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Rumsfeld, Myers arrive in Baghdad

May 13, 2004 18:28 IST

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, arrived in Baghdad Thursday to meet troops and review conditions at American prison camps in Iraq, report agencies. 

Talking to journalists en route, he said they planned to meet Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the top US commander in Iraq, and other senior officers. However, Rumsfeld said, 'If anyone thinks I am there to throw water on a fire they are wrong,' since he was going to Iraq "to thank US troops for the fine job they are doing and meet their commanders."

Some senior Defence Department's  lawyers were part of Rumsfeld's delegation. Rumsfeld and Gen Myers testified  before senators yesterday about the reports of abuse at US prison facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

A video diary shot by a prison guard at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison shown on US television Wednesday showed the shooting of Iraqi prisoners by US guards. Earlier, senators and Congressmen viewed more than 1,500 unpublished pictures of  Iraqis being abused in prison. 

"The whole thing is disgusting and it's hard to believe that this actually is taking place in a military facility, " said California Senator Dianne Feinstein.  Photos of sexual intercourse, including 'consensual' sex involving US military personnel, were said to be among the images. 

"There were several pictures of Iraqi women who were disrobed or putting their shirts up. They were not smiling in the pictures, that's for sure. But it didn't look like they had been beaten or hurt," said Colorado Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell. "I don't know how the hell these people got into our army." 

Rejected accusations that he had ignored warnings of abuse by the Red Cross and Iraqi leaders, Rumsfeld described the scandal as "a body blow for the country."

However, he asserted that "enormous progress" was being made in Iraq. "People will be punished at every level, I assure you. The military justice works." 

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