Canton Repository

May 13, 2004

Ohio’s congressmen reflect anger, bewilderment

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — The scandal from the abuse of Iraqi detainees by their U.S. captors is being blown out of proportion, Rep. Bob Ney said.

The mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners paled in comparison with the brutality displayed by Iraqi insurgents, he said.

“There is a difference between what tends to be humiliation vs. these monsters who behead, burn bodies and hang them,” said Ney, R-St. Clairsville.

Ney’s views about the prisoner scandal reflect the darkening swirl of emotions and bewilderment felt by area lawmakers.

Many are dumbfounded over how the abuses could have happened. They are at odds with one another over the question of whether Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should be held accountable and forced to resign.

Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, said the secretary could not be expected to “know what everybody’s doing” in the military.

“I think he and the president are going to have to work this out,” Regula said. “I’m not going to second-guess them.”

Regula doubted that President Bush would push Rumsfeld out.

Regula and others have condemned the abuse.

“I can’t understand why anyone would do anything this stupid,” Regula said. “They may have done it as a lark. Maybe they thought they were being cute, maybe they thought they were having fun.”

“What was done was wrong,” said Ney, adding that those found guilty should be punished.

Regula agreed the abuse has “created a horrible image for us in the Islamic world.”

In a letter to Bush, Sen. George Voinovich, R-Cleveland, said “these despicable actions by a few soldiers have done a great deal of damage to our relations with Iraqis and the Arab and Muslim worlds, undermining much of the good work done by so many U.S. soldiers over the past year.”

Ney does not see it as a long-term problem. “It’s not a help but let me put it like this,” he said. “There’s still a lot of Iraqis that are very happy that they’re not being raped, murdered and tortured by Saddam Hussein.”

Regula doubts that any officer ordered the abuse.

“What officer is going to order anything like that?” he said.

DeWine, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the mistreatment could have resulted from direct orders or indirect pressure to extract information from inmates.

“We don’t know whether ... this was sanctioned either outwardly or there was a wink and a nod by people who were running the intelligence operation (or if there was) a rogue group that was doing this,” he said.