Tabloid says it paid U.S. official for Saddam Hussein photos
Military will conduct an investigation into the leak of near-naked pictures. Some Iraqis say it's an insult; others say he deserves it.
By Bassem Mroue
The Associated Press
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The U.S. military condemned the publication Friday of photographs showing an imprisoned Saddam Hussein naked except for his white underwear, and ordered an investigation of how the pictures were leaked to a tabloid. Some Iraqis expressed anger, but President Bush said he did not think the images would incite further anti-American sentiment.
The Sun, a British tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch, said the photos it published Friday and today were provided by a U.S. military official it did not identify who hoped their release would deal a "body blow" to the insurgency.
Sun Managing Editor Graham Dudman told The Associated Press that the newspaper paid "a small sum" for the photos. He would not elaborate except to say it was more than 500 British pounds, which is about $900.
The New York Post, which is also owned by Murdoch, also published the photos on Friday.
More revealing pictures were published today in The Sun, including one of Hussein seen through barbed wire wearing a white robe-like garment, and another of Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as "Chemical Ali," in a bathrobe and holding a towel.
"It is clear that the pictures were taken inside the prison, which means that American soldiers have leaked the pictures," said Hussein's chief lawyer, Ziad al-Khasawneh. He said the photos "add to acts that are practiced against the Iraqi people, and of course we remember what happened in Abu Ghraib and we remember what happened in Guantanamo."
Hussein's attorney said he would sue the newspaper "and everyone who helped in showing these pictures."
The U.S. military in Baghdad said the publication of the photos violated U.S. military guidelines "and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines for the humane treatment of detained individuals."
A spokesman, Staff Sgt. Don Dees, said the military would question the troops responsible for Hussein.
Army Maj. Flora Lee, Multinational Forces spokeswoman in Baghdad, said the photos could have been taken from January 2004 to April 2004, "based on the background of the photos and appearance of him."
Hussein, who was captured in December 2003, has been jailed at a complex near Baghdad airport named Camp Cropper, which holds 110 high-profile detainees.
Aside from U.S. soldiers, the only others with access to Hussein are his legal team, prosecuting judge Raed Johyee and the International Committee for the Red Cross. The ICRC also criticized publishing the photos.
Alongside the photo of Hussein in today's editions, The Sun ran photos of a man and a woman. They were identified as al-Majid, who faces charges for his role in poison gas attacks against Iraq's Kurdish minority, and Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, a biotech researcher dubbed "Mrs. Anthrax." who got her nickname for her alleged role in trying to develop bio-weapons for Hussein.
The man, grizzled and gray, is shown hunched wearing a bathrobe, leaning on a cane and holding a towel as he rises out of a chair. The woman can be seen wearing a headscarf, walking outdoors and looking forlornly in the distance.
Some Iraqis called the photos of Hussein the latest in a series of insults to Arabs and Muslims. Others, however, said the humiliation is just what the 68-year-old former dictator deserved.
"This is an insult to show the former president in such a condition. Saddam is from the past now, so what is the reason for this? It is bad work from the media. Do they want to degrade the Iraqi people? Or they want to provoke their feelings," said Baghdadi Abu Barick.
"Saddam Hussein and his regime were bloody and practiced mass killing against the people, therefore, whatever happens to Saddam, whether he is photographed naked or washing his clothes, it means nothing to me. That's the least he deserves," said Hawre Saliee, a 38-year-old Kurd.
Bush said he didn't think the images would energize the insurgents, thought to be led by Sunni Arabs who were favored under Hussein's regime but largely excluded from the new Shiite-dominated Iraqi government.
"I don't think a photo inspires murderers," Bush said of the insurgents. "These people are motivated by a vision of the world that is backward and barbaric."
Later, however, White House press spokesman Trent Duffy said the photos could be perceived by members of the insurgency in much the same way as revelations of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib.
"This could have serious impact, as we talked about, with the revelations of prisoner abuse," he said.
"What the United States did in both of those situations, however, is recognize that, take immediate steps to investigate and get to the bottom of why it happened and how it happened and take steps to make sure that ... people are held to account."
Pictures and video images of Hussein being examined by a medic after his arrest were widely criticized. A top Vatican cardinal, Renato Martino, said American forces treated the captive Iraqi leader "like a cow."
Dudman, The Sun's managing editor, defended the decision to print the pictures.
"They are a fantastic, iconic set of news pictures that I defy any newspaper, magazine, or television station who were presented with them not to have published," he said. "He's not been mistreated. He's washing his trousers. This is the modern-day Adolf Hitler. Please don't ask us to feel sorry for him."