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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-315723 Pentagon Rumsfeld (L)
DATE:>
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=5/7/04

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=PENTAGON/RUMSFELD (L)

NUMBER=2-315723

BYLINE=ALEX BELIDA

DATELINE=PENTAGON

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has apologized to Iraqi prisoners abused by U-S soldiers and accepted full responsibility for the scandal surrounding the mistreatment. More from V-O-A Correspondent Alex Belida at the Pentagon.

TEXT: Mr. Rumsfeld tells Congress he feels terrible about the cases of abuse that have generated worldwide controversy. He says he accepts full responsibility.

///RUMSFELD ACTUALITY///

These events occurred on my watch. As secretary of defense, I am accountable for them and I take full responsibility.

///END ACTUALITY///

Mr. Rumsfeld says the Pentagon is exploring possible compensation for the victims. In the meantime, he says he has ordered formation of a special independent commission to investigate actions taken by defense officials. He also apologized to the Iraqi prisoners who have been mistreated.

///RUMSFELD ACTUALITY///

To those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the U-S armed forces, I offer my deepest apology.

///END ACTUALITY///

Defense officials say they learned of the incidents of abuse in January and immediately launched investigations. But public outcry only erupted recently after photos of the abuse emerged, many of them showing the sexual humiliation of prisoners.

Mr. Rumsfeld says he made a mistake in not alerting the president and Congress to the volatile nature of the abuses earlier.

///RUMSFELD ACTUALITY///

I failed to recognize how important it was to elevate a matter of such gravity to the highest levels, including the president and members of Congress...I wish we had known more sooner and been able to tell you more sooner.

///END ACTUALITY///

///OPT/// Mr. Rumsfeld reveals there are more photos and even videos that have not yet reached the news media.

///OPT RUMSFELD ACTUALITY///

Beyond abuse of prisoners, there are other photos that depict incidents of physical violence towards prisoners, acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman.

///END ACTUALITY/// ///END OPT///

Members of Congress have voiced outrage over the abuse cases. Some say the incidents have endangered the lives of American soldiers in Iraq while tarnishing the United States' image. Others have decried what they see as an apparent breakdown in military leadership.

///OPT/// Senator Robert Byrd, a Democrat, blasted the Bush administration for allegedly trying to shirk responsibility.

///OPT BYRD ACTUALITY///

I see arrogance and a disdain for Congress. I see a misplaced bravado and an unwillingness to admit mistakes.

///END ACTUALITY/// ///END OPT///

There have been calls by some Democratic lawmakers for Mr. Rumsfeld to resign -- a call echoed by protesters who briefly disrupted Friday's Congressional hearing.

But the defense secretary says he will not quit for purely political reasons.

///RUMSFELD ACTUALITY///

Needless to say, if I felt I could not be effective, I'd resign in a minute. I would not resign simply because people try to make a political issue out of it.

//END ACTUALITY///

President Bush has voiced support for the defense secretary, calling him a valuable member of his cabinet. (Signed)

NEB/BEL/RH/FC



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