Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The U.S. military continues to find in Iraq large caches of the weapons that have supported attacks by insurgents on coalition forces, the Pentagon’s top general said yesterday.

“We continue to find them. We’re up over 8,700 now, and tens are found every week,” Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Appropriations Committee.

At the same hearing, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld defended the military’s use of tough interrogation tactics against terrorist detainees in Iraq.

Mr. Rumsfeld said “any instructions that have been issued or anything that’s been authorized by the department” for interrogations was cleared with Pentagon attorneys and “deemed to be consistent with the Geneva Conventions.”

Meanwhile yesterday, the military said two more U.S. soldiers have been ordered to stand trial for inmate abuse in Abu Ghraib Prison, including one who has been accused of setting up the widely published photograph of a hooded Iraqi being threatened with electrocution.

Regarding Iraq’s weapons depots, Mr. Rumsfeld said that new ammunition dumps are being found “every day” and “the country is filled with them.”

The caches in the past provided insurgents with bomb-making materials, including in some instances 1,000-pound bombs, for the improvised explosive devices that are being used to kill and maim U.S. and allied troops. Some caches also have held portable surface-to-air missiles, mortars, grenades and small arms.

Sen. Conrad Burns, Montana Republican, said the roadside bombing attacks mean that “the quicker we neutralize that supply, I think the safer we will be.”

Some weapons depots have had dirt bulldozed over their entrances to prevent looting, and other weapons-storage sites are secured with locks and patrolled by armed guards.

Pentagon officials estimate that Iraq has 600,000 to 700,000 tons of armaments stored throughout the country. So far, about 130,000 tons have been destroyed, the officials said.

“We’ve got 6,000 people including contractors and armed forces personnel on this all the time, trying to do away with these arms caches,” Gen. Myers said during yesterday’s hearing. “I can’t sit here and say that we know of every one, but as we find them, we try to deal with them.”

On the prisoner interrogation, Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said U.S. military rules allowing prisoners to be put in stressful physical positions and using sleep management and dietary manipulation violated the Geneva Conventions.

Gen. Myers said the military is not permitted to used stress positions for an excessive amount of time or use any methods that would injure prisoners.

“Every time we have an interrogation, we have an interrogation plan,” he said. “Those are appropriate. And that’s what we’re told by legal authorities and by anybody that believes in humane behavior.”

In Baghdad, the military announced court-martial orders against two American soldiers .

Sgt. Javal Davis, 26, of Maryland and Staff Sgt. Ivan L. “Chip” Frederick II of Buckingham, Va., were ordered to undergo a general court-martial, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy chairman of the military operations. He said the trial date and venue had not been set.

Sgt. Davis has been charged with conspiracy to maltreat detainees, dereliction of duty for failing to protect detainees from abuse, maltreatment of detainees, rendering false official statements and assault.

Sgt. Frederick has been charged with conspiracy to maltreat detainees, dereliction of duty for negligibly failing to protect detainees from abuse, maltreatment of detainees, and wrongfully committing an indecent act by watching detainees commit a sexual act.

In the charge sheet, Sgt. Frederick was accused of having taken part in forcing a prisoner to stand on a box with wires placed on his hands a scene displayed in one of the photographs that have dominated the world press for two weeks.

• This article was based in part on wire-service reports.

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