U.S. Soldiers 'Unaccounted For' in Iraq - Rumsfeld
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 23, 2003 – Some U.S. soldiers in Iraq are "unaccounted for," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told CNN today.
Iraqi television videotape purports to show U.S. service members captured by Iraqi forces. Al Jazeera – a satellite news network based out of Doha, Qatar – broadcast the tape.
"Whether the ones that are being shown … are those individuals, I'm not in a position to say," Rumsfeld said.
"Under the Geneva Convention it's illegal to do things with prisoners of war that are humiliating to those individuals," the secretary said earlier in the day on NBC's Meet the Press.
"And the United States, of course, avoids showing photographs of prisoners of war. We have thousands of Iraqi prisoners that are in POW camps that we brought along and have erected in-country. But we do not – we avoid showing photographs of them."
The U.S. Army is sorting through the confusion. Officials will notify the families of those missing, and as more information becomes available, they will release it, DoD officials said.
The United States does not humiliate prisoners, the secretary said. "Television networks that carry such pictures are doing something that is unfortunate."
The secretary emphasized the possible capture will have no effect on the prosecution of the war on Iraq. He said the United States has more than 2,000 Iraqi prisoners of war.
"The course of this war is clear, the outcome is clear: The regime of Saddam Hussein is gone; it's over; it will not be there in a relatively reasonably predictable period of time," he said.
"The people in Iraq need to know that it will not be long until they are liberated. The leadership in the military in Iraq need to know they should act with honor and stop defending a regime that will shortly be history."
If Iraq has American prisoners, the leaders will be well- advised to treat them "according to the Geneva Convention, just as we treat Iraqi prisoners to the Geneva Convention," he said.
Rumsfeld said the United States will stay in the fight "until it's over." He refused to give an estimate of how long the fighting might continue.
"There are any number of things that could cause difficulties, that could delay things," Rumsfeld said. "But there is nothing that can happen that can change the ultimate outcome. It is certain. The Iraqi government should put down their arms, follow the instructions that they've been given and end any resistance at all, because it is futile."