07 May 2004
Rumsfeld Apologizes to Iraqis Abused by U.S. Soldiers
Tells senators abuses were "un-American" and "despicable"
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he takes full responsibility
for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners that has occurred, and he offers
his deepest apology to Iraqis mistreated by members of the U.S.
Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee May 7, Rumsfeld
said in prepared remarks that the abuses were "un-American" and "inconsistent
with the values of our nation."
He was accompanied by Air Force General Richard Myers, chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Acting Secretary of the Army Les
Brownlee; Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker; and Air
Force Lieutenant General Lance Smith, deputy commander of the U.S,
Central Command (CENTCOM). The hearing was called as the result
of photographs being made public this week which showed American
soldiers posed with naked or hooded Iraqi prisoners
"It is my obligation to evaluate what happened, to make sure those
who have committed wrongdoing are brought to justice, and to make
changes as needed to see that it doesn't happen again," Rumsfeld
told the committee.
The defense secretary said he deeply regretted the damage done
to the reputation of America's service men and women, to the president,
to the Congress, to the American people, to the Iraqi people, and
to the reputation of the United States. "We take this seriously," Rumsfeld
said. "It should not have happened. Any wrongdoers need to be punished,
procedures evaluated, and problems corrected."
Rumsfeld said that as soon as the report of abuses was made known,
two actions were immediately taken: Army Lieutenant General Ricardo
Sanchez, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7 in Iraq, immediately
launched a criminal investigation; and Sanchez next asked for an
administrative review of procedures at the Abu Ghraib (BCCF) detention
facility in Baghdad, where the abuses occurred.
Those two investigations have resulted in criminal or administrative
actions against 12 persons, Rumsfeld said, including the prison
chain of command being relieved of duty and criminal referrals
of several soldiers.
In addition, Rumsfeld said the following investigations have been
initiated as a result of the abuse incidents:
-- The Army has begun a review by its inspector general of detainee
operations throughout Iraq and Afghanistan;
-- The Army has begun a probe of Reserve training for military
intelligence and police functions;
-- At General Sanchez's request, Army Intelligence is reviewing
the report of the abuses at Abu Ghraib; and
-- Rumsfeld directed the Navy's inspector general to review procedures
at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at Charleston Naval Brig, South Carolina
(where terrorist detainees are held).
Following is the text of Rumsfeld's statement, as prepared for
TESTIMONY OF SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DONALD H. RUMSFELD
BEFORE THE SENATE AND HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEES
MAY 7, 2004
Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee: Thank you for the opportunity
to testify today.
In recent days, there has been a good deal of discussion about
who bears responsibility for the terrible activities that took
place at Abu Ghraib. These events occurred on my watch. As secretary
of defense, I am accountable for them. I take full responsibility.
It is my obligation to evaluate what happened, to make sure those
who have committed wrongdoing are brought to justice, and to make
changes as needed to see that it doesn't happen again.
I feel terrible about what happened to these Iraqi detainees.
They are human beings. They were in U.S. custody. Our country had
an obligation to treat them right. We didn't do that. That was
To those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of U.S. armed forces,
I offer my deepest apology. It was un-American. And it was inconsistent
with the values of our nation.
Further, I deeply regret the damage that has been done:
-- First, to the reputation of the honorable men and women of
our armed forces who are courageously, skillfully and responsibly
defending our freedom across the globe. They are truly wonderful
human beings, and their families and loved ones can be enormously
proud of them.
-- Second, to the president, the Congress and the American people.
I wish we had been able to convey to them the gravity of this was
before we saw it in the media;
-- Third, to the Iraqi people, whose trust in our coalition has
been shaken; and finally
-- To the reputation of our country.
The photographic depictions of U.S. military personnel that the
public has seen have unquestionably offended and outraged everyone
in the Department of Defense.
If you could have seen the anguished expressions on the faces
of those of us in the Department upon seeing the photos, you would
know how we feel today.
We take this seriously. It should not have happened. Any wrongdoers
need to be punished, procedures evaluated, and problems corrected.
It's important for the American people and the world to know that
while these terrible acts were perpetrated by a small number of
the U.S. military, they were also brought to light by the honorable
and responsible actions of other military personnel. There are
many who did their duty professionally, and we should mention that
-- First the soldier, Specialist Joseph Darby, who alerted the
appropriate authorities that abuses of detainees were occurring.
My thanks and appreciation [go] to him for his courage and his
-- Second, those in the military chain of command who acted promptly
upon learning of those activities by initiating a series of investigations
-- criminal and administrative -- to ensure that the abuses were
stopped, that the responsible chain of command was relieved and
replaced, and that the Uniform Code of Military Justice was followed;
-- Third, units singled out for praise in General Taguba's report
for the care they provided detainees in their custody and their
intolerance of abuses by others.
-- And finally, the CENTCOM chain of command for taking action
and publicly announcing to the world that investigations of abuse
The American people and members of the committee deserve an accounting
of what has happened and what's being done to fix it.
Gathered today are the senior military officials with responsibility
in the care and treatment of detainees.
The responsibility for training falls to the U.S. Army. The responsibility
for the actions and conduct of forces in Iraq falls to the combatant
commander. And the ultimate responsibility for the department rests
Each of us has had a strong interest in getting the facts out
to the American people.
We want you to know the facts. I want you to have all the documentation
and the data you require. If some material is classified, we will
ensure members get an opportunity to see it privately.
Having said that, all the facts that may be of interest are not
yet in hand. In addition to the Taguba report, there are other
investigations underway. We will make the results of these investigations
available to you. But because all the facts are not in hand, there
will be corrections and clarifications to the record as more information
is learned. If we have something to add later, we'll do so. If
we find something that we've said that needs to be corrected, we'll
From the other witnesses here, you will be told the sequence of
events and investigations that have taken place since these activities
first came to light.
What I want to do is to inform you of the measures underway to
remedy some of the damage done and to improve our performance in
Before I do that, let me make one further note: As members of
this Committee are aware, each of us at this table is either in
the chain of command or has senior responsibilities in the Department.
This means that anything we say publicly could have an impact on
legal proceedings against those accused of wrongdoing in this matter.
Our responsibility at this hearing, and in our public comments,
is to conduct ourselves consistent with that well-known fact. So
please understand that if some of our responses are measured, it
is to ensure that pending cases are not jeopardized by seeming
to exert "command influence" and that the rights of any accused
Now let me tell you the measures we are taking to deal with this
When this incident came to light and was reported within the chain
of command, we took several immediate actions. These will be discussed
in detail by others here today, but let me highlight them.
-- General Sanchez launched a criminal investigation immediately.
-- He then asked for an administrative review of procedures at
the Abu Ghraib facility. That is the so-called Taguba report.
These two investigations have resulted thus far in criminal or
administrative actions against at least 12 individuals, including
the relief of the prison chain of command and criminal referrals
of several soldiers directly involved in abuse.
-- The Army also launched an Inspector General Review of detainee
operations throughout Afghanistan and Iraq. That review continues.
-- The Army has initiated an investigation of Reserve training
with respect to military intelligence and police functions.
-- General Sanchez also asked for an Army Intelligence review
of the circumstances discussed in General Taguba's report and that
-- And, I also asked the Navy Inspector General to review procedures
at Guantanamo and the Charleston Naval Brig.
As these investigations mature, we will endeavor to keep you informed.
But there is more to be done.
First, to ensure we have a handle on the scope of this catastrophe,
I will be announcing today the appointment of several senior former
officials who are being asked to examine the pace, breadth, and
thoroughness of the existing investigations, and to determine whether
additional investigations need to be initiated. They are being
asked to report their findings within 45 days of taking up their
duties. I am confident these distinguished individuals will provide
a full and fair assessment of what has been done thus far -- and
recommend whether further steps may be necessary.
I will encourage them to meet with members of Congress to keep
them apprised of their progress. I look forward to their suggestions
Second, we need to review our habits and procedures. One of the
things we've tried to do since September 11th is to get the Department
to adjust its habits and procedures at a time of war, and in the
information age. For the past three years, we have looked for areas
where adjustments were needed, and regrettably, we have now found
Let me be clear. I failed to identify the catastrophic damage
that the allegations of abuse could do to our operations in the
theater, to the safety of our troops in the field, the cause to
which we are committed. When these allegations first surfaced,
I failed to recognize how important it was to elevate a matter
of such gravity to the highest levels, including leaders in Congress.
Nor did we anticipate that a classified investigation report that
had not yet been delivered to the senior levels of the Department
would be given to the media. That was my failing.
In the future, we will take whatever steps are necessary to elevate
to the appropriate levels charges of this magnitude.
Third, I am seeking a way to provide appropriate compensation
to those detainees who suffered grievous and brutal abuse and cruelty
at the hands of a few members of the U.S. military. It is the right
thing to do. I'm told we have the ability to do so. And so we will
-- one way or another.
One of the great strengths of our nation is its ability to recognize
failures, deal with them, and to strive to make things better.
Indeed, the openness with which these problems are being dealt
is one of the strengths of our free society. Democracies are imperfect,
because they are made up of human beings who are, by our nature,
imperfect. Of course, we wish that every person in our government
and our Armed Forces would conduct themselves in accordance with
the highest standards of ethics. But the reality is some do not.
One mistake we have made during our initial investigation into
these charges, for example, was failing to sufficiently call to
your attention the information made public in the CENTCOM press
release regarding the investigations they had initiated back in
January. We also failed to sufficiently call your attention and
brief you on the preliminary findings of the criminal investigation
announced on March 20 by General Kimmitt. I am advised the Army
has had periodic meetings to inform congressional staffs.
There are indications that the information provided was penetrating
at some level, however. On January 20th, for example, CNN reported
that a CID investigation was being conducted into allegations of
detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib, and mentioned the possible existence
of photographs taken of detainees.
Nonetheless, I know that we did not fully brief you on this subject
along the way, and we should have done so.
I wish we would have known more sooner and been able to tell you
more sooner. But we didn't. For that, I apologize.
We need to discuss a better way to keep you informed about matters
of such gravity in the future.
The fact that abuses take place -- in the military, in law enforcement,
and in our society -- is not surprising. But the standard by which
our country and our government should be judged is not by whether
abuses take place, but rather how our nation deals with them. We
are dealing with them forthrightly. These incidents are being investigated
and any found to have committed crimes or misconduct will receive
the appropriate justice. Most of the time, at least, the system
None of this is meant to diminish the gravity of the recent situation
at Abu Ghraib. To the contrary, that is precisely why these abuses
are so damaging -- because they can be used by the enemies of our
country to undermine our mission and spread the false impression
that such conduct is the rule and not the exception -- when, in
fact, the opposite is true.
Which is why it is so important that we investigate them publicly
and openly, and hold people accountable in similar fashion. And
that is exactly what we are doing.
When we first were told about these activities and saw those photographs,
I and everyone at this table was as shocked and stunned as you
In the period since, a number of questions have been raised --
here in the Congress, in the media, and by the public. Let me respond
to some of them.
Some have asked: Why weren't those charged with guarding prisoners
If one looks at the behavior depicted in those photos, it is fair
to ask: what kind of training could one possibly provide that would
stop people from doing that? Either you learn that in life, or
you don't. And if someone doesn't know that doing what is shown
in those photos is wrong, cruel, brutal, indecent, and against
American values, I am at a loss as to what kind of training could
be provided to teach them.
The fact is, the vast majority of the people in the United States
armed forces are decent, honorable individuals who know right from
wrong, and conduct themselves in a manner that is in keeping with
the spirit and values of our country. And there is only a very
small minority who do not.
Some have asked: Hasn't a climate allowing for abuses to occur
been created because of a decision to "disregard" the Geneva Convention?
No. Indeed, the U.S. government recognized that the Geneva Conventions
apply in Iraq, and the armed forces are obliged to follow them.
DoD [Department of Defense] personnel are trained in the law of
war, including the Geneva Conventions. Doctrine requires that they
follow those rules and report, investigate, and take corrective
action to remedy violations.
We did conclude that our war against al-Qaeda is not governed
precisely by the Conventions, but nevertheless announced that detained
individuals would be treated consistent with the principles of
the Geneva Conventions.
Some have asked: Can we repair the damage done to our credibility
in the region?
I hope so and I believe so. We have to trust that in the course
of events the truth will eventually come out. And the truth is
that the United States is a liberator, not a conqueror. Our people
are devoted to freedom and democracy, not enslavement or oppression.
Every day, these men and women risk their lives to protect the
Iraqi people and help them build a more hopeful future. They have
liberated 25 million people; dismantled two terrorist regimes;
and battled an enemy that shows no compassion or respect for innocent
These men and women, and the families who love and support them,
deserve better than to have their sacrifices on behalf of our country
sullied by the despicable actions of a few. To that vast majority
of our soldiers abroad, I extend my support and my appreciation
for their truly outstanding service.
One final thought:
Today we'll have a full discussion of this terrible incident and
I welcome that. But first, let's take a step back for a moment.
Within the constraints imposed on those of us in the chain of
command, I want to say a few additional words.
First, beyond abuse of prisoners, we have seen photos that depict
incidents of physical violence towards prisoners -- acts that may
be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel, and inhuman.
Second, the individuals who took the photos took many more.
The ramifications of these two facts are far-reaching.
Congress and the American people and the rest of the world need
to know this.
In addition, the photos give these incidents a vividness -- indeed
a horror -- in the eyes of the world.
Mr. Chairman, that is why this hearing today is important. And
why the actions we take in the days and weeks ahead are so important.
Because however terrible the setback, this is also an occasion
to demonstrate to the world the difference between those who believe
in democracy and human rights and those who believe in rule by
the terrorist code.
We value human life; we believe in their right to individual freedom
and the rule of law.
For those beliefs we send the men and women in the armed forces
abroad -- to protect that right for our own people and to give
millions of others who aren't Americans the hope of a future of
Part of that mission -- part of what we believe in -- is making
sure that when wrongdoing or scandal occur that they are not covered
up, but exposed, investigated, publicly disclosed -- and the guilty
brought to justice.
Mr. Chairman, I know you join me today in saying to the world:
Judge us by our actions. Watch how Americans, watch how a democracy
deals with wrongdoing and scandal and the pain of acknowledging
and correcting our own mistakes and weaknesses.
And then after they have seen America in action -- then ask those
who preach resentment and hatred of America if our behavior doesn't
give the lie to the falsehood and slander they speak about our
people and way of life. Ask them if the resolve of Americans in
crisis and difficulty -- and, yes, the heartache of acknowledging
the evil in our midst -- doesn't have meaning far beyond their
code of hatred.
Above all, ask them if the willingness of Americans to acknowledge
their own failures before humanity doesn't light the world as surely
as the great ideas and beliefs that first made this nation a beacon
of hope and liberty to all who strive to be free.
We know what the terrorists will do. We know they will try to
exploit all that is bad to obscure all that is good. That is the
nature of evil. And that is the nature of those who think they
can kill innocent men, women and children to gratify their own
cruel will to power.
We say to the enemies of humanity and freedom:
Do your worst.
Because we will strive to do our best
I thank you Mr. Chairman. My colleagues each have a brief statement.