13 May 2004
Rumsfeld, Myers Meet with U.S. Military at Abu Ghraib Prison
Officials pledge abusers will be brought to justice
By Jacquelyn S. Porth
Washington File Security Affairs Writer
Washington -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says there are at least a half-dozen investigations under way to find out who was involved in the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners while they were in U.S. custody in Iraq and to bring them to justice.
Speaking to U.S. military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison May 13, Rumsfeld said, "In recent months we've seen abuses here under our responsibility, and it's been a body blow for all of us." But they represent neither America nor its values, he said.
With Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers standing at his side, the secretary pledged that those who engaged in abuses will be brought to justice. "The world will see how a free ... democratic system functions and operates transparently, with no cover-ups, with the world seeing the fact that we're not perfect."
After meeting with U.S. Army Major General Geoffrey Miller, who has been put in charge of the Iraqi prison system and was formerly in charge of prison operations at Guantanamo Bay, Rumsfeld and Myers met with some of the Abu Ghraib prison guards.
"We told ourselves that the right thing to do was to come out here and look you folks in the eye," Rumsfeld said. During remarks at the Pentagon on May 11, the secretary said his associates were "heartsick" about what those in military uniform had done to abuse Iraqi prisoners and equally heartsick "for the people they did it to."
At the now infamous prison, Myers expressed his confidence in the viability of the U.S. military justice system because, he said, it has demonstrated its ability to achieve justice over a long period of time. "Those who have perpetrated crimes will be dealt with," he said, in a manner that will make Americans, members of the military services and the Iraqi people proud. The general also expressed confidence in the military chain of command, while making a point of noting that he, as President Bush's military adviser, stands outside it.
Myers and Rumsfeld left the political heat of Washington behind them to meet with military commanders in Iraq. As they met with American military and civilian leaders and sought to boost morale there, their own morale appeared bolstered by the positive reception they received during a morning town hall meeting in Baghdad. The secretary, speaking as much to the troops before him as to those calling for his resignation at home, said: "I'm a survivor."
In each of his appearances in Iraq, the secretary noted that he has stopped reading newspapers and has sought solace in reading about the challenges Ulysses S. Grant faced during the Civil War, when as many as 2,000 to 3,000 soldiers were lost in battles over a period of days. He described the public debate in those days as vicious.
"It's not going to be an easy path from a repressive dictatorship to a stable, prosperous, successful country that respects all of the various religious and ethnic groups, that's at peace with its neighbors, that understands what human rights are," Rumsfeld said of the difficulties encountered by Iraq. He said there would be "plenty of potholes" along the way as well as mistakes, but it would be worth the effort in the end because "this is an important mission."
Rumsfeld also answered a question about the possibility of troops flowing into Iraq from other countries if the United Nations passes a new Security Council resolution. If it passes, he said, a few more nations might be comfortable sending in troops. "That would be a very good thing," the secretary said. "To the extent that we can further internationalize it and get those countries feeling they have a commitment in the success of Iraq and ... this important effort, that's good."
Rumsfeld was also asked about the symbolism of the Iraqi football team's victory, one that means Iraq will send its team to join other world-class athletes at the Olympics in Athens this summer. He said it is a reflection of how important it is for the Iraqi people to be free and to do whatever they wish.
The secretary, who used to wrestle in his younger days, also noted that Iraqis are "putting together an Olympic wrestling team."
This was Rumsfeld's seventh trip to Iraq since 1983.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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