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4/2/03 - IRAQI POW'S ARE WELL TREATED - 2003-04-02

Thousands of soldiers are abandoning the doomed regime of Saddam Hussein. Many are simply melting into the Iraqi civilian population. Those who have surrendered to the U.S.-led coalition are being treated in accordance with the Geneva conventions and the laws of war, as U.S. General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pointed out:

"We have over four-thousand enemy P-O-Ws, Iraqi P-O-Ws. We've allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit those. My understanding is they've been trying to do that with the [coalition] prisoners that the Iraqis hold and we would hope they would do the honorable thing, the right thing and allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit our P-O-Ws as they're required to do under the Geneva Convention."

Coalition medical teams are treating wounded Iraqis along with wounded coalition personnel. "As doctors we do not differentiate between patients, whether they or friends of foes," said Lieutenant Junior Grade Karen Ritchie, a nurse aboard the U.S. Navy hospital ship, Comfort.

At rear-area facilities, meals that meet Muslim requirements are prepared for Iraqi prisoners of war. But until Iraqi prisoners of war are taken to rear areas, they are provided with the standard combat rations eaten by coalition troops. This has given rise to erroneous reports that Iraqi Muslim prisoners of war may have been given pork. If a Muslim prisoner of war receives food he does not wish to eat, he can exchange it for another meal.

During the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S.-led coalition took nearly seventy-thousand Iraqi prisoners of war. They were well treated. All who wished to return to Iraq were repatriated within a few weeks of the war's end. Some four-thousand Iraqi prisoners of war, persecuted by Saddam Hussein and forced to fight for him, were granted political asylum in the United States.

The U.S. and its coalition allies welcome Iraqi troops who choose to abandon Saddam Hussein. Those who continue to fight for him will bear full responsibility for their conduct -- including their treatment of captured coalition personnel.