SEN. JOHN WARNER: The committee meets today for the second of a series of hearings regarding the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by some elements and certain personnel -- few in number, I hope -- of the armed forces in violation of United States and international laws.
Testifying before us today is Major General Antonio M. Taguba, U.S. Army deputy commander for Support Coalition Forces Land Component Command.
On January 31st, 2004, General Taguba was appointed by General Sanchez, commander, Combined Task Force-7, to conduct a procedure -- 15 investigations into allegations of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison. General Taguba's report was received by this committee on Tuesday, May 4th, and its related annexes were received yesterday, May 10th.
As members know, they are in the possession of the committee, and members and staff worked on those reports until very late last night.
Joining General Taguba are Lieutenant General Lance L. Smith, United States Air Force, deputy commander of Central Command; and Dr. Stephen A. Cambone, undersecretary of Defense for intelligence.
We welcome our witnesses. And, General Taguba, I wish to personally say I commend you for your public service.
GEN. TAGUBA: Sir.
SEN. WARNER: Following the testimony of these witnesses we'll receive testimony from a second panel of witnesses this afternoon, commencing at 2:30.
As I stated last week, this mistreatment of prisoners represents an appalling and totally unacceptable breach of military regulations and conduct. The damage done to the reputation and credibility of our nation and the armed forces has the potential to undermine substantial gains and the sacrifices by our forces and their families, and those of our allies fighting with us in the cause of freedom.
This degree of breakdown in military leadership and discipline represents an extremely rare chapter in the otherwise proud history of our armed forces. It defies common sense and contradicts all the values for which America stands. There must be a full accounting for the cruel and disgraceful abuse of Iraqi detainees consistent with our law and protections of the Uniform Military Code of Justice.
I'm proud of the manner in which the armed forces have quickly reacted to these allegations, undertaken an appropriate investigation, and begun disciplinary actions. We're a nation of laws, and we confront abuses of our laws openly and directly.
We have had an apparent breakdown of discipline and leadership at this prison and possibly at other locations. I think it important to confront these problems swiftly, ensuring that justice is done, and take the corrective actions so that such abuses never happen again.
At the same time, it is important to remember that our commanders and their troops in Iraq are confronted with a very difficult, dangerous, complex military situation. Defeating insurgents and terrorists who seek to deny freedom and democracy to all Iraqis and
who threaten our troops is the highest priority, and our troops are working very hard, courageously, and sacrifices to achieve that mission. Intelligence obtained in the course of any military action obtained in accordance with proper laws and professional procedures is an essential element of any military campaign.
I was heartened by President Bush's words of support for our men and women in the armed forces, as he stated yesterday in visiting the Department of Defense. And I quote our president: "All Americans know the goodness and the character of the United States armed forces. No military in the history of the world has fought so hard and so often for the freedom of others.
"Today our soldiers, our sailors, airmen and Marines are keeping terrorists across the world on the run. They're helping the people of Afghanistan and Iraq build democratic societies. They're defending America with unselfish courage. And these achievements have brought pride and credit to this nation. I want our men and women in uniform to know that America is proud of you and that I'm honored to be your commander in chief."
Speaking for myself, I feel our president, our secretary of Defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the other officers of our military have very correctly and properly addressed the (seriousness of these ?) issues, and I commend them.
We must not forget our overall purpose in Iraq. Success there is absolutely essential. Our men and women in uniform make a remarkable institution in this great America. And from time to time it must heal itself, consistent with law and tradition, and that we are doing in this particular case. We have a responsibility here in the Congress to help them do that, and that is precisely the purpose of these hearings.