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Senators Stunned by Newest Abuse Photos

There was no commentary, no description and no other information provided Wednesday by the Pentagon official who silently scrolled through more than 1,600 pictures depicting U.S. military personnel abusing Iraqi prisoners.

For three hours, a continuous slide show projected gruesome images of sexual degradation and in some instances signs of physical abuse of Iraqis held at the Abu Ghraib prison, as Senators sought to gain greater insight into a growing scandal that threatens to undermine the U.S. mission in Iraq. House Members went through a similar routine in another secure committee room.

For the most part, Senators declined to discuss specifics, but the continuous flow of pictures seemed to shake both Democrats and Republicans alike who agreed swift judicial action is needed to restore U.S. credibility with the international community.

“They were disgusting,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), moments after viewing the photographs and videotape. “They were just brutal behavior and just deepens my commitment, and I am sure everyone’s, to hold accountable those who are responsible for that behavior in any way and make sure that nothing like it is going on anywhere else in the American military prison system.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said it is important for the military to ensure “that those who are guilty be charged and be brought to trial.”

“I think that is the most appropriate thing we can do to show the world that we take these matters seriously,” he said.

Throughout the afternoon, a steady stream of Senators flowed into the classified briefing room on the fourth floor of the Capitol to view the much-talked-about images. Senators were warned about the ongoing criminal investigation into the abuse charges and were instructed to limit their comments to “generic statements about the conduct depicted in the photos.”

Some Senators such as Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) chose not to comment at all, a reversal from Tuesday when he criticized the media and some politicians for trying to politicize the matter at the Armed Services Committee hearing on the prison abuse scandal.

“I am outraged that we have so many humanitarian do-gooders right now crawling all over these prisons looking for human rights violations while our troops, our heroes, are fighting and dying,” he said.

His comments made national news. After viewing the pictures on Wednesday, Inhofe said he had “no thoughts” on the subject.

Still others such as Cornyn and Lieberman provided more candid assessments of the photographs.

“There are explicit scenes that go beyond what we have seen,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). “It shows what appears to be the results of acts of violence. It is hard to believe that these injuries, or situations or pictures that you see would have occurred without violence.”

“I don’t know how you can justify the treatment of [the] prisoners,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). “The conduct is unbecoming of our standards. What we believe in.

“I will tell you what I saw would make you sick to your stomach,” Shelby added.

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