Military leaders blamed over Iraqi abuse

However, Major General Antonio Taguba said there was no evidence the troops involved were following orders.

He told a congressional committee there was a “failure in leadership, from the brigade commander on down”.

Mr Taguba said the main causes of the abuse were a “lack of discipline, no training whatsoever, and no supervision”. He added: “Supervisory omission was rampant.”

In his report on the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison, Mr Taguba highlighted “numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses” against Iraqi prisoners.

His report, along with graphic pictures of prisoners, has drawn widespread international criticism of the US troops.

Seven soldiers have been charged, but Mr Taguba said there was no sign the US guards were following orders.

In his sworn testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mr Taguba, 53, one of two Filipino-American generals in the US Army, said the abuse began from mid-to-late October and continued until January.

He said: “We did not find any evidence of a policy or a direct order given to these soldiers.

“I believe that they did it on their own volition and I believe that they collaborated with several (military intelligence) interrogators at the lower level.

“We didn’t find any order whatsoever, written or otherwise, that directed them to do what they did.”

However, some members of the committee were unconvinced.

“I am very skeptical that they (the soldiers) would have chosen bizarre sexual humiliations that were specifically designed to be offensive to Muslim men,” said Republican Senator Susan Collins.

“It seems to me that it is far more likely, that a group of out-of-control, undisciplined guards would beat up prisoners – not strip them naked and put them in a human pyramid,” she said.

“Even though I do not yet have the evidence, I cannot help but suspect that others were involved – that military intelligence personnel were involved, or people further up the chain of command – in suggesting to these guards specific types of abuse that were designed to break these prisoners.”

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