Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld disclosed yesterday that he had offered President Bush his resignation twice during the height of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal last year. He said he wanted the decision on his future to be placed in Bush's hands.
"He made that decision and said he did want me to stay on," Rumsfeld said on CNN's "Larry King Live."
In the CNN interview Rumsfeld asserted, as he has many times in the past, that as defense secretary he could not be expected to know all that takes place in war zones halfway around the world. But he also indicated that he could have done more to head off the trouble.
The release of photographs last spring depicting American soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib triggered worldwide outrage, particularly in the Arab world. Rumsfeld told Congress at the time that he would quit if he felt he could no longer serve effectively, but he also said then that he would not resign simply to please his critics and political opponents.
In the CNN interview, he indicated that he felt a measure of responsibility for the scandal.
"The problem is, this kind of thing occurs in prisons across the country and across the world," he said. "And you have to know it's going to be a possibility. And therefore the training and the discipline and the doctrine has to be such that you anticipate that risk. And clearly, that wasn't done to the extent it should."
Some had speculated last fall that if Bush was reelected he would replace Rumsfeld, but in December the president said he wanted him to stay. Rumsfeld told CNN that when Bush asked him to stay for a second term, they did not discuss whether it would be for four years.