Abu Ghraib Abuse 'Abhorrent,' Bush Tells Arab TV
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 5, 2004 President Bush considers the actions of a few soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq "abhorrent" and told Arab news services that the abuse at the prison "does not represent the America that I know."
The president spoke at length with Al Arabiya and Al Hurra satellite television outlets today.
"The America I know is a compassionate country that believes in freedom," Bush told Al Hurra. "The America I know cares about every individual. The America I know has sent troops into Iraq to promote freedom good, honorable citizens that are helping the Iraqis every day."
Bush said the United States will move forward as other democracies have when mistakes are made. "Those mistakes will be investigated, and people will be brought to justice," he said. "We're an open society. We're a society that is willing to investigate, fully investigate, in this case, what took place in that prison."
The president said that the United States will punish those found guilty of abuse. "That stands in stark contrast to life under Saddam Hussein," he said. "His trained torturers were never brought to justice under his regime. There were no investigations about mistreatment of people. There will be investigations. People will be brought to justice."
Bush said he found out about the allegations in January, shortly after a soldier reported the incidents to officials in Baghdad.
The president told Al Hurra that in addition to the criminal investigations there are numerous other ongoing investigations. "We want to know the truth. I talked to the secretary of defense about this, this morning, by the way," Bush said. "I said, 'Find the truth, and then tell Iraqi people and the world the truth.'"
Bush said the United States has nothing to hide. Bush says he maintains his confidence in the civilian and military leadership in the Department of Defense. "I've got confidence in the commanders on the ground in Iraq because they and our troops are doing great work on behalf of the Iraqi people," Bush said. "We're finding the few that want to try to stop progress toward freedom and democracy. We're helping the Iraqi people stand up a government. We stand side by side with the Iraqis that love freedom."
Bush said the United States will continue to cooperate with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent. Americans discovered the abuses in Abu Ghraib, and they will work to stop them. "The American people are just as appalled at what they have seen on TV as Iraqi citizens have," Bush said. "The Iraqi citizens must understand that."
The president told Al Arabiya that "it's very important for the people of the Middle East to realize that the troops we have overseas are decent, honorable citizens who care about freedom and peace, that are working daily in Iraq to improve the lives of the Iraqi citizens. And these actions of a few people do not reflect the nature of the men and women who serve our country."