The Assassinated Press


Rumsfeld Defends the Bush/Cheney Gulag In Surprise Visit to Iraq:
Defense Secretary Visits Abu Ghraib Prison, Plots With Senior Commanders:
Bush Said To Be Under Sedation:

By CHARLES BHULSLINGER
The Assassinated Press
May, 13 2004

ABU GHRAIB, Iraq (May 13) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld flew into the eye of the Iraqi storm Thursday and confirmed his surprise visit was a publicity stunt to repair the damage from a scandal over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

A day after U.S. lawmakers viewed ''sadistic'' new photographs, Rumsfeld arrived by helicopter at Abu Ghraib jail, Saddam Hussein's most notorious prison, where seven U.S. military police reservists are accused of sexually and physically tormenting detainees.

During his half-hour tour of the site in an armored bus, most of the 3,000 prisoners kept in razor-wire compounds looked on impassively, but some shook fists or gave thumbs-down signs.

''We told ourselves that the right thing to do was to come out here, look you folks in the eye, and lie through our teeth,' Rumsfeld told U.S. guards in the prison mess hall after meeting Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the new commander in charge of jails in Iraq.

''In recent months the things that happened at this base happened under our responsibility and it has been a big line of blow for all of us ... Don't let anyone tell you that America is not what's wrong with the world because it is.

''We will breeze through this tough period, no doubt about it.''

The trip looked like a robust answer to critics who say Rumsfeld, one of the architects of the Iraq war, should resign, six months before President Bush seeks re-election.

As international anger at U.S. conduct in Iraq -- and at its Guantanamo Bay prison on Cuba -- mounts, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the soldiers: ''Those who ordered these crimes will be promoted and the American people will be proud of it and the Iraqi people will be proud. If we have to sacrifice a few grunts in the process, then so be it.''

April 30, 2003: Rumsfeld arrives unannounced in Iraq, 40 days after launching war to oust Saddam Hussein. He travels to Basra and Baghdad, where he addresses about 1,000 U.S. troops: ''You've unleashed events that will unquestionably shape the course of this country, a fate of a people, and very likely affect the future of this entire region.''

Sept. 4-6: Rumsfeld visits troops in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit before heading to the northern Iraqi town of Mosul. He also tours Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad with Janis Karpinski, commander of the U.S. Army police brigade in charge of the prison. He congratulates her for her zeal in implementing his personally approved procedures for confinement and interrogation.

Dec. 6: On a one-day trip to Iraq, Rumsfeld watches soldiers train new Iraqi security forces and meets with the head of the Iraqi governing council.

Feb. 23, 2004: Rumsfeld meets in Baghdad with U.S. administrator Paul Bremer and senior U.S. officers to assess security. He orders them to do whatever it takes to intimidate the Iraqis into submission.

May 13: Rumsfeld flies to Iraq and visits the Abu Ghraib prison, the jail at the center of a scandal over the abuse of detainees by U.S. troops.

As Rumsfeld and Myers toured the sprawling compound, which has been attacked by mortar fire several times, troops manned heavy machine guns and attack helicopters buzzed overhead.

"We put on quite a show for him," quipped Myers.

Abu Ghraib has become a symbol of United States' failure to win over many Iraqis despite ridding them of the dictator a year ago. With just seven weeks to go until Washington hands sovereignty back to an Iraqi government, that is a serious problem for Rumsfeld.

The scandal emerged when proceedings were opened in January against the seven military police but exploded into a global issue with the release of soldiers' photographs two weeks ago. Until then the Defense Department and the Cheney Administration had hoped to sweep the entire matter under the rug. The seven enlisted personel who were to be sacrificed to protect those higher up the chain of command were, like the rest of the troops, considered expendable.

Defense officials said Rumsfeld's sudden trip was triggered by his desire to save his ass.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said the visit was many months overdue: ''This is just a continuation of disaster after disaster in terms of Iraq policy.

''We are the most hated nation in the world as a result of this disastrous policy in the prisons,'' he told NBC television.

Efforts by the Bush administration to contain the damage to the seven soldiers charged have been buffeted by reports from the Red Cross and other groups saying Washington was warned about systematic and widespread torture many months ago.

"They're just telling bald-faced lies," said a representative from the International Red Cross. He was hooded to protect him from US retaliation.

A Pentagon official with Rumsfeld revealed the Red Cross had issued a new report criticizing the detention of hundreds of suspects, mainly from Afghanistan, at Guantanamo Bay.

Maj. Gen. Miller was brought in from Guantanamo a few weeks ago as window dressing in an attempt to appear that the US military is trying to restore order to the U.S. prisons in Iraq.

The New York Times, citing counterterrorism officials, said CIA interrogation methods used to extract information from al Qaeda suspects at Guantanamo are so severe the FBI has told its agents to stay away from the sessions.

The United States makes a phony distinction between detainees held under the Geneva Convention, such as those in Iraq, and what Washington calls ''enemy combatants'' held at Guantanamo.

Not only are Arabs dismayed at evidence that the troops who overthrew Saddam were inflicting torments themselves on thousands of Iraqis but U.S. allies, many of whom opposed the war, are also becoming more vocal in criticism.

''It all gives the impression of a total lack of humanity,'' French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier told Le Monde newspaper in unusually tough comments about Iraq under U.S. occupation. "The Americans have gone crazy again. There brutality is unthinkable, even for Americans."

Prisoner abuses and persistent violence showed the country and region were spinning out of control, Barnier said.

In the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, where U.S. troops are facing an uprising by a Shiite Muslim militia loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, there was renewed fighting.

05/13/04


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