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Bush will stand by Rumsfeld and Myers

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  • Bush will stand by Rumsfeld and Myers

    Bush to Stand by Rumsfeld at Pentagon

    Monday, May 10, 2004

    WASHINGTON — President Bush continues to maintain that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is his wingman despite the ongoing imbroglio over allegations of abuse of Iraq prisoners by U.S. military personnel at the Abu Ghraib (search) prison.

    As both men brace for the anticipated release of more photographs and video images showing such abuse, Bush will visit the Pentagon on Monday for a previously scheduled briefing on operations in the War on Terror (search), to be held around 10:25 a.m. EDT.

    But the meeting takes on new significance because of the torture and sexual humiliation of prisoners uncovered at the Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad (search). Following the meeting, the president will make remarks at approximately 11:30 a.m.

    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., said in a television interview 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."

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

    Sen. John McCain, who, during questioning of Rumsfeld and other military officials on Friday, tried to get an answer to exactly who was in charge of interrogations and related procedures at Abu Grhraib, told Fox News on Monday that he hopes to get a clearer answer during another hearing Tuesday.

    "What I worry about is the symbolism in the Arab world, particularly," McCain said. "We cannot afford to lose this conflict — we need to focus people’s attention on winning and I'm afraid this could harm support" for the U.S. mission.

    "This is one of the most wrenching [situations] I've experienced," the former Vietnam POW continued. "The men and women of the military are some of the finest."

    Even if the servicemen and women involved in the controversy were action on orders from superiors in attempts to what's been called "softening up" the prisoners for interrogators, McCain said those efforts often are fruitless anyway.

    "One thing we can accept is they were not well-trained," he said. "From a practical [standpoint] torture is not effective — people will tell you anything to end torture."

    Lawmakers May See Photos

    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 or condoned 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 in a television interview.

    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 in another television interview Sunday. "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."

    Meanwhile, the Pentagon is considering the possibility of showing unseen evidence of brutality to prisoners at Abu Ghraib to members of Congress. Rumsfeld also is said to be interested in coming up with a dollar amount to compensate Iraqis who have been wronged.

    Bush's trip 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.

    Yet to be determined is whether U.S. soldiers, including those facing courts-martial for abuses committed at the Abu Ghraib prison, were encouraged by commanders to use more aggressive practices intended to elicit more information more quickly from prisoners.

    Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the abuse of Iraqi prisoners were beyond the bounds of authorized practices.

    "The policies of the United States and the Defense Department are consistent, in that we do not permit activities or interrogation procedures that are torturous or cruel and that all the techniques that are approved for use are within the law," Whitman said.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.,00.html