The Administration, camera-shy over the last few days, was doing heavy-duty damage control Wednesday in Washington and Baghdad.
US President George W. Bush went on Arab language satellite television stations on Wednesday to try to quench smoldering international anger in the wake of the public release of the Abu Ghraib prison torture photos. Al-Hurra satellite television broadcast his full interview worldwide, in dubbed-over Arabic.
When asked what he would say in response to those who charge that the USA is no better than the Saddam Hussein regime, Mr. Bush said, "it is also important for the people of Iraq to know that in a democracy everything is not perfect."
He explained that criminal charges against the Americans accused of the torture of Iraqis being held without trial would have to proceed with regard for notions of due process, saying, "And in our system of law its essential that those criminal charges go forward with out prejudice, in other words people are treated innocent until proven guilty and facts are now being gathered."
Bush also reminded the viewers of Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV that, "We have a presumption of innocent until you’re guilty in our system, "
Several papers remarked that no actual apology had been forthcoming from Bushs TV appearances. It seemed that the Administrations intention today was to mobilize a blitz of apologies from everyone except the President himself.
While Bush was not apologizing today, others were. The US Army Spokesperson in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said, “My Army has been embarrassed by this. My Army has been shamed by this. And on behalf of my Army, I apologize for what those soldiers did to your citizens."
Another apology came from an American General who had run the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Camp X-ray. The General, Major General Geoffrey Miller, was given the job of running Abu Ghraib prison after the former commander US Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski was quietly removed.
The new prison commander, US Major General Geoffrey Miller, who was in Cuba while all the alleged abuse at Abu Ghraib took place, made a fulsome apology in the name of the American people to the Baghdad press corps, for the "illegal or unauthorized acts" that took place at the prison. He said, ”I would like to apologize for our nation and for our military for the small number of soldiers who committed illegal or unauthorized acts here at Abu Ghraib ” Miller also told the press corps, ”These are violations not only of our national policy but of how we conduct ourselves as members of the international community.”
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld attempted his own version of an apology yesterday in Washington, but stayed clear of the "T" word, saying, "I don’t know if the — 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."
Rumsfeld is clearly playing the good soldier for Bush, but it looks like it will do him no good, as rumors are flying in Washington that Rumsfelds head is on the block, and that after a slated grilling in the Senate on Friday he is going to be fired.
Calls for Donald Rumsfelds resignation can only be welcomed by Bush, who must now view any diversion of anger from himself with a sigh of relief.