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Latest Iraqi-abuse photos stun lawmakers

From wire reports

WASHINGTON — The latest round of photos and videos of American personnel abusing Iraqi prisoners — revealed only to lawmakers Wednesday — includes images of Iraqi women exposing their breasts and of hooded Iraqi detainees masturbating, members of Congress said after viewing them.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., said there were also some “gruesome scenes” that showed dead bodies, but without any explanation of how the victims had been killed or why.

“What we saw is appalling,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military ordered courts-martial Wednesday for two more American soldiers accused of abusing naked prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison, offering graphic new evidence of the debauchery of U.S. jailers.

And for the first time, the military disclosed evidence that seemingly undercuts contentions that military intelligence units had asked military police at Abu Ghraib to “soften up” prisoners. Wednesday’s charging documents note that some of the abuse occurred before military police units were reporting to intelligence officials at the jail.

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy chief of Iraq operations, said more senior American soldiers would likely be punished for the prison scandal, which has tarnished America’s human rights record in occupied Iraq.

“We have six soldiers right now that are facing criminal charges, three that are facing court-martial,” Kimmitt said. “We have numerous people in the supervisory chain who are going to potentially lose their careers because they failed to check, double-check and do what supervisors are expected to do.”

The charges offer no motives but describe acts that have been portrayed in a series of photos that already have been leaked to the worldwide media, flashed across American television screens and published in U.S. newspapers.

The photos and videos are the latest evidence in a scandal that has earned the United States condemnation from around the world, threatened President Bush’s re-election hopes and put Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the defensive. The pictures of half-naked Muslim women are likely to further enflame the Islamic world, which puts a premium on female modesty.

Some lawmakers were skeptical that knowledge of the abuses was confined to the participants.

“You can’t tell me that all this was going on with seven or eight Army privates,” Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida said. “And so the question is: How far up the chain of command did these orders (go)?”

Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., said the pictures and videotapes he saw paralleled the images of humiliated prisoners stripped naked that already had been released from the probe at Abu Ghraib.

Others agreed.

“More of the same,” said Sens. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., and John Edwards, D-N.C. Both said they were pained by what they’d seen.

Corzine said the sheer mass of photographic evidence deepened his conviction that the military’s command structure had failed. He also said he doubted the abuses were the work of a handful of underlings without the knowledge of commanding officers.

Charged with violating five counts of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice are Sgt. Javal Davis, 26, of Maryland, and Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II, 37, of Buckingham, Va. No trial date has been set, but commanders have pledged to hold them in Iraq, likely at the building that houses the International Press Center in Baghdad’s so-called Green Zone.

The planned public trials are part of a campaign to try to restore Iraqi confidence in the U.S.-led coalition’s invasion, occupation and attempt to create a democracy in Iraq even as photographic evidence of abuse has prompted an international human-rights outcry.

The charge sheets also spell out for the first time when the abuses captured in some photos were alleged to have occurred — “on or about Nov. 8” — about two weeks before the military police unit was assigned to do missions and tasks for interrogators at Abu Ghraib.

The timeline may be significant for ongoing military investigations, which are probing why commanders failed to stop the abuses or recognize that they were taking place.

Until Nov. 19, the guards’ 372nd Military Police Company didn’t answer to interrogators at Abu Ghraib. Even afterward, Kimmitt said Wednesday, they were commanded by the 800th Military Police Brigade led by Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski. But Karpinski has said in news interviews that she was unaware of the abuses at the time because her military police were answering to a Military Intelligence unit made up of soldiers and civilian contractors at Abu Ghraib.

The consolidation order also has been controversial because it was part of a series of recommendations by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, now in charge of all U.S.-run prisons in Iraq, to have closer cooperation between the guards and interrogators at Abu Ghraib to get better intelligence from prisoners.

Frederick, the most senior soldier charged so far, appears in the documents to have directed and participated in the widest range of crimes — from allegedly stacking nude prisoners in a pyramid to posing for a picture sitting atop a prisoner who was bound and stuffed between two hospital stretchers.

Many lawmakers declined to discuss the newest batch of photographs and videos other than to say they were disgusted.

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