Abu Ghraib: Bush Administration Reaction

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The Bush administration's reaction to the allegations of acts of brutality, abuse, and torture at the Enemy Prisoner of War facility at Abu Ghraib runs from varying degrees of damage control to what some are labelling a cover-up.

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White House Reactions / Actions

  • Geov Parrish reports in the May 14, 2004, Working for Change that the Bush administration position is that it is "Time to move along." However, he writes, the "Stench comes from the top, based on this week's responses to the Abu Ghraib scandal by Pres. Bush and Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld."
"It's all over now. Move along, now, move along. No need to stare. It's all over now.
"That, essentially, has been the response this week of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the Bush Administration to a scandal that ranks as perhaps a bigger strain on our country's international reputation than the invasion of Iraq itself. At least then we were replacing a brutal dictator, albeit illegally.
"This time, we were imitating him."
On May 6, 2004, Reuters' Jonathan Wright reports that "Arabs Say Bush Interviews Are Too Little Too Late" and Alan Cowell writes in the May 7, 2004, New York Times that "Bush's Words Do Little to Ease Horror at Prison Deeds."
  • Amy Sullivan at The Gadflyer comments on May 6, 2004, on President George W. Bush's remarks from the Rose Garden after a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II:
"Bush reported that he had apologized to the King (who, as a 'good Arab' is apparently the stand-in for the entire Muslim world). 'I assured him Americans like me didn't appreciate what we saw,' Bush said, referring to photographs of American soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners.
"And although Bush didn't mean to, he managed to hit the nail on the head in describing the reaction of many Americans.
"At first glance, it sounds like just another one of our president's weird, slightly detached attempts to communicate his inner thoughts and feelings. It doesn't seem to match the situation, but sounds more like a phrase picked up from a book on how to communicate with your troublesome teenager: 'I don't appreciate that tone of voice you're using with me.'
"But in my handy-dandy Merriam Webster dictionary, the first definition of the word appreciate is this: 'to grasp the nature, worth, quality, or significance of.' By that standard, I would argue that the president and his administration and perhaps much of the country failed to 'appreciate' the images of torture and abuse."
"My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture ... I don't know if it is correct to say what you just said, that torture has taken place, or that there's been a conviction for torture. And therefore I'm not going to address the torture word." [emphasis added]

Damage Control

"The Bush administration and its Republican allies appear to have settled on a way to deflect attention from the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib: accuse Democrats and the news media of overreacting, then pile all of the remaining responsibility onto officers in the battlefield, far away from President Bush and his political team. That cynical approach was on display yesterday morning in the second Abu Ghraib hearing in the Senate, a body that finally seemed to be assuming its responsibility for overseeing the executive branch after a year of silently watching the bungled Iraq occupation."
"The new commanding officer of Iraq's US-run prisons threw open the gates of Abu Ghraib prison yesterday to Western and Arab journalists. ... As damage limitation exercises go, this one went badly wrong. If the new commanding officer of Abu Ghraib, Major General Geoffrey Miller, hoped that the party of journalists he invited to tour the jail would leave with a new respect for the humane way prisoners were treated, he was doomed to disappointment."
"The firestorm of criticism related to the Abu Gharib prison debacle may eventually lead to the ouster of the United States from Iraq. This observation may be read as an overstatement as of now; however, examining the modalities of damage control regarding that fiasco makes one wonder if the initial information about the abuse of prisoners - both Iraq and Afghanistan - is so bad, then what more must one expect in the coming days on this issue? President George W. Bush appeared on Arab language television to tell the audience that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US military personnel was 'abhorrent'. But the US condemnation all over the world continues. There are congressional calls for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The rolling of heads may not stop with him, however."
  • H.D.S. Greenway, "Bush's damage control comes too late," Boston Globe, May 7, 2004: "American officials are quick to say that the behavior of a few torturers shouldn't overshadow the good that the majority of Americans are trying to do in Iraq. They are right. It shouldn't. But it does, and it will all over the world, and no number of interviews with President Bush on Arab TV is going to put it right."

Cover-Up