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Congressman Condemns Abuse of Prisoners in Iraq

May 6, 2004
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Cole today voted for a resolution that condemns the abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody in Iraq. H. Res. 627 also emphasized that alleged crimes of a few should not detract from the commendable sacrifices of over 300,000 members of the Armed Forces who have served, or who are serving, in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Following are Congressman Cole's remarks on the House floor in support of this resolution:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the resolution and to express my revulsion and disgust at the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by a few reprehensible and unrepresentative individuals in our military or operating as representatives of our government.

The very first time I spoke on this floor, it was to warn Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi army of the consequences of not treating our prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. I feel just as strongly about the prisoners of war that are in the custody of our military.

This is not an issue I take lightly. My own uncle was a prisoner of war during World War II. He suffered terrible personal abuse.

Now a few soldiers have brought disgrace upon themselves. And in the process, they have embarrassed our Nation, its Army and risked the lives of our soldiers.

Mr. Speaker, these abuses must be dealt with and the perpetrators prosecuted and punished. The incident represents a failure of leadership, clear and simple. Those in the chain of command responsible for this breakdown must be identified and sanctioned in some way stronger than simple letters of reprimand.

This resolution and the actions that follow are what makes us different from our nations, Mr. Speaker. Here in America when something like this happens, we put it out in front of the world, we identify the perpetrators, prosecute and punish them. That is what our soldiers fight for. That is what 30 soldiers from my own district have died for.

In America, we do not have gulags. We do not have concentration camps. And we do not tolerate the mistreatment of those who are incarcerated. We are a just society built upon the rule of law. But make no mistake. Our cause in Iraq is just, and we will be successful in spite of this shameful episode.

Mr. Speaker, the vast majority of our soldiers are honest and upright and willing to risk their lives to defend and advance the cause of freedom. I know. I have had the honor of visiting them, and I am quite sure that they are as disgusted and outraged by the conduct of these few individuals as we in this House are.

Mr. Speaker, I would encourage other Members to vote in support of this resolution, but also to thank the many soldiers who serve us and the Iraqi people, while we sanction the few who have violated our trust.

In this resolution the House showed support for the Secretary of the Army's investigations into any and all allegations of mistreatment or abuse of Iraqi detainees. It also asked the Secretary of the Army to bring to justice any member of the Armed Forces who has violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice.