'US to Pay Big Price For Culturally Abhorrent Iraq Prison Abuse' - Warns Retired Marine General Zinni


Reprinted by Express of India

May 27, 2004

Philadelphia, May 27: The United States will pay a heavy price for the torture and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison, retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, former chief of US Central Command, said on Wednesday. Zinni, speaking at the National Constitution Center to promote his book "Battle Ready," said the Bush administration underestimated the scale of the task involved in invading Iraq, had no credible postwar plan and alienated much of the world community through its actions.

The abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US military at Abu Ghraib, depicted in the graphic photos published around the world, were "culturally abhorrent" to Muslim men, he said.

"We couldn't have done something more horrendous to this culture than what is reflected by these pictures. It would have been better to have shown people being executed," he said.

On the day Washington warned of credible new threats of a summer terrorist attack on the United States, Zinni warned, "We are going to pay a big price" for the Abu Ghraib abuses.

He did not specify what he meant by paying a big price.

Zinni, who resigned last year as State Department special envoy to the Middle East, co-authored the scathing critique of the Bush administration's Iraq policy with best-selling novelist Tom Clancy.

When the book was published on Monday, the White House dismissed his criticisms, saying President George W. Bush did not look for advice from Zinni, who served as commander in chief of US Central Command from 1997 to 2000.

Echoing concerns raised by the Bush administration's former anti-terrorism chief Richard Clarke in his book "Against All Enemies," Zinni said the government pursued its Iraq policy at the cost of a more credible drive against terrorism after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

"I thought we had a higher priority," he said. "We had to deal with the people who attacked us on 9/11 and we didn't want anything distracting us from that mission."

Zinni warned the US military was not capable of stemming a tide of new recruits to al Qaeda, the group blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks, and other terrorist organizations.

"For these young people, dying is more important to them than living," he said. "They are fielding people faster than we can kill them. We've got to figure out why they want to join."