Bush pledges probe into Saddam pictures
LONDON Agencies- Washington promised an investigation on Friday into how
pictures of Saddam Hussein in his underpants were splashed across the front-page
of Britain's biggest-selling daily newspaper.
The Sun quoted U.S. military sources as saying they had handed over the pictures "in the hope of dealing a body blow to the resistance in Iraq."
Other photographs showed Saddam, with short, dyed-black hair and a mustache, washing clothes by hand and asleep on his bed.
The photos later appeared in the New York Post. Both papers are owned by Australian media baron Rupert Murdoch.
A U.S. military statement said the pictures might be a year old. They contravened Saddam's rights as a prisoner and could have broken the Geneva Convention, the military statement said.
"Multi-National Forces-Iraq 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 statement said.
"This lapse is being aggressively investigated to determine, if possible, who took the photos, and to ensure existing procedures and directives are complied with to prevent this from happening again," it said.
The White House said President Bush had been told of the pictures and "strongly supports the aggressive and thorough investigation that is already under way."
Saddam's lawyers expressed outrage.
"In our opinion this is a violation of all international agreements and human dignity, therefore we must sue the people responsible and the providers of these pictures, because if you look closely you can see that they were taken from his prison cell," lawyer Ziad Khasawneh of Saddam's defense team said.
"This is considered as another Abu Ghraib and we will take the necessary legal actions which we have already started," he told Reuters in Amman.
Toppled from power in the U.S. war in Iraq in April 2003, Saddam was captured hiding in a small underground bunker in December of the same year. Apart from a short court appearance last year, no images of Saddam have been made public since then.
Saddam is expected to stand trial next year on charges of genocide, torture and crimes against humanity. If he is found guilty he could face the death penalty.
"Saddam is not superman or God, he is just an aging and humble old man," The Sun quoted the military source as saying.
"It's important that the people of Iraq see him like that to destroy the myth. Maybe that will kill a bit of the passion in the fanatics who still follow him.
"It's over, guys. The evil days of Saddam's Baath Party are never coming back - and here's the proof," the source said.
The newspaper said the pictures were taken at a top secret location where Saddam was being held in a 12 by 9 foot (3.6 by 2.7 meter) cell, watched 24 hours a day on closed circuit television by special forces and military police.
A year ago graphic photographs of the abuse of detainees in the notorious Abu Ghraib jail outraged world opinion and were described as the best recruiting campaign for Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda.