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02 May 2004

Gen. Myers Says U.S. Has Not Withdrawn from Fallujah

Myers also calls mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners appalling, unacceptable

By Andrzej Zwaniecki
Washington File Staff Writer

The U.S. Marines have not withdrawn from the beleaguered city of Fallujah in Iraq, nor have U.S. objectives in that city changed, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers said in talk show appearances May 2.

Speaking on CBS's "Face the Nation," Myers said that U.S. demands on Fallujah are still valid and require the city to get rid of foreign terrorists and extremists associated with the former Baathist regime, give up heavy weapons, and meet other conditions.

He said that U.S. forces would like to achieve these goals in partnership with Iraqis, thus setting an example for the rest of the country. But if this effort fails, the Marines are "prepared to follow through" on an action plan to bring security and stability to Fallujah, he said.

Fallujah has been the scene of numerous attacks on U.S. troops. In April, four U.S. contractors were killed there, and their bodies mutilated. This incident prompted the Marines to take action against Fallujah militants.

Myers said that a former general in the Republican Guard, Saddam Hussein's elite force, is not in command of Iraqi troops charged with enforcing security in the city. He said that Major General Jassim Mohammed Saleh, named in news reports as the commander, and several other former Iraqi generals are being vetted by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) but none has been put in command yet.

"Obviously, it's not going to be [in] anybody's best interest to put somebody who was connected to the foreign regime and atrocities to put him in charge out there," Myers said. "That's not the kind of partnership we're looking for."

General Myers also commented on the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. Army guards that has been documented in photographs published around the world. Calling the behavior of the six soldiers currently under investigation "appalling," he said he is personally involved in efforts to review the situation in U.S.-run detention centers in Iraq and Afghanistan, including investigations by the Defense Department and the Army itself. Myers said that because the U.S. military has high ethical standards and is proud of its values it takes the situation very seriously.

"Where a handful of people can sully the reputation of hundreds of thousands of people that are over there trying to give a better life to 50 million people, it's a big deal," he said.

Appearing the same day on Fox News Sunday, Myers said that he has not yet seen an internal Army report on questionable practices in U.S. detention centers in Iraq recently publicized by the U.S. media. It reportedly alleges that some military and other intelligence units have actually encouraged practices similar to these exhibited in the pictures to "set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses," according to news reports.

"Setting physical and mental conditions for interrogation, by itself, obviously, that's something you do," Myers said. "But one thing we don't do is we don't torture."

He said that one case of prisoner abuse has already been referred to court martial.

"This is unacceptable behavior," Myers said. "If there are more folks involved in this kind of behavior, they will be dealt with appropriately, you can bet on that."

CPA spokesman Dan Senor, who appeared the same day on CNN, said that "careers will be ended and criminal charges ... leveled," if warranted, after a full and aggressive investigation is concluded.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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