The Bush administration was bracing itself last night for the release of new pictures and video footage from Abu Ghraib which show US soldiers having sex with an Iraqi woman prisoner, troops almost beating a prisoner to death, and the rape of young boys by Iraqi guards at the jail.
Senior officials have warned that the new images and details of the abuse and torture at the prison west of Baghdad will be even more shocking than those already released. They will undoubtedly place even more pressure on President George Bush and his beleaguered Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, as they desperately try to limit the political damage from the growing scandal.
NBC News has quoted military officials as saying that the new photographsalso show US soldiers “acting inappropriately with a dead body”. This may refer to a picture, which The Washington Post described but did not publish, of Sabrina Harman, one of seven reservists charged with abuses, posing with thumbs up next to a decaying corpse.
NBC also reported that the rape of young boys by Iraqi guards, apparently in a special section of the prison, had been filmed by US soldiers.
There are even suggestions that the murder of a prisoner has been recorded. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina questioned Mr Rumsfeld on Friday about why the abuse had not been detected earlier. “The American public needs to understand we’re talking about rape and murder here. We’re not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience.”
The new images will further rock the Bush administration, suffering its worst crisis yet after photographs showing US army reservists abusing and sexually humiliating prisoners caused international revulsion and outrage. But the knowledge that the abuse was much more widespread, and that there are more shocking images to come, is threatening even more problems for Mr Bush as he prepares to hand over sovereignty to an Iraqi government on 30 June.
Further evidence emerged, meanwhile, that the abuse of prisoners by military police reservists was ordered by military intelligence officers, CIA operatives or even by privately hired civilian interrogators. Ms Harman said they were told to break the prisoners down in preparation for questioning.
“They would bring in one or several prisoners at a time already hooded and cuffed. The job of the MP [military police] was to keep them awake, make it hell so they would talk,” Ms Harman, 26, from northern Virginia, told The Washington Post. “The person who brought them in would set the standards on whether or not to ‘be nice’.”
A total of seven reservists from the 372nd Military Police Company based in Cumberland, Maryland, have now been charged over the abuse, including Lynndie England, 21, who was photographed with a prisoner on a leash. Seven other soldiers have been reprimanded, and several relieved of command.
Rumours of the existence of more pictures have been circulating in Washington for days and were confirmed on Friday by Mr Rumsfeld, who said they were “sadistic, cruel and inhuman”.
The investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who revealed the extent of the abuse, warned earlier last week: “It’s going to get much worse. This kind of stuff was much more widespread.
“There are videotapes of stuff that you wouldn’t want to mention on national television … There were things done to young boys.”
President Bush insisted that while the abuse of Iraqi prisoners was “a stain on our country’s honour and reputation”, it would not deflect his mission in Iraq.
“[The photographs] do not reflect our values,” he said.
American Perverts Pack Rape Iraqi Women