but nevertheless condemned their actions.

"They were in anger," she said. "It was still not justified, but it makes us just as bad as the people that are destroying our people."