President Bush said today that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "will stay in my Cabinet" despite Democratic calls for his departure over abusive treatment of Iraqi prisoners by American military guards.
"Secretary Rumsfeld has served our nation well," Bush told reporters in an appearance in the White House Rose Garden. Speaking slowly for emphasis, he added, "Secretary Rumsfeld has been the secretary during two wars, and he is an important part of my Cabinet."
Bush coupled his remarks with his first outright apology for the mistreatment suffered by Iraqis at the hands of Americans. He said he was "sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families."
Bush spoke as his administration sought to counter a worldwide wave of revulsion over photographs showing Iraqi prisoners, some of them hooded, naked and in sexually humiliating poses, in an American-run prison in the Baghdad area.
Some of the images show American captors mugging and gloating amid the misery of the Iraqis. One, published today on the front page of The Washington Post, showed a naked man on the ground, his neck on a leash, the other end of which was in the hand of a female American GI.
For the second straight day, Bush vowed that those responsible would be brought to justice.
While I'm asking questions, who's responsible for the fact that you're only finding out about this now? The Taguba Report came out in what, February? What have those responsible been doing about it since then?
If you are unwilling to hold anyone responsible for this, Mister President, then I believe we the people ought to hold you responsible for it. That said, I agree with Nancy Pelosi that we really should start with Donald Rumsfeld. He does serve at your pleasure, after all. Why is it that you're still pleased with his service?
For the rest of us, here's a petition calling for Rumsfeld's dismissal. Do feel free to express your own opinion on the subject.
UPDATE: Damn straight.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Thursday if he were president he would not be "the last to know what is going on in my command," a criticism of the Bush administration's handling of reports of abuse of prisoners held by U.S. forces in Iraq.
"These despicable actions have endangered the lives of our soldiers and, frankly, have made their mission harder to accomplish," Kerry said during a campaign appearance at a California high school. "We cannot succeed in Iraq by abandoning the values that define America."
"As president, I will not be the last to know what is going on in my command," Kerry said. "I will demand accountability for those who serve and I will take responsibility for their actions. And I will do everything that I can in my power to repair the damage that this has caused to America to our standing in the world and to the ideals for which we stand."