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Revelations About Iraqi Prisoner Abuse Will Not Affect US Plans to Hand Over Sovereignty in Iraq, says Bush - 2004-05-08


President Bush says revelations about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in U.S. custody will not affect plans to hand over sovereignty in Iraq by the end of June. Some Democrats are calling for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign over the scandal.

In his weekly radio address, President Bush said the conduct of a small number of American servicemen and women is shocking.

"Such practices do not reflect our values," said President Bush. "They are a stain on our country's honor and reputation."

Photographs of naked prisoners being humiliated by U.S. troops have brought widespread condemnation inside and outside Iraq. The president and members of his administration have been trying to contain political fallout from the reported abuse.

President Bush says those involved in the abuse will be punished, and all prison operations in Iraq are under review to make certain that what he calls similar disgraceful incidents are never repeated.

The president says what took place was the wrongdoing of a few, and does not reflect the character of the more than 200,000 military personnel who have served in Iraq since the start of the U.S.-led invasion last year.

Mr. Bush says U.S. troops went to liberate Iraq and return sovereignty to the people. That transition will continue because, the president says, he will not leave the country at the mercy of what he calls thugs and murderers.

"We're determined to help build a free and stable Iraq, a nation at peace with its neighbors and with the world," he said. "Our nation is grateful to the men and women of our military, and to their families who face hardship and long separation. Our people in uniform are the best of America."

In the Democratic radio address, retired Army General Wesley Clark says the prison abuse is another example of what he calls the president's poor leadership.

"The truth is, President Bush has made mistake after mistake as Commander-in-Chief, taking us first into a war we didn't have to wage, alone and under false pretenses, and now managing it poorly," he said. "The mission itself is in danger, as a self-imposed June 30 deadline for transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis approaches."

General Clark says the president needs to bring more countries into the process by creating an international organization to provide economic and political assistance, thereby lessening the burden he says America is bearing in Iraq.

General Clark was a candidate for the Democratic nomination to challenge Mr. Bush in this year's election. Since dropping out of that race, he has remained active in Democratic politics.

"I believe we need new leadership in America to keep us safe at home, to win the war on terror, and to regain respect for America abroad," he said.

Some Congressional Democrats are calling on the president to fire his defense secretary over the prison scandal. Mr. Bush says Secretary Rumsfeld is staying.

In testimony before Congress Friday, Mr. Rumsfeld said there are more photographs and video recordings of the abuse.

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