- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2003

Graphic videos of torture committed by Saddam Hussein’s militiamen “portray a regime that was about as vicious as any regime could conceivably be,” Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.

Saying he was unsure whether he had seen the torture videotape aired over the past two days by Fox News, Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters there are “a lot” of such tapes, although he did not know how or where they were made.

“When you have people filming, in front of crowds cheering and clapping, you have people cutting off people’s tongues and cutting off people’s heads, and chopping off their fingers and chopping off their hands, throwing them off three-story buildings, you learn something about a group of people and how they live their lives and how they treated their people,” he said.

Fox News reported the tape it has aired was “declassified and obtained” by the news organization. With no audio in parts and faint sounds, the tape is of poor quality.

The scenes were recorded in public squares and military installations with civilians and children witnessing torture acts by dozens of black-clad Fedayeen soldiers and uniformed Republican Guards, Fox said.

It was not clear yesterday whether the Fox News tape is the same as or contains the same footage as one made public in July. It showed Saddam Hussein’s half-brother, ousted Interior Minister Watban Ibrahim Hasan, cheering on his police officers as they repeatedly slash prisoners with sticks, electric cables and metal bars at a Baghdad detention center.

Speaking of the torturers, Mr. Rumsfeld said: “We are so fortunate they are gone and those 23 million people are liberated.”

His comments came at a Pentagon news briefing, during which Mr. Rumsfeld complained that news organizations spend too little time reporting on the successes of the Iraq war.

“Some have suggested that any statement that raises awareness of these successes is putting an optimistic face on a difficult security situation,” he said. “We have made an effort to point out the progress, because until we did so, progress was being largely ignored in the press.”

Mr. Rumsfeld praised the number of armed Iraqi security forces being trained and organized by some 130,000 U.S. troops occupying Iraq. “In less than six months, we’ve gone from zero Iraqis providing security to their country to close to 100,000 Iraqis currently under arms,” he said, adding armed Iraqis soon will outnumber U.S. forces and eventually all coalition forces in Iraq.

“Not only has the coalition managed to outpace the progress in postwar Germany, Japan, Bosnia or Kosovo, they have done it under fire, while fighting a dangerous, low-intensity conflict,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

The past week has brought the worst violence in Iraq since major combat operations were declared completed on May 1. An American colonel was killed when more than a dozen rockets slammed into the Al-Rasheed Hotel, and dozens of Iraqis were killed when a string of suicide car bombings rocked downtown Baghdad. Between 80 and 85 Iraqi security officers have been killed during the past three or four months, Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Asked where those conducting the attacks are coming from, Mr. Rumsfeld said one suspected terrorist arrested in the last 48 hours claimed to be Syrian.

“I think he was probably a Yemeni,” Mr. Rumsfeld said, adding that between 200 and 300 non-Iraqis have been arrested in Iraq “and the high percentage were from Syria and Lebanon.”

While he said there are Ba’athists and regime remnants in Iraq who were trained to conduct such attacks, Mr. Rumsfeld added the attacks are “clearly being financed because we have found some folks with money on them.”

“I don’t doubt for a minute … some [foreigners] have been hired,” he said.


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