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Senators Harshly Criticize Rumsfeld Over US Conduct in Iraq
Alex Belida
VOA, Pentagon
12 May 2004, 20:17 UTC
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld faced a litany of fresh criticism about the U.S. involvement in Iraq from lawmakers Wednesday as he appeared before a Senate panel. The hearing was supposed to have focused on defense spending.

But military money issues took a back seat to questioning about the Bush administration's overall plans in Iraq along with the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal that has stirred worldwide anger.

Among the critics who put Mr. Rumsfeld on the defensive was Senator Ernest Hollings, a South Carolina Democrat. "You don't have security [in Iraq], in fact we're bogged down," he said. "We're building and destroying. We're trying to win the hearts and minds as we're killing them and torturing them."

Other senators honed in with tough questions about U.S. military interrogation techniques for prisoners, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan or Guantanamo.

Senator Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, charged the Pentagon's approved measures for dealing with detainees were at odds with the Geneva Conventions.

"The things that we allow, stress positions, sleep management, dietary manipulation, all of these things go far beyond a standard which says there'll be no physical or mental torture or any other form of coercion or that the people involved will be exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind. That's the Geneva Convention," he said. "These rules of engagement for interrogation issued by your department are inconsistent with those."

Mr. Rumsfeld rejected that criticism, asserting U.S. interrogation methods are legal.

He also insisted reports of prisoner mistreatment have been routinely investigated, a claim that prompted a skeptical interruption by yet another Senator, Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat.

RUMSFELD: We get repeated reports from people of problems and they are checked and they are worked on and corrections are made and most of the investigation reports indicate ... [interrrupted]

LEAHY: Apparently not in Iraq or Afghanistan according to the front page of the papers this morning.

In the end, after some three hours of questioning, Mr. Rumsfeld acknowledged he shares the concerns of legislators about America's military involvement in Iraq.

But he insisted he remains optimistic.\ "And I understand concern," he said. "By golly, I've got it... And I look at Iraq and all I can say is I hope it comes out well and I believe it will."

Mr. Rumsfeld's appearance on Capitol Hill came as lawmakers were given their first opportunity to examine new, classified pictures of the mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq.