The following is the opening statement by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on the abuse of Iraqi inmates by U.S. troops to the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday:
“Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, in recent days there has been a good deal of discussion about who bears responsibility for the terrible activities that took place at Abu Ghraib. These events occurred on my watch. As secretary of defense, I am accountable for them and I take full responsibility.
“It’s my obligation to evaluate what happened, to make sure that those who have committed wrongdoing are brought to justice, and to make changes as needed to see that it doesn’t happen again.
“I feel terrible about what happened to these Iraqi detainees. They are human beings. They were in U.S. custody. Our country had an obligation to treat them right. We didn’t, and that was wrong.
“So to those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the U.S. armed forces, I offer my deepest apology. It was inconsistent with the values of our nation. It was inconsistent with the teachings of the military, to the men and women of the armed forces. And it was certainly fundamentally un-American.
“Further, I deeply regret the damage that has been done. First, to the reputation of the honorable men and women of the armed forces, who are courageously and responsibly and professionally defending our freedoms across the globe.
“They are truly wonderful human beings. And their families and their loved ones can be enormously proud of them.
“Second, to the president, Congress and the American people, I wish I had been able to convey to them the gravity of this before we saw it in the media.
“And finally to the reputation of our country. …
“It’s important for the American people and the world to know that while these terrible acts were perpetrated by a small number of U.S. military, they were also brought to light by the honorable and responsible actions of other military personnel.
“There are many who did their duty professionally and we should mention that as well. First, Specialist Joseph Darby, who alerted the appropriate authorities that abuses were occurring.
“Second, those in the military chain of command who acted promptly on learning of those abuses by initiating a series of investigations, criminal and administrative, to assure that abuses were stopped and the responsible chain of command was relieved and replaced. …
“Now let me tell you the measures we’re taking to deal with this issue.