Yesterday's Senate hearing on prison abuse in Iraq had been underway quite a while, and James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) had heard all he could stand.
It was not his colleagues' windy speeches that incensed him, nor photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi detainees. Rather, Inhofe said when his turn finally came, he was fed up with all the "do-gooders" making such a fuss.
"As I watch this outrage, this outrage everyone seems to have about the treatment of these prisoners . . . I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment," Inhofe told fellow Armed Services Committee members investigating the treatment of inmates at Abu Ghraib prison. "You know, they're not there for traffic violations," he said. In the cells where the primary abuse took place, "they're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents."
Several senators cited a Red Cross study concluding that as much as 90 percent of those detained in Iraq "had been arrested by mistake." Inhofe, 69, was unimpressed. "I am also 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. ". . . I'm also outraged by the press and the politicians and the political agendas that are being served by this."
He blamed the prison abuse on "seven bad guys and gals that didn't do what they should have done. They were misguided. I think maybe even perverted."
Democrats long have decried comments by Inhofe, who once described himself as "an extreme right-wing radical conservative." But at least one Republican colleague -- freshman Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) -- appeared to take issue with the Oklahoman's remarks when his turn came much later in the hearing.
Graham, who did not mention Inhofe by name, said: "I think we're failing the country ourselves up here a bit. I think we're overly politicizing this. . . . I think Republicans and Democrats have a different view of a lot of things, but it seems to me that investigating a prison abuse scandal, when you say you're the good guy, should pull you together, not tear you apart."