Boxers or Briefs? U.S. Condemns Pix of Saddam in Jail

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By: E&P Staff

The U.S. military on Friday condemned a British newspaper’s decision to print photographs of a captive Saddam Hussein, including one showing him in his underwear. Later the New York Post published on its front page one of the photos of Saddam in his white briefs, under the headline, “Butcher of Sagdad.”

The Pentagon raised fears that the photos could cause a backlash in Iraq. But President Bush said Friday that he did not think photos of Hussein clad only in his underwear would incite further anti-American violence in Iraq. “I don’t think a photo inspires murderers,” Bush said.

Bush was briefed by senior aides Friday morning about the photos’ existence, and “strongly supports the aggressive and thorough investigation that is already under way” that seeks to find who took them, White House press spokesman Trent Duffy said.

The Post had described the photos this way: “The pictures capture a Saddam Hussein far removed from the man who once owned 100 palaces, a huge yacht and a fleet of cars. This is the post-downfall Saddam — a man of no wealth, no luxuries and underwear that doesn’t fit right.”

But this was no laughing matter to the Pentagon. The photos were “expected to fuel anti-American sentiment among supporters of the former dictator who are believed to be the driving force behind the country’s insurgency,” the Associated Press observed.

The same pictures in the British tabloid Sun showed the former Iraqi dictator, clad only in his underwear, folding a pair of trousers. On an inside page it showed Saddam washing a piece of clothing.

The Sun said it obtained the photos from “U.S. military sources.”

Both the Sun and Post are controlled by Rupert Murdoch, a longtime supporter of the U.S. invasion that toppled Hussein.

Asked why he chose to publish the photos, Col Allan, editor of the New York Post told E&P this morning, “They were interesting.” He also observed that the Sun is the Post’s sister paper in London. He was not aware until then of the Pentagon’s objections and would not comment on them.

The U.S. military in Baghdad said the photos violated military guidelines “and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines for the humane treatment of detained individuals.” Military officials in Iraq have condemned the release of photos.

“These photos were taken in clear violation of DoD directives and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines for the humane treatment of detained individuals,” a Multinational Force Iraq official said in a statement.

The statement went on to say that the command “is disappointed at the possibility that someone responsible for the security, welfare, and detention of Saddam would take and provide these photos for public release.”

The Sun said it received the pictures from a source in the U.S. military who, according to the New York Post account, “hoped the release of the pitiful pictures will deal a body blow to the lingering Iraqi insurgency.” The source supposedly said: “Saddam is just an aging and humble old man now. It’s over, guys. The evil days of Saddam’s Ba’ath Party are never coming back — and here’s the proof.”

The source of the photos was unknown, but may have been taken more than a year ago. The military said it was “aggressively” investigating to determine the source.

“We take seriously our responsibility to ensure the safety and security of all detainees,” the statement said. Hussein is awaiting trial on war crimes charges.

The Sun claims that it was told the name and location of the Iraqi jail where the ex-dictator is being held, but is withholding the exact whereabouts. Others have alleged that he is being held at or near the Baghdad airport.

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