Washington, May 3 (Reuters): The top US military officer declined yesterday to rule out the possibility that US forces might be guilty of a pattern of abuse of prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere.
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had not yet read an army report said to document “sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses” of Iraqi prisoners, including beatings and sodomy.
Asked how he could be sure that any such abuses were not “systemic,” Myers said on the CBS programme Face the Nation, “I’m not sure of it”.
A 53-page internal army report, cited in the May 10 issue of the New Yorker magazine, detailed reported abuses at Abu Ghraib between October and December. The military, spurred by the Pentagon’s civilian leadership, was investigating throughout the region, including prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
“If we find out it is (systemic), then we’ve got to take action” to end the abuses, Myers said, calling them a breach of US operating procedures as well as international law.
A spokesman for President George W. Bush said those responsible for abusing Iraqi prisoners should be punished for their actions.
Six senior commissioned and non-commissioned officers have been reprimanded by the US military for their involvement in the alleged abuse at the prison, a senior official said. The reprimands — the most serious written punishment the US army hands down — are private and no details would be released on the names or ranks of those punished, the official said. A seventh person received a lesser letter of admonishment.
The CIA inspector-general is conducting an investigation of the death of an Iraqi prisoner while being held at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, a senior CIA official said.
But the official added he was not aware any CIA officers involved in interrogating prisoners there participated in the abuses depicted by recent photographs.
New man in Falluja
US Marines brought in a former Iraqi general with a history of standing up to Saddam Hussein today to lead a force they have charged with putting down insurgency in Falluja.
After outrage among victims of the Baathist regime at their appointment of a former general in Saddam’s Republican Guard, US commanders have now turned to another ex-general, Mohammed Latif, to take overall command of the Falluja Brigade.