A top American commander in Iraq says multiple investigations, including a criminal probe, are under way into the reported abuse of Iraqis at the hands of U.S. soldiers at a prison outside Baghdad. The U.S. led occupation authority in Iraq is concerned about the backlash the incident may provoke in the Arab world and beyond.
Part of this investigation is looking into whether U.S. military intelligence was involved in getting Iraqi inmates at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison to pose naked in humiliating positions in order to elicit information to interrogators.
The deputy director for coalition operations in Iraq, General Mark Kimmitt, calls pictures of Iraqi prisoners being forced to perform simulated sex acts evidence of criminal conduct.
The general expressed determination to, in his words, "open up every door and find out what's going on." Interviewed by NBC's 'Today Show' he also said he is concerned reaction to the images that have been publicized throughout the Arab world will harm U.S. forces serving in hostile environments.
?We have to demonstrate to the world that our soldiers treat their soldiers with dignity and respect. Otherwise we have no right to ask that of our adversaries. That does have me concerned,? general Kimmitt said.
Iran's foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi was among the latest to react, accusing the United States of brutal actions that run counter to its stated objective of promoting democracy.
President Bush has condemned the abuses, calling the pictures deeply disgusting. He urged Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to make sure the U.S. soldiers responsible are punished for what he called the "shameful and appalling acts" committed against some Iraqi prisoners.
An internal Army investigation is looking into whether military intelligence encouraged such treatment.
General Janis Karpinski, a military reservist, was in charge of Army reservists at the prison. She said, ?I have many years of experience in the Middle East, and those acts would never have been approved or if they had even been shared with me that this was a suggestion for interrogation, never approved.?
Now back from Iraq, she tells ABC's "Good Morning America" the cells where the Iraqis were apparently being abused were used by military intelligence, not military police working as prison guards.
?This was an interrogation and isolation procedure issue, and that was run and orchestrated by a separate command from the military police brigade,? general Karpinski said.
At this point, the U.S. military has not determined whether the abuses at Abu Ghraib were isolated incidents. In addition to the investigation into whether U.S. military intelligence directed the abuse, six American soldiers face a possible court martial in connection with the prisoner treatment. At least six others have been reprimanded and may see their military careers ended early.