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Secretary Rumsfeld on ABC's Today Show with Diane Sawyer

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
May 05, 2004
Secretary Rumsfeld on ABC’s Today Show with Diane Sawyer

            SAWYER:    Let’s turn now to the headlines of the morning about the growing Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.  Joining us, the top man at the Defense Department, Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon.  Mr. Secretary, thank you for being with us this morning. 

 

RUMSFELD:  Good morning. 

 

SAWYER:   I want to start with some of the new photos we have received this morning and I want to let our viewers at home know that we’re being very careful in the way we use them.  They are additional scenes from what happened inside that prison.  And as we see them go by, I want to point out that some of the Iraqis that we have been seeing in the pictures have also begun speaking out and saying they were so excited when the Americans came in and now some of them are living with permanent shame.  Yesterday you did not apologize to them.  This morning, do you apologize?

 

RUMSFELD:  Oh, my goodness.  Anyone, any American who sees the photographs that we’ve seen has to feel apologetic to the Iraqi people who were abused and recognize that that is something that is unacceptable and certainly un-American. 

 

SAWYER:   An additional question about that, the Uniform Code of Military Justice that does – I do believe accounts for the possibility of financial compensation.  If this turns out to have been proven, should there be financial compensation to these prisoners?

 

RUMSFELD:  Those are judgments that’ll have to be made, as you suggest, part of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  And I had no idea what would finally be decided on that case, although I would say that from time to time various types of compensation and assistance have been provided to people in Iraq whose circumstances were altered unfairly. 

 

SAWYER:   I want to get to the question, if I can now, of responsibility and accountability.  There’s a photo we have of you at this very prison.  It was last fall in September, I believe, of last fall and you’re standing there, indeed, with a woman, the general, who was in charge.  First question to you:  Did you see anything?  Did you notice anything?  Did you say how could I not know who was in charge and what the conditions were at the prison? 

 

RUMSFELD:  Well, the first we heard about any problem at that prison was, I believe, on January 13th when one of the soldiers involved was concerned about what he saw to be practices that he felt were inappropriate and he reported it to the chain of command.  At the time I visited that prison, I didn’t go anywhere near any of the cellblocks that held prisoners.  I was only in the area that was, in effect, condemned, because it had been part of Saddam Hussein’s torture area. 

 

SAWYER:   The wives of some of the men who have allegedly been charged in this have said that their husbands said they were ordered to do it.  Do you believe these men – that they were ordered to do it? 

 

RUMSFELD:  You’re talking about American soldiers?

 

SAWYER:   Yes.

 

RUMSFELD:  I think that one has to recognize that I’m in a position where I am in the chain of command and there is a rule against command influence because it’s possible that one of the individuals engaged in those abuses could allege that if I said something that I had created a situation where he could not get a fair trial, so the people in the chain of command in the Army and through Central Command have to be quite careful about coming to any conclusions as to what took place. 

 

SAWYER:   And yet, with 30 investigations under way and as we said earlier, at least two of the deaths being questioned as homicides.  As you know, a number of people have come out – senators on the Hill – and said there is responsibility that has to be taken for this.  And this is what Senator Joseph Biden, democratic Senator Joseph Biden said:  “Accountability is essential.  If the answers are unsatisfactory, resignations should be sought.”  And he specifically cites you as one of those who has to be questioned about responsibility.  Can you imagine any circumstance, any consequences of the investigation that would cause you to resign for this? 

 

RUMSFELD:  Well, it seems to me that the chain of command is the chain of command.  And what we have to do is to – we’ve got now six investigations under way to determine what took place.  There certainly is no excuse for anyone in the armed forces to behave the way these photographs indicate some individuals behaved.  We also know that the 1.4 million men and women in uniform on active duty and the terrific guard and reserve forces are filled with fine, talented, honorable people who don’t do that type of thing.  No human being, regardless of what their training or anything else, would engage in those kind of acts in a normal, acceptable way.  It’s unacceptable. 

 

SAWYER:   But it was something out of control from a management level. 

 

RUMSFELD:  It appears that at that prison for a period of time until reported by the soldier who went into the chain of command and reported it – and I should add that this was announced by the Central Command on January 16th, a day or two after they – I believe January 16th – a day or two after they received notification from this soldier that something was going on there.  The investigation was initiated immediately.  And the system works.  The system stopped those abuses months ago and properly so. 

 

SAWYER:   A quick final question.  The president is going to on Arab television and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice has been on Arab television. Do you really think anything can be done to change the impression this has left in the Arab world? 

 

RUMSFELD:  Well, it becomes a fact of life.  It happened.  It was a terrible thing that had happened and it should not have happened.  On the other hand, the United States is a wonderful country and it’s filled with fine honorable people who don’t do things like that.  And we have armed forces that are filled with honorable people who don’t do things like that.  And what we have here, I believe – I hope and pray – is an exceptional case that should not have happened.  It did happen and it’s regrettable that it happened.  But people make their judgments about our country, I think, based on a whole range of things and not simply a terrible situation like this. 

 

SAWYER:   Secretary Rumsfeld, again, we thank you for joining us this morning.  Thank you, sir.

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