Center for American Progress

America is Asking…About Secretary Rumsfeld’s Role in Abu Ghraib

In light of revelations about the Abu Ghraib prison, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has come under intense scrutiny. While the secretary has taken full responsibility for the scandal, newspapers around the country believe that an apology is not enough – only his resignation will help restore our nation’s credibility. Here is a sample of that commentary:

Milwaukee, Wis. – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
May 8, 2004

“…Officials must be held accountable for their failures just as they are entitled to praise for their successes.

“…Rumsfeld publicly took responsibility for these acts. But these rhetorical gestures, welcome and belated as they are, are insufficient simply because – at least at this point – they are only rhetorical.

“If words are to have any meaning, and if the damage from this scandal is to be contained and reversed, they need to be accompanied by deeds.

“What, exactly, does it take for a top official in this administration to lose his job? America’s brave soldiers deserve better than this. They deserve the best.”

Wilmington, Del. – The News Journal
No link available
May 9, 2004

“Rumsfeld and Myers didn’t fare well at all before Senate panel.

“The answers of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who conceded he had failed to prepare both the president and the Congress of the gravity of the situation, put him on extremely thin ice. They will almost certainly accelerate calls for his resignation.

“The fact that neither he nor Secretary Rumsfeld hadn’t actually viewed the original photographs until Wednesday night seems to be a glaring example of chiefs not being curious enough to prevent catastrophic revelations. The fact that it took a whistle-blower to force the graphic details into the public domain indicates that the military was protecting its own interests.

“When was he going to tell us?

“The nation’s credibility is at stake. Punishing those directly involved in the abuse is critical, but it will also be essential that those who are responsible for military integrity and protecting national security also be brought to task, if they do not choose to do so themselves. It is a matter of national honor.”

Chattanooga, Tenn. – Chattanooga Times Free Press
No link available
May 12, 2004

“Mr. Rumsfeld should resign, the sooner the better. The Bush administration cannot begin to contain the damage from the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal until Mr. Rumsfeld resigns.

“The Abu Ghraib scandal and chain-of-command failures that led to it, to be sure, are not the only reason Mr. Rumsfeld should resign. To hold the present scandal as the sole reason would be to miss seeing the forest for a single tree. His mismanagement of the war in Iraq should compel Mr. Rumsfeld’s resignation…

“As a result, the United States has lost its moral authority to justify its invasion of Iraq and its treatment of Iraqi and Afghan prisoners. It is no defense to say that the way Afghans or Iraqis have treated their people, or their prisoners, has been worse. This nation justified both wars under the banner of liberating Iraqis and Afghans to enjoy higher standards — our democratic standards of justice.”

Dayton, Ohio – The Dayton Daily News
May 9, 2004

“Mr. Rumsfeld’s departure would be the most dramatic, tangible, believable demonstration of real concern.

“Mr. Rumsfeld is a good and capable man, dedicated to his country. But he has to know in his heart that he failed in a crucial part of his job. His very dedication to his country should lead him to see that the best service he can perform now is to step down.

“It is not Monday morning quarterbacking to say that a secretary of defense needs to make sure that the American troops who run a prison camp in an occupied country know that they are required not to abuse prisoners. That is basic=

“So what happened at the prison was, besides a moral outrage, a momentous political blunder.”

Phoenix, Ariz. – The Arizona Republic
May 8, 2004

“As Sen. Lindsey Graham correctly observed during the tense Senate grilling of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Friday, it would be a shame if the only people who pay a price for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq are a few “privates and sergeants.

“His point, of course, is that the abuse scandal is so explosive, higher-level heads must roll if the United States is to recover any fraction of its credibility following this grotesque scandal.

“Given the sweeping, disheartening impact of the photos of abuse, it would indeed be a shame if one of those held to account should not be Rumsfeld himself.

“Other symbolic gestures like tearing down Abu Ghraib, as Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain proposed Friday, may prove useful as well. But the continuing fallout from these events is so profound, nothing short of the resignation of the nation’s top officer directing the military will serve.

“The Bush administration needs to make a statement that it recognizes how serious this scandal is and that our Iraq policies demand a new perspective. The strongest statement it could make, then, is for Donald Rumsfeld to step down.”

St. Louis, Mo.– St. Louis Post Dispatch
May 6, 2004

“It’s the accumulation of all these miscalculations, misconceptions and missteps – and an arrogant inability to admit his mistakes – that require him to step down. If the Defense Department were a corporation, its CEO would be long gone.

“Whether or not Iraq is like Vietnam, Mr. Rumsfeld’s failings are reminiscent of Robert McNamara’s.

“Regarding Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld has been more interested in proving his theories of military transformation than in listening to pragmatic advice of experienced military experts.

“This isn’t a plan; this is chaos.”

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