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US Senator: 'Outraged by the Outrage' Over Iraqi Prisoner Abuse - 2004-05-12

As a U.S. Army General testified before a Senate panel Tuesday about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops, one Senator expressed outrage at the outcry over the scandal.

While other members of the Armed Services committee condemned the abuse of Iraqi detainees at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, sounded a different note. "I am probably not the only one up at this table who is outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment," he said. "These prisoners, they are murderers, terrorists, they are insurgents, many of them probably have blood on their hands. And here we are so concerned about the treatment of those individuals."

Senator Inhofe said U.S. troops are the ones who deserve sympathies. "I am also outraged that we have so many humanitarian do-gooders right now crawling all over these prisons looking for human rights violations while our troops, our heroes, are fighting and dying."

But Senator John McCain of Arizona, a fellow Republican and a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, took issue with Mr. Inhofe's statement.

In a facetious tone, Mr. McCain made his point as he questioned Major General Ronald Burgess, a top military intelligence official, about why the United States should continue observing the Geneva Convention, which dictates humane treatment of detainees.

McCain: Why do you think we should? This keeps us from getting information that may save American lives. This is a restraint by humanitarian do-gooders. Why don't we just throw them in the trash can and do whatever is necessary. We have developed sophisticated techniques that we could just go after these people and get what we need and save American lives. General Burgess?

Burgess: Two things, sir. It applies to us as well.

McCain: Good point, General.

Burgess: And we are a nation of laws, sir.

Mr. McCain underscored the importance of humanitarian involvement in distinguishing the United States from its enemies. "If we somehow convey the impression that we have got to do whatever is necessary and humanitarian do-gooders have no place in this arena, which I believe the International Red Cross has an important role to play, than I think we are setting ourselves up for some very serious consequences for American fighting men and women in conflicts in the future," he says.

Top Army officials said U.S. troops in Iraq were required to abide by the Geneva Convention.

The Army General investigating the prisoner mistreatment, Major General Antonio Taguba, blamed a breakdown in leadership for the scandal, but said there is no evidence that those responsible received orders to abuse detainees.