Bush Visits Pentagon, Rumsfeld

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, right, welcomes President Bush to the Pentagon for a bill signing ceremony, Monday, Nov. 24, 2003. Bush signed a $401.3 billion defense authorization bill that will fund the military as they continue operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. AP

President Bush is standing by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld as both men brace for the anticipated release of more pictures and video images showing Iraqi prisoners being abused by American soldiers.

Mr. Bush, who is facing eroding confidence in senior military ranks and declining credibility abroad, visits the Defense Department on Monday for a previously scheduled briefing that takes on new significance because of the torture and sexual humiliation of prisoners uncovered at the Abu Ghraib prison.

Mr. Bush has said he wants Rumsfeld to "stay in my Cabinet." But a chorus of criticism from Capitol Hill has at least one Republican wondering whether Rumsfeld, and perhaps Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers, might have to step down.

"Let's get the facts before we indict Secretary Rumsfeld," Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., told CBS News' Face the Nation on Sunday. "I think they have made major mistakes. And we will see how far this goes and where it goes."

But Hagel added: "Yes, I think it's still in question whether Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and, quite frankly, Gen. Myers can command the respect and the trust and the confidence of the military and the American people to lead this country."

Hagel said abuses will have major repercussions abroad.

"This is deeper and wider than I think most in this administration understand," he said. "Aside from the fact we're losing the Iraqi people, we're losing the Muslim, Arab world, and we're losing the support of our allies."

On Sunday, a senior general at the Pentagon tells the Washington Post he believes the United States is on the path to defeat – and Rumsfeld and his advisers are to blame. The Post reports great anger is building at Rumsfeld and his top advisers among career Army officers.

"The current OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense] refused to listen or adhere to military advice," the general said on the condition his name not be used, in part out of fear of punishment. "It is doubtful we can go on much longer like this," he added. "The American people may not stand for it - and they should not."

The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Times, the civilian-owned trade papers of the military sold at every U.S. military installation, accuse Rumsfeld and Myers of professional negligence in their handling of Iraqi detainees in a new editorial. "Accountability here is essential - even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war."

Rumsfeld told Congress on Friday that more "sadistic" photos and video images were still to be released.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Pentagon investigators will give lawmakers the photos to view in private. Others urged the administration to make them public quickly.

"If there's more to come, let's get it out," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on NBC. "For God's sake, let's talk about it because (U.S. military) men and women's lives are at stake given how we handle this."

Mr. Bush's trip across the Potomac River to the Pentagon comes a day after it was announced that Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, 24, of Hyndman, Pa., will be the first soldier to face a court-martial in connection with the abuse. He will be tried May 19 in Baghdad on charges of mistreating detainees. In all, seven soldiers face abuse allegations.

A senior Pentagon official told The Associated Press on Sunday that guards and interrogators in Iraq were expected to follow the Geneva Conventions and other international rules against cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of prisoners.

They were not to apply techniques approved in April 2003 for use at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba where suspected al Qaeda terrorists are held, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

But last fall, the head of Guantanamo Bay, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, reviewed prisons in Iraq and suggested that military police serving as prison guards set "the conditions for the successful interrogation and exploitation of internees/detainees." The Army report on the Abu Ghraib abuse criticized that policy, but Miller now has been put in charge of the Baghdad prison.

Miller said last week that MPs' role in intelligence gathering was supposed to be only from "passive" observation, and he blamed Abu Ghraib's leadership at the time for not following military guidelines.

Some lawmakers say there are clear indications from the widely published photos of troops abusing Iraqi prisoners that even if such acts were not ordered by U.S. commanders, the soldiers thought they were at least condoned.

"All the guards are smiling, they're taking all these pictures, because they know that nobody above them is going to object. They have to know that somebody up there is agreeing to it," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said on ABC.

Earlier in the week, a senior State Department official indicated that Secretary of State Colin Powell repeatedly warned the Pentagon about the treatment of detainees, but to no avail.
  • Joel Roberts

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