Release Date: May 6, 2004
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Abuse of Iraqi prisoners by members of the U.S. military spotlight a lack of leadership at the U.S. Department of Defense so profound that Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld should resign or be dismissed, according to a University at Buffalo professor, who is an international expert on human rights and international law.
"I think that the failure in terms of accountability, both political and military, is so grave that the U.S. ought to take a serious step to demonstrate that it will not tolerate these kinds of actions," said Makau Mutua, professor in the UB Law School.
Mutua has investigated numerous incidents of human-rights violations and torture in many countries, including Zaire, Tanzania, Guatemala and Sudan. He co-directs the UB Human Rights Center at the law school and is co-director of the Program on International and Comparative Legal Studies of the UB Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy.
"Rumsfeld's resignation or dismissal would send the proper message to the Middle East and to the rest of the world that the U.S. does not stand for, or condone, and will punish without pity, these kinds of acts," he said.
Characterizing the Bush administration's "rebuke" of Rumsfeld today as "too lenient," Mutua asked, "If the defense secretary cannot be dismissed over these grave allegations, what can he be dismissed for? Imagine if there was an incident that involved the similar torture of U.S. citizens in American prisons." he said. "The person in charge would be dismissed immediately.
"There's a pattern of abusive behavior by U.S. troops that appears to have been going on for quite awhile that the military has kept under wraps, without informing the Senate committees on armed services and intelligence," he said. "I think that this is just the tip of the iceberg."
He noted that the repercussions of images of Iraqi prisoner abuse cannot be underestimated in
terms of their influence on how Arabs and others throughout the world view the U.S.
The images of torture and abuse will make it easier, he said, for anti-American terrorist groups like Al Qaeda to recruit individuals to their organizations.
"These kinds of images are fodder for groups that will use them to recruit individuals to participate in their causes and against the U.S.," he said.
"They are really a gift on a silver platter."
According to Mutua, such incidents of abuse, especially by an occupying nation, have enormous implications.
"If we've learned any lesson from history, it is that the abuse of one nation by another magnifies perhaps 10-fold the anger, pain and suffering of the occupied nation," he said.
"For those in the Arab world who feel the U.S. is anti Arab, these images do nothing but confirm their views," he added.