President Bush for the first time took a measure of responsibility for the 2004 Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq, during an interview with an Arabic TV network.
“Abu Ghraib was a terrible disappointment. And admittedly, I wasn’t there on the site, but I was the Commander-in-Chief of a military where these disgraceful acts took place that sent the absolute wrong image about America and our military,” Mr. Bush said.
The president made the comments in an interview conducted Friday with a reporter from the Middle East Broadcasting Center, a Saudi-run station that broadcasts throughout the region.
The White House released the transcript Sunday morning.
Mr. Bush’s comments were a pointed attempt to speak to the people of the Middle East about an issue that some believe has done more damage to the U.S. image in that region than anything else.
The Abu Ghraib scandal exploded in 2004 when photos and videos showing U.S. soldiers humiliating prisoners began to leak out and then were published by news organizations.
Later investigations by the military found that, in addition to degrading prisoners sexually and using dogs and other methods to frighten them, some prisoners were physically assaulted and abused.
Seven U.S. soldiers were court-martialed and sentenced to federal prison time, and the commanding officer at the prison was demoted, but no high-ranking military or government officials have been held at fault for the abuses.
Critics of the Bush administration say that increased pressure for intelligence after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, combined with vague legal guidelines for what was allowed and not allowed in obtaining intelligence, led to widespread abuses such as the one at Abu Ghraib.
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