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May 5, 2004

Rumsfeld 'Unsure' of Torture In Iraq


by Mark Rothschild

Further embarrassment regarding torture at the US military prison at Abu Ghraib, Iraq emerged today, as high-level US civilian officials denied knowledge of torture in Iraq.

US officials have stuck to the story that they had no prior knowledge of the torture going on at Abu Ghraib but that tale is starting to unravel, as new revelations come to light.

In addition to the charges of torture levied against US military personnel, there have also been reports that private contractors have participated in torture.

Asked on Monday, Coalition spokesman Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said he was unsure what private contractors were doing at the prison.

Speaking to Public Radio host Allex Chadwick, from Baghdad, General Kimmitt was asked whether private contractors were carrying out interrogations of prisoners in the prisons in Iraq. "Are you clear on the role of the civilian contractors at the prison?" asks the host. "I personally am not clear on the role of the contractors. At the prison." Kimmitt admitted demurely.

While Kimmitt pleaded his prior ignorance about what happened inside Abu Ghraib, CPA head L. Paul Bremer was dealing with accusations that he was informed about abuses by Iraqi Human Rights Minister Abdel Basset Turki as early as November of 2003.

Interviewed in Baghdad, Turki said, "In November I talked to Mr. Bremer about human rights violations in general and in jails in particular. He listened but there was no answer. At the first meeting, I asked to be allowed to visit the security prisoners, but I failed,"

"I told him the news. He didn't take care about the information I gave him."

Turki resigned from his post on April 8.

Bremer may have had other things on his mind, he is rumored by the Washington Post, to be interested in a cabinet job if Bush wins in November. He took time out from running Iraq on Monday to mend fences with the President regarding a comment he had made in February 2001, saying then that Bush's administration was "paying no attention" to preparedness for terrorism.

He is reported to have said then, "What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident and then suddenly say, 'Oh my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this,'''

In Baghdad on Monday Bremer used the word "regret" to describe those previous statements critical of Bush.

While the rest of the world is seething at the brutality that took place in the Iraqi prison, Bush Administration officials are characteristically singing a different tune from the rest of the world.

When asked by a reporter whether torture has taken place in Iraq, Rumsfeld said,

"My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture."

He added that he did not know "that torture took place."

Our allies in Europe and else ware can be but aghast at these sentiments.

Appearing with Rumsfeld at the same press conference was Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace. General Pace referred to the secret Army report on Abu Ghraib as containing, " hundreds and hundreds of pages of documentation that are classified."

However, the secret report obtained by Seymour M. Hersh and disclosed in The New Yorker magazine has been described as containing only 56 pages, not "hundreds and hundreds of pages."

It may well be that what was leaked to Seymour Hersh was only a summary of the secret report's findings, and if that is true then there may be more revelations to come.


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Mark Rothschild lives and writes from Los Angeles, California. Comments or questions are welcome.

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