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Bush warns of war crimes

Mar 24 2003

By Nick Allen, The Journal


An angry US President George Bush last night warned Iraq that using American prisoners of war for propaganda will be regarded as a war crime.

Mr Bush was speaking after captured American soldiers were paraded in front of TV cameras as the Baghdad regime tried to rally its population.

The pictures were also condemned in London as a gross violation of the Geneva Convention, that protects the rights of prisoners of war.

Mr Bush said: "We don't know all the details yet. We do know that we expect them to be treated humanely just like we are treating Iraqi prisoners.

"If not, anyone who does not treat our prisoners humanely will be treated as war criminals."

The display - which recalled the parading of a captured RAF Tornado crew, pilot John Peters and North Shields navigator John Nichol in the 1991 Gulf War - came as US forces were reported to have advanced to within 100 miles of Baghdad but there were also signs that Iraqi resistance was growing.

The graphic television pictures, screened in Arab countries but not in Britain or the US, showed the bodies of at least six American soldiers said to have been killed in fighting at Nasiriyah in southern Iraq.

Two had bullet wounds to the head.

The footage of the captured US soldiers - four men and a woman - being questioned was said to have been shot by Iraqi television at Nasiriyah. The prisoners said only that they were from "507 Maintenance".

The pictures - screened by Al Jazeera - showed one US soldier lying immobile on a sofa, his face covered in blood and with wounds to his side and arm.

Another, clearly terrified prisoner told the reporter: "I come to shoot only if I am shot at."

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said: "It's illegal to do things to POWs that are humiliating to those prisoners."

In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair also condemned the parading of the prisoners.

"Sometimes when people ask me `is it really necessary to get rid of Saddam?' I say look at the things he does.

"Parading people in that way is contrary to the Geneva Convention, contrary to all the proper rules of conflict."

The development came during a day which saw further allied losses with a RAF Tornado shot down by the Americans. The two crew were officially declared dead last night.

There were also further signs that coalition forces were meeting stiffer resistance.

At the port of Umm Qasr, US Marines finally mopped up Iraqi resistance after calling in air strikes.

Reports also indicated British troops with the Black Watch battle group at Basra came under fire from people in civilian clothing using rifles, machine guns and even rocket propelled grenades.

Last night Baghdad was again the target of air strikes as Mr Bush acknowledged the coalition forces were facing "pockets of resistance" but said that they were making good progress.

"This is just the beginning of a tough fight.

"We're slowly but surely achieving our objective. We're just in the beginning phases. We're executing a plan," he said.

Around 20 US troops were killed in action yesterday in the toughest day of the war so far, military chiefs said. Twelve were killed in an ambush outside the southern town of Nasiriyah and up to 10 more were killed in fighting in the same area.

Lt General John Abizaid told a Press conference at US Central Command in Qatar: "We are definitely missing 12 soldiers unaccounted for, some of whom I believe ended up on Baghdad television.

"A number were killed in action in Nasiriyah with the Marines - I believe that number will remain less than 10 plus a number wounded."

General Abizaid described television footage of US dead and prisoners of war aired by Al Jazeera network as "disgusting".


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