Press Item ● Foreign Affairs
For Immediate Release: 
May 5, 2004
Contact Info: 
Heidi Przybyla


May 5 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush said alleged abuses of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops are ``abhorrent'' and vowed to pursue those responsible, stopping short of an apology in an interview with an Arabic television station.

``In a democracy, not everything is perfect -- mistakes will be made,'' Bush, 57, said in a White House interview with Al Hurra television. ``But in a democracy, mistakes will be investigated. People will be brought to justice.''

Bush wants to calm outrage in Muslim nations over photos, some showing a pile of nude Iraqi prisoners surrounded by smiling U.S. soldiers, that were broadcast last week on CBS ``60 Minutes II'' and shown in newspapers. ``What took place in that prison does not represent the America that I know,'' he said.

``The Arab world will not accept anything less than an apology from President Bush for the torture of Iraqi detainees,'' Imad Jad, an analyst at Cairo, Egypt-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said before Bush's remarks to Al Hurra and Al Arabyia TV.

`Damage Is Done'

``The damage is done,'' Abdel Barri Atwan, editor in chief of the London-based Arabic language daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, said in an interview. ``His speech will not change Arab anger regarding U.S. actions in Iraq or elsewhere in the Arab world.''

Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser, apologized for the abuse in interviews yesterday with three Arabic television networks.

Bush said the U.S. will be able to transfer sovereignty to a new Iraqi government on June 30, and supports efforts to reach an Arab-Israeli peace that would lead to creation of a Palestinian state. ``We believe the Iraqi people can self-govern,'' Bush said. ``I've got confidence it will be a peaceful, self-governing nation.''

Bush didn't say specifically when he first became aware of the abuse allegations at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. U.S. Army General Mark Kimmitt mentioned in January an inquiry into allegations of abuse at an Iraqi prison, Bush said.

Bush, who said he first saw photographs of the abuse during the ``60 Minutes II'' broadcast, said he instructed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld this morning to make sure Pentagon investigators get to the bottom of the matter.

``Find the truth, and tell the Iraqi people and the world,'' Bush said he told Rumsfeld. ``We have nothing to hide.''

Confidence in Rumsfeld

Bush said he has confidence in Rumsfeld and U.S. commanders on the ground.

Senator John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said in a floor speech he's urging Rumsfeld to appear before the panel in an open hearing tomorrow morning.

Outrage from around the world at the ``extraordinary, tragic information flowing about alleged atrocities'' should spur U.S. government officials to investigate the accusations as quickly as possible, Warner said.

``Whatever Bush says will not diminish hatred toward the U.S. and its double standards of advocating democracy, but shying away from democratic standards in Iraq,'' Al-Quds Al-Arabi's Atwan said in London.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush learned of the abuse allegations sometime after the Pentagon was altered in January, giving no specific date. The photos and the ``precise nature'' of the abuse only recently came to the administration's attention, McClellan told reporters.

`Shameful Acts'

``It is completely unacceptable that the Bush administration and the Pentagon knew of these shameful acts and did not move immediately to end it and hold those responsible accountable,'' said House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

``If the Bush administration and the Pentagon do not take control, take action and hold accountable those responsible from the top to the bottom of the chain of command, the ramifications of this abuse will be compounded ten-fold beyond the already enormous damage done to our credibility in Iraq and around the world,'' Hoyer said.

Rumsfeld said Monday the abuse of Iraqi prisoners is ``totally unacceptable and un-American.'' He told a Pentagon briefing in Arlington, Virginia he will take ``any and all'' actions needed in the investigations of the mistreatment at Abu Ghraib prison.