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Iraq Journals

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Wednesday, May 5

Ney says Iraq prison abuse hearing would hurt morale, benefit U.S. enemies

By Greg Wright | GNS

WASHINGTON - An upcoming Senate hearing on Iraq prisoner abuse will hurt troop morale and benefit America's enemies, an Ohio Republican said Wednesday.

``The last thing our nation needs now is for others to inflame this hatred by providing fodder and sound bites for our enemies,'' said Rep. Robert Ney of St. Clairsville.

Photos of American soldiers forcing prisoners to strip nude and pose in sexually demeaning positions were beamed around the world this week. On Wednesday, President Bush made the first of two appearances on Arab television to denounce the actions.

``Our citizens in America are appalled by what they saw, just like people in the Middle East are appalled,'' Bush said on Al-Arabiya television. ``And we will find the truth. We will fully investigate.''

Chairman John Warner of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld agreed to appear before his committee to explain alleged abuses at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

``There is no reluctance,'' said Warner, R-Va., who appeared on CNN. ``We are moving toward an appearance that is mutually convenient.''

The pictures also upset Ney. But like Bush, Ney said only a few soldiers committed the abuses.

The misdeeds do not reflect on thousands of other troops and American contractors working in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ney said.

A Senate hearing likely would turn into a media event where both Republicans and Democrats posture to score political points, he said. Instead, the Pentagon should investigate the incidents and soldiers and contractors who mistreated prisoners should face a court-martial or be prosecuted in court.

``I think we need to trust that Secretary Rumsfeld will do a top-to-bottom look at this,'' Ney said.

And the outrage over American abuses is biased, Ney said. When an Iraqi mob murdered, burned and hung American contractors in March in Fallujah, he said he saw no similar reaction.

``Where was this collective world outrage when the mass graves of Saddam Hussein's regime were uncovered?'' Ney asked.

However, some members of Bush's political party, such as Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said public hearings are essential.

``We need to know the extent of the problem and bring (the guilty) to justice,'' she said.

And Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Rumsfeld should leave his job if he cannot explain why the abuses occurred and why more than two dozen Iraqis and Afghans have died in U.S. custody.

``If it goes all the way to Rumsfeld, he should resign,'' Biden told NBC-TV.