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Bush Vows Punishment for Abusers of Iraqi Prisoners - 2004-05-05

President Bush says U.S. soldiers who abused Iraqi prisoners will be brought to justice. Mr. Bush went on Arabic-language television as part of an administration effort to blunt worldwide condemnation that has followed the release of images of Iraqi detainees wearing hoods and posed in embarrassing positions.

President Bush says Americans are just as appalled as Iraqis by the images of prisoner abuse.

"The people of Iraq must understand that I view those practices as abhorrent," he said. "They must also understand that what took place in that prison does not represent the America I know."

Mr. Bush told the U.S.-government run AlHurra television network that, in a democracy, everything is not perfect. Mistakes are made, he says, but in a democracy mistakes are investigated, and people are brought to justice.

"We're an open society," he said. "We are a society that is willing to investigate, fully investigate in this case, what took place in that prison. That stands in stark contrast to life under Saddam Hussein. His trained torturers were never brought to justice under his regime. There were no investigations about mistreatment of people. There will be investigations. People will be brought to justice."

In a separate interview with Dubai-based al-Arabiya television, Mr. Bush said he understands the negative reaction in the Middle East.

"I think people in the Middle East who want to dislike America will use this as an excuse to remind people about their dislike," he said. "I think the average citizen will say, 'This isn't the country I've been told about.'

The commander of U.S.-run prisons in Iraq Wednesday apologized on behalf of the United States and the U.S. military for what he called a "small number of leaders and soldiers who committed unauthorized and possibly illegal acts."

Major General Geoffrey Miller made his remarks to Arab and Western reporters touring the prison outside Baghdad while hundreds of Iraqis demonstrated outside, chanting anti-American slogans and demanding the release of jailed relatives.

The U.S. military says six officers face criminal charges related to the prison abuse and six other people have been reprimanded.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says the president's interviews with Arab-language television were a chance for Mr. Bush to reach a wide audience in the Arab world, to let people there know that the images of prison abuse are shameful and do not represent the high standard of conduct that the U.S. military is committed to upholding.

Mr. McClellan says the president has full confidence in Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and has not asked for his resignation.

The president's interviews were the latest administration effort to try to offset widespread denunciations of the abuse. The media campaign has included appearances by Secretary Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of State Colin Powell.