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Rumsfeld apologises; more damning images in closet
May 07, 2004 21:54 IST
Last Updated: May 08, 2004 04:08 IST
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Friday apologised for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American troops, which had attracted widespread criticism from all over the world.
Rumsfeld's apology comes a day after his boss, US President George W Bush, offered an apology for the abuse by occupying American troops.
He told a congressional committee that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US troops "occurred on my watch as secretary of defence. I am accountable for them and I take full responsibility. To those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the armed forces, I offer my deepest apology."
"They are human beings, they are in US custody and the United States has an obligation to treat them right," he said testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Notably, the defence secretary revealed that there are more pictures and videos, which if made public would do further damage to America's reputation and human rights record.
Rumsfeld's testimony was interrupted by demonstrators who held up a sign saying 'Fire Rumsfeld'.
The Defence Secretary's statements were backed by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers, Deputy Commander of the Central Command Lt Gen Lance Smith, Undersecretary of the Army Les Brownlee and Chief of Staff of the Army General Peter Schoomaker.
Under very sharp questioning, especially by Democrats, Rumsfeld promised that all those guilty would be prosecuted.
Rumsfeld, service chiefs and several members of the Committee stressed that the actions of a guilty few should not reflect on the thousands of servicemen who are doing their job honourably.
Senator John Warner, Chairman of the Committee, said the mistreatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere is a 'totally unacceptable breach of military regulations and conduct'.
He pointed out that the pictures of the mistreatment have been televised day after day throughout the Middle East and, indeed, the world and has the potential to undermine the substantial gains the US has made towards the goal of peace and freedom.
Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat, said the world has to be convinced that the US is a free and open society that will not tolerate 'this depraved behaviour'.
Rumsfeld praised the army specialist who brought the tortures to the attention of the authorities and insisted that immediate action was taken to institute an investigation. The conduct of the few responsible, he said, is inconsistent with the teachings of the military and it was certainly un-American.
The Defence Secretary listed several steps being taken to prevent repetition of these incidents. Several senior former officials have been requested to recommend whether additional investigations or studies need to be initiated.
"We need to review our habits and our procedures and processes" to reflect the fact that "we are in a time of war and that we are in the information age," he said and confessed that he failed to recognize how important it was to elevate a matter of such gravity to the highest levels, including the US president and members of the Congress.
Appropriate compensation would be provided to those who suffered such grievous and brutal abuse and cruelty at the hands of a few members of the US armed forces, he said.
He also emphasized the need to differentiate between those who believe in democracy and in human rights.
External Link: Amnesty writes to Bush