WASHINGTON (CNN) — A Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee dismissed Tuesday the outrage over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops, saying Iraqis depicted in widely broadcast photographs probably had “blood on their hands.”
“I’m probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment,” Sen. James Inhofe said during a hearing on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
The Iraqis held in the section of the prison where the abuse occurred “are not there for traffic violations,” he said.
“If they’re in cell block 1A or 1B, these prisoners — they’re murderers, they’re terrorists, they’re insurgents,” said Inhofe, a conservative from Oklahoma. “Many of them probably have American blood on their hands. And here we’re so concerned about the treatment of those individuals.”
Inhofe also lashed out at Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, accusing his campaign of exploiting the issue with a fund-raising letter calling for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation. There was no immediate response to Inhofe from Kerry’s campaign.
President Bush and other top U.S. officials and leading Republicans have condemned the abuse of Iraqis held at the Baghdad-area prison, once a notorious torture chamber under ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Democratic senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Evan Bayh of Indiana appeared surprised at Inhofe’s remarks, and some other Republicans disavowed them.
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, left the committee room during Inhofe’s remarks. Asked outside the meeting room whether he agreed with Inhofe, McCain replied, “No way.”
And Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Arizona, said, “When you are the good guys, you’ve got to act like the good guys.”
He added that the investigation into prison abuse should “be bringing us together and not tearing us apart.”
Inhofe said the photos photographs of U.S. soldiers mistreating hooded, naked prisoners should be accompanied by photos of mass graves and the executions of prisoners under Saddam.
Though he called the soldiers charged with abusing Iraqi prisoners “seven bad people,” he added, “I am also outraged that we have so many humanitarian do-gooders right now crawling all over these prisons looking for human rights violations while our troops, our heroes, are fighting and dying.”