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Iraq Abuse Investigation Said to Clear Top US Commanders - 2004-08-19

A U.S Army investigation into abuses of Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib prison is expected to place blame on low-level soldiers, while generally clearing senior commanders of involvement. Seven U.S. soldiers are already facing charges of abuse in connection with a scandal that shocked the world.

The results of the Army investigation are expected to be released in the coming days. Barring any last minute changes, U.S. military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say it will place most blame for the abuses at Abu Ghraib on reservist guards and those who ran the prison. They say the investigation found no direct evidence that high level Pentagon commanders gave orders for prisoners to be abused.

Seven soldiers are facing criminal charges. The abuse drew widespread condemnation after photographs surfaced in April of guards beating detainees and posing with naked inmates in sexually humiliating positions.

One soldier charged in the abuse case has already pleaded guilty, and has been sentenced to a year in prison. All the defendants say they were just following orders from higher up in the military chain of command to "soften up" Iraqi inmates for interrogation. Among those who could go to prison is 21-year-old Army Private 1st Class Lynndie England, who has been photographed smiling and posing with naked Iraqi inmates.

"[I was] told to stand there, give the 'thumbs up', smile, stand behind all of the naked Iraqis in the pyramid [and] take a picture," she said.

The soon to be released Army report is one of seven military investigations looking into abuse at Abu Ghraib, and whether what went on there was limited to a few individuals, or a widespread practice.

During a Congressional hearing on the matter in May, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld took full responsibility for what happened at Abu Ghraib, but rejected calls from some in Washington for him to resign.