The top U.S. military adviser to President George W. Bush warned a federal judge that the release of photographs and videotapes of the abuse of detainees at Iraqi Abu Ghraib prison would give terrorists a ground to step up their fight.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said in court papers filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan that the release of the pictures "pose a clear and grave risk of inciting violence and riots against American troops and coalition forces."
He added: "It is probable that al-Qaida and other groups will seize upon these images and videos as grist for their propaganda mill which will result in, besides violent attacks, increased terrorist recruitment, continued financial support and exacerbation of tensions between the Iraqi and Afghani populaces and U.S. and coalition forces."
He said the photographs and videos would be used in a propaganda campaign by insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq who "use any means necessary to incite violence" against innocent civilians to undercut the U.S. mission.
The arguments were submitted July 21 in a case in which the American Civil Liberties Union seeks the release of 87 photographs and four videotapes taken at the prison. The documents quoting Myers were released last week and were reported in Friday's editions of The New York Times.
The ACLU sought the pictures as part of a lawsuit it filed in October 2003 seeking information on the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody and the transfer of prisoners to countries known to use torture. The ACLU contends that prisoner abuse is systemic.
Myers said the United States has documented situations in which insurgents have falsely claimed that U.S. actions in Iraq caused suffering to women and children when the damage was actually done by violence and sabotage by the insurgents.
He said the insurgents rely on doctored photographs and images to support their calls to violence.
He said Department of Defense experts noted last year that doctored images and videos purporting to document the rape of Iraqi women by U.S. soldiers were actually from a Hungarian pornography site. He said the images were distributed and presented on pro-Islamist and Arabic news Web sites as actual examples of U.S. "barbarism."
References to the so-called rape photos surfaced in Muslim sermons throughout the Middle East along with calls for retaliatory violence, he said.
Myers quoted one Iraqi novelist and Middle East expert as saying he receives angry messages each day from young Arab men vowing to avenge the Iraqi girls.
"We have noted other instances of insurgent attacks after the disclosure of images depicting alleged abuse of detainees," he said.
Myers said his views about the pictures were supported by Gen. John P. Abizaid, head of the United States Central Command and Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the commander of the American forces in Iraq.
He said an investigation into the abuse depicted on the pictures continues.
"I condemn in the strongest terms the misconduct and abuse depicted in these images," he is quoted as saying by the AP. "It was illegal, immoral and contrary to American vales and character."