Church, human rights groups condemn abuse of Iraqi prisoners
Written by Chris Herlinger
June 2004
June 1, 2004

 NCC labels U.S. soldiers' actions 'moral bankruptcy'

U.S. church and human rights groups have condemned the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by military personnel. The abuse scandal has prompted outrage throughout the world, causing U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to issue a formal apology during testimony before congressional investigators on May 7. Rumsfeld is now facing increasing calls for his resignation.

"Unfortunately, the photographic emblem of this war will not be the tearing down of Saddam Hussein's statue by Americans and Iraqis in joint celebration; it will be the pyramid of naked Iraqi prisoners being taunted by U.S. soldiers in a moment of moral bankruptcy," the National Council of Churches said in a May 5 statement.

"The common cause that all countries should share in the Ôwar against terror' is overtaken by resentment against the United States for what is seen as a betrayal of its own ideals," the NCC said.

The NCC also noted the problems of ongoing civil unrest in Iraq, a "mounting death toll" of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians, and what the NCC said was the Bush Administration's "begrudging change in posture" about the international community's role in Iraq.

The recent U.S. government actions, the NCC said, have resulted not only "in the squandering of the universal goodwill enjoyed by the United States in the wake of the [September 11, 2001] attacks, but also in the alienation of many around the world who once saw American democracy as something to be emulated." Concern about the prisoner abuse has also come from the Vatican.

"The Iraqi conflict, already marked by mourning and destruction, now takes on more tragic connotations with the discovery of inhuman tortures inflicted on Iraqi prisoners," L'Osservatore Romano, a Vatican newspaper, said.

Meanwhile, the New York-based Human Rights Watch advocacy group, urged further investigation into the growing prisoner abuse scandal, saying it should not stop with investigating those immediately involved but also include the superiors of the soldiers accused of the abuse.

"The brazenness with which these soldiers conducted themselves, snapping photographs and flashing the Ôthumbs-up' sign as they abused prisoners, suggests they felt they had nothing to hide from their superiors," said Kenneth Roth, the group's executive director.

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Rev. J. Bennett Guess
Executive Minister, Local Church Ministries
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-3801
guessb@ucc.org