Monday, May 10, 2004

Key senators yesterday called on the Pentagon to quickly make public all photographs, videos and other evidence of prisoner abuse in Iraq, which the senators described as systemic.

“These photos have to be discussed in terms of our national-security interests,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and member of the Armed Services Committee.

Demands for full disclosure came from both Republicans and Democrats as the New Yorker magazine published a new photo of prisoner abuse reportedly taken in December, after the Army Reserve unit at the center of the Abu Ghraib investigation was removed from the Iraqi prison.

The photo shows a naked Iraqi prisoner with his hands behind his head, standing before two leashed dogs and handlers. The magazine reported that other photos show the dogs barking and straining at their leashes, and of the prisoner on the ground bleeding from apparent dog bites.

The Army said Friday it was conducting 35 investigations of abuse. The Pentagon announced its first investigation of abuse at Abu Ghraib on Jan. 16, three days after an Army military police officer reported abuses at the prison.

A classified report of that probe was issued last month, and on March 20, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt announced in Baghdad that six soldiers would face criminal charges in the abuse investigation.

“If there are more photos out there detailing abuse and terrible behavior, if there’s a videotape out there, for God’s sake, let’s talk about it, because men and women’s lives are at stake given how we handle this. So I want to get it all out on the table,” Mr. Graham told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“If there’s more to come, let’s get it out, as a nation work through it, and show the world that Republicans and Democrats may disagree on the policy and the war in Iraq, but we have the ability to make sure those accountable are going to be held accountable,” Mr. Graham said.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, urged complete public disclosure of the photo and video evidence from the prison.

“Look, one thing I know about scandals: They go on and on and on until the American people feel they have a full and complete picture of what happened,” said Mr. McCain, who was chastised over the so-called “Keating Five” savings-and-loan scandal of the late 1980s. “And to hold back these pictures … first, is foolish, because they’ll leak out, but second of all, it is sending the wrong signal.”

“All the information concerning this situation should be brought out completely, aired, ventilated,” Mr. McCain said.

Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told NBC that a hearing will be held tomorrow and unspecified evidence will be turned over to the panel, but will not be made public “because it’s of a classified nature at the moment.”

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said the public should view the evidence at the same time as Congress.

“Any effort to hide this kind of material is just not going to work,” Mr. Levin said.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warned Congress last week that the Pentagon had more photos and videotape depicting “blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman” behavior.

A week ago, the Pentagon’s top general denied that the photos of abuse were representative of how Iraqi prisoners were being treated.

“There is no evidence of systematic abuse in this system at all,” Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said May 2 on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Attempts to reach the Pentagon for comment yesterday were unsuccessful.

But Mr. Graham said he read a summary of the investigation and said it clearly showed “systemic failure.”

“The allegations in this report involve rape and murder,” Mr. Graham said. “Please don’t leave this whole scenario thinking that this is just about a humiliating experience. This is about system failure. This is about felony offenses.”

Former Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark agreed there was a “systemic failure,” but said President Bush is to blame. “There is a failure of leadership. It goes right to the top. This is a presidential leadership problem,” said the retired Army general.

Mr. Warner cautioned Mr. Clark against early speculation and Mr. Graham against politicizing the issue.

“I didn’t come here to beat up on Sen. [John] Kerry or to defend any political position,” Mr. Graham said of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. “This is not about Republican and Democratic politics. The president is right: We are all stained. So the effort to turn every sound bite into an attack on Bush, I think, misses the point.”

Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat, called the abuse scandal a “tragedy” that “goes directly to the heart of how we hope to win the war against terror and what we’re hoping to accomplish in Iraq, and that is that we are morally superior to our enemies.”

Appearing on Fox News Channel, Mr. Bayh said: “We don’t kill women and children. We don’t torture people. We stand for freedom. We stand for honor and decency.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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