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Rumsfeld Surprises Troops With Baghdad Visit

BY Admin  May 13, 2004 at 5:30 PM EDT

Rumsfeld attended meetings in the Iraqi capital and then traveled on to Abu Ghraib prison, the facility where U.S. soldiers abused Iraqi prisoners.

The secretary took a half-hour tour of Abu Ghraib in an armored bus, passing Iraqi prisoners in razor-wire compounds. According to Reuters, most of the detainees simply watched him pass, while others shook their fists and gesticulated.

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, commander of Iraq’s prison system, accompanied Rumsfeld and Myers, telling them a new prison complex called “Camp Redemption” will soon open on the grounds of Abu Ghraib.

Miller said the complex will offer improved living conditions for the prisoners. He said that all prisoners under American control will be moved out of the old Abu Ghraib building by the end of May.

After touring the prison, Rumsfeld returned to Baghdad to meet with troops and answer questions, saying the prisoner abuse scandal had “sullied the reputation of our country,” and that one of the main goals of his trip was to ensure it does not happen again.

“I was stunned,” he said. “It was a body blow. And with six or seven investigations under way and a country that has values and a military justice system that has values, we know that those involved, whoever they are, will be brought to justice.”

The secretary also told troops, “It’s important for each of you to know that that is not the values of America and it’s not your values and I know that, and you know that and your families know that.”

Rumsfeld’s trip to the center of the abuse scandal comes a day after the Pentagon showed U.S. lawmakers more than 1,000 additional photographs depicting prisoner abuse at the hands of American soldiers.

Several perpetrators of the abuse have been formally reprimanded, while others face courts-martial for their involvement in mistreating Iraqi detainees.

Some members of Congress and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry have called for Rumsfeld to step down as a result of the scandal, and Myers alluded to the barrage of criticism he and Rumsfeld are facing in Washington.

“We are really happy to be here,” Myers told troops. “I mean, we are really, really happy to be here and I am not going to go into that any more.”

Rumsfeld said the Pentagon will not publicly release any additional images of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’d be happy to release them all to the public and to get it behind us,” Rumsfeld told reporters who traveled with him to Baghdad.

“But at the present time I don’t know anyone in the legal shop in any element of the government that is recommending that.”

Government lawyers contend that releasing the materials would be in violation of the Geneva Convention as they present degrading images of prisoners.