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Duke Professor: Iraqi Prisoner Abuse May Damage U.S. Credibility

Posted May 6, 2004

— Many people in the United States were shocked about the pictures of Iraqi prisoners abused by their U.S. military captors. However, a Duke professor claims the pictures of abuse may paint an even more damaging picture of the United States in the Muslim world.

"We could not have done anything worse to offend them, humiliate them, to degrade them," said Scott Silliman, of the Duke University School of Law.

When the United States invaded Iraq a year ago, humanitarian issues were part of the reason why.

"Now, the Arab community is looking at us, saying 'you're hypocritess,'" he said.

Silliman said the pictures of abused Iraqi prisoners have done irreparable harm to our country's credibility.

"It's going to make our diplomacy, even with our closest allies, more difficult to work," he said.

Now, people are looking to the White House for answers. Silliman believes the military now needs to to step up to the plate and prove itself.

"People are going to be going back and looking at the training that the [National] Guard and the reserve folks get to ensure they're adequately prepared for this type of difficult and stressful environment," he said.

Silliman said damage control will be difficult at best. With the images burned in people's minds around the world, Silliman believes the United States might have to deal with the impact for years to come.

"I'm also worried five to 10 years from now when a soldier may be captured by another country. They will say in answer to our protestations, 'Look, what you did in the prison in Baghdad,'" he said.

Silliman said the charge of cruelty or maltreatment of a detainee only carries a maximum of one year for each count. If it is found the soldiers directed prisoners to engage in indecent acts, officials said they could face five years for each of those charges.

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