The United States military expressed anger and dismay today over the unauthorized release of photographs of a jailed Saddam Hussein in his underwear and performing menial activity. But President Bush expressed doubt that the episode would further inflame anti-American sentiment in Iraq.
“These photos were taken in clear violation of Department of Defense directives and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines for the humane treatment of detained individuals,” the military statement, issued in Iraq, said, promising an investigation.
The pictures were published today on the cover and inside pages of two tabloids controlled by the media magnate Rupert Murdoch, The Sun, a British daily, and The New York Post. Among the scenes shown were the former Iraqi dictator standing in his cell clad only in white briefs and, wearing more clothes, sitting on a chair washing out a pair of socks, and him sleeping and walking.
“Butcher of Sagdad,” The Post’s large front page caption-headline read.
The Sun said it got the pictures from someone in the United States military who hoped they would deal “a body blow to the resistance of Iraq.”
The Post declared that “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,” The Post observed, “a man of no wealth, no luxuries and underwear that doesn’t fit right.”
President Bush, when asked if he thought the pictures would stoke more anti-Americanism in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, voiced some doubt. “I think the Iraq insurgency is inspired by their desire to stop the march of freedom,” he said.
“Remember,” Mr. Bush said, “these are ideologues that murder innocent people in order to spread their dark vision of hate.”