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Publication: THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS PubDate: 5/4/2004 Head: How far is too far in war on terror?

Abuse of Iraqis spurs broader policy questions Byline: ED TIMMS Credit: Staff Writer Section: NEWS Zone: DALLAS Edition: SECOND Page Number: 1A Word Count: 1028 For many Americans, it was the kind of abuse that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was supposed to stop. Deep within the former dictators notorious Abu Ghraib prison, prisoners were abused and humiliated by guards who recorded the moment in photographs. The guards were U.S. soldiers. Their prisoners were Iraqis. News of the photographs broke last week at a time when U.S. forces had endured an uptick in violence while trying to create a stable and more democratic Iraq. And the impact of the photographs, one of which shows nude men wearing hoods and two smiling American soldiers, may well transcend shock value. Some foreign policy experts worry that the United States faltering image in the Arab world may be tarnished even more and that U.S. efforts in Iraq have suffered a serious setback. The revelations are a disaster, said Joseph Cirincione, a foreign policy analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Weve suffered some very serious military setbacks, and now this. Weve lost the moral high ground. ... Were losing the Iraqi people. President Bush has voiced a deep disgust at what happened but also stressed that those few people who did that do not reflect the nature of the men and women weve sent overseas. Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita said Monday that the military began investigating the abuses after a soldier reported them to his commanders. The chain of command took these charges very seriously and responded to them aggressively, he said. He detailed a number of investigations into allegations of abuses. Human rights groups suggest that the events recently revealed in Iraq are the tip of the iceberg - not only in Iraq, but in Afghanistan, where U.S. forces continue to seek out remnants of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization, and at the U.S. naval base at Guantnamo Bay, Cuba, where hundreds of terrorism suspects are detained.

Joe Stork, a senior official with Human Rights Watch in Washington, D.C., said Monday that groups dedicated to the welfare of prisoners have had little access to prison facilities operated by the U.S. military. The secretive manner in which the United States has handled prisoners in Iraq terrorism suspects is unprecedented, he said. Fodder for protesters Whether isolated incidents or part of a larger problem, the reports of abuses may become potent propaganda. Mr. Cirincione noted that Mr. Bush said that the war ended the torture chambers and mass graves in Iraq. But those who oppose the U.S. efforts in Iraq may point to the photographs of U.S. personnel abusing Iraqi prisoners. From an American viewpoint, we think these are exceptions or mistakes that are committed in war, Mr. Cirincione said. From the Iraqi viewpoint, he said, these may be seen as the norm of an American occupation. The role of private contractors in the interrogation of Iraqi prisoners also has come into question as a result of the recent allegations. In a recent statement, Human Rights Watch officials raised concerns that private contractors operate in Iraq with virtual impunity - not subject to prosecution by Iraqi courts and not in the jurisdiction of the military or U.S. legal system. Initial reports on the prison incident focused on Army reservists serving as guards, but, as the story has unfolded, the conduct of the contractors and intelligence operatives conducting interrogations is being scrutinized as well. Emerging evidence suggests that the reservists may have been acting on intelligence officials orders to soften the prisoners up for interrogation. Mr. Stork, Washington director-Middle East division for Human Rights Watch, said it makes little difference whether U.S. service members, or private contractors, or someone else was responsible for the abuses. The United States is still responsible for what goes on in the territory it controls, in this case Iraq - or Afghanistan or Guantnamo, he said. Report expected soon The Senate Armed Service Committee may receive a briefing from the Department of Defense on the allegations as soon as today, at the request of Sen. John W. Warner, R-Va., the committees chairman. These allegations of mistreatment, if proven, represent an appalling and totally unacceptable breach of military conduct that could undermine much of the courageous work and sacrifice by our forces in the war on terror, Mr. Warner said in a written statement. This is not the way for anyone who wears the uniform of

our armed forces to act. During combat operations last year, U.S. officials were upset by televised images of U.S. prisoners, a violation of the Geneva Conventions, international laws that govern the conduct of nations in war. The 1949 Geneva Conventions, which were signed by the United States, prohibit "humiliating and degrading treatment" of prisoners, as well as torture or inhuman treatment. In March, Mr. Bush said he expected U.S. POWS to be treated humanely, just like were treating the prisoners that we have captured humanely. If they were mistreated, he warned, those responsible would be treated as war criminals. U.S. military regulations prohibit murder, torture, corporal punishment, mutilation, the taking of hostages, sensory deprivation, collective punishments, execution without trial by proper authority and all cruel and degrading treatment. While what the Iraqi prisoners endured is widely seen as unacceptable abuse, it is perhaps inevitable that war prisoners may be subjected to some discomfort. Intense questioning for many hours, for example, is not an uncommon interrogation technique used by law enforcement as well as the military. North Carolina attorney Richard McNeil, a former Marine Corps judge, said the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately must decide the status and rights of detainees at Guantnamo. After the Sept. 11 attacks and the continued threat of another attack, measures are considered that once would have never been contemplated. For example, some legal experts, including noted Harvard law school professor Alan Dershowitz, have explored the idea of authorizing torture to prevent terrorist acts. For Mr. McNeil, one question that needs to be resolved is where, as a civilization and a country do you want to draw the line - and when do you want to cross it? Staff writer Richard Whittle in Washington contributed to this report.