For Immediate Release: Thursday, May 14, 2004
Contact: Bob Weiner 301-283-0821 or 202-329-1700


    (Washington, DC) -- "President Bush's direction of 'Bring-em-on,' 'We'll get him dead or alive,' and do-what-we-want and the rest of the world be damned trickled down from him to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to military intelligence to prison guards, causing the prisoner abuse scandal," asserts Democratic strategist and former White House Drug Policy and House Government Operations Committee public affairs director Robert Weiner.

    "Yes, Bush bears blame for the prison scandal," Weiner argues in a statement today.  "Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's surprise trip to Baghdad to speak at Abu Ghraib Prison was an impressive attempt to rescue U.S. military morale during the scandal.  But to say to the people at THAT prison that 'you're doing a great job' when many there may turn out to have been complicit or tolerant of what was going on will come back to haunt Rumsfeld and his boss."

    "Many are calling for Rumsfeld to resign because of the culture of intimidation and the lack of disciplined oversight he clearly instigated and allowed in Iraq, leading to the current mess. But if this linkage and potential blame are true for Rumsfeld, why are they not even truer for President Bush?" Weiner asks.

    Weiner also asserts a larger-than-reported scandal:  "Do any of us really believe that seven soldiers and six officers are all who are involved, that intelligence officials didn't order and guide and support the methods of interrogation, and that our highest-ups didn't know that it's just Abu Ghraib, when we've heard similar complaints about Cuba's Guantánamo for two years and about other Iraq and Afghanistan prisons since the war began?"  He intimates possible Bush direct knowledge: "Hasn't the White House proudly pointed out that President Bush receives an intelligence briefing every morning -- by the agency that oversees obtaining intelligence in the Iraq prisons, the very intelligence gathering area which usurped the traditional prison chain of command over the interrogators of the detainees?" 

    Weiner argues, "To Rumsfeld's vehement assertion that 'the military, not the media' revealed the allegations, we need a little common sense here:  Yes, the military had a news conference in January but it was not until '60 Minutes II' aired the photographs last week, and world media repeated the story while all recoiled in horror, that the full U.S. apology and corrective action machine swung into motion, a gasp to put a new wrapper on a public-relations disaster. I fear minimalism in our response when even now, U.S. officials refuse to reveal the rest of the photos until the media does." 

    "It was equally distressing to watch DOD's muzzling of General Taguba, who wrote the report on the Abu Ghraib prison, in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 11, with DOD insisting that he be surrounded by a higher ranking general and a DOD official who interrupted his answers so that he could barely get out his points. It is important to note that the White House clears congressional hearing strategy and testimony for administration witnesses," Weiner concludes.

(This statement was issued by Robert Weiner Associates Public Affairs and Issue Strategies, tel. 301-283-0821 or 202-329-1700)