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
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
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.