Press Item ● Foreign Affairs
For Immediate Release: 
May 4, 2004
Contact Info: 
Thomas Ferraro


President Bush's fellow Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives joined Democrats on Thursday in deploring the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners.

But with passions and partisanship rising, they rejected Democratic calls for congressional investigations into the mushrooming scandal that has eroded American credibility and renewed questions about the Iraq war.

On a vote of 365-50, the Republican-led House approved a resolution that "deplores and condemns the abuse of persons in United States custody in Iraq."

While foes of the resolution denounced the mistreatment of inmates, they said the measure should have also affirmed the need for congressional investigations that would explore culpability up the chain of command.

"This abuse -- which is as criminal as it is un-American -- demands full accountability," said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat who opposed the resolution as too limited.

Offered by Republicans, the resolution salutes American troops who have done their job honorably, reaffirms support for building a secure Iraq and urges the U.S. Army to obtain "swift justice" in its own ongoing probes.

Shortly before passage of the resolution, a firestorm erupted over reports in Capitol Hill newspapers that portrayed Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and an early supporter of the war, as saying it may now be unwinnable.

At a news conference on Thursday with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, Murtha said: "The whole point is the direction's got to be changed or it's unwinnable in my estimation."

Murtha said the Pentagon had undermanned, under equipped and undertrained forces in Iraq. "We either have to mobilize or we have to get out. ... I prefer mobilization," he said.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, fired back, saying, "Some say that this war is 'unwinnable.' I disagree strongly with that assessment. We must win this war."

Democrats had sought to broaden the House resolution to declare the need for congressional investigations that would examine alleged abuse by military personnel as well as by civilian personnel and "into the chain of command."

"Congress has not only the right but the responsibility to determine what went wrong," said Rep. James McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat.

Said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, "Before we win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis, we must win something else -- the trust, the trust of the American people."

But with the mistreatment of inmates already the object of military investigations, Republicans said no to congressional probes. They also noted it would be the object of hearings by existing House panels, including one on Friday with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, said Democrats had unsuccessfully sought to politicize the resolution. "This resolution is exactly written as it should be written," DeLay said.