(AP) President Bush said Friday that he did not think photos of imprisoned Saddam Hussein clad only in his underwear would incite further anti-American violence in Iraq. “I don’t think a photo inspires murderers,” Bush said.
The photos, published in British and American newspapers, prompted an angry U.S. military to launch an investigation; the Red Cross said the pictures may violate the Geneva Conventions.
“These people are motivated by a vision of the world that is backward and barbaric,” Bush told reporters in the Oval Office where he met with the prime minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
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 White House declined to say what decisions news organizations should make about disseminating the photos. “That’s your job,” he said.
With the inquiry ongoing, he also would not comment on how the pictures may affect the U.S. image abroad. But the president downplayed the importance of the photos in stirring up the Iraqi insurgency.
“I think the insurgency is inspired by their desire to stop the march of freedom,” Bush said.
Later, however, Duffy said the photos could be perceived by members of the insurgency in much the same way as revelations of detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
“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.”
At the Pentagon on Friday, spokesman Bryan Whitman said U.S. military officials in Iraq believe the photos are “dated” — perhaps more than one year old, although no specific date has been established. Officials also are attempting to determine whether the images were taken from a surveillance camera or hand-held camera. In any case, release of the photos was a violation of U.S. procedures, he said.
“This is something that should not have happened,” Whitman said.