Pressure Mounts In US Over Iraq Torture Scandal
In an unprecedented damage-limitation exercise, President George Bush told Arab TV viewers last night the treatment of prisoners by some members of the US military in Iraq had been "abhorrent" and would be thoroughly investigated.
The people of Iraq "must understand that what took place in that prison does not represent the America that I know," he said in an interview with al-Hurra, an Arabic-language channel funded by the US government.
Though Mr Bush stopped short of a direct apology for the abuse at Abu Ghraib jail, where prisoners were stripped naked and sexually humiliated, he continued: "In a democracy everything is not perfect - mistakes are made."
The perpetrators would be investigated and brought to justice, he said. "We will do to ourselves what we expect of others." He contrasted this approach with the attitude of the ousted Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein. "His trained torturers were never brought to justice _ there were never investigations about mistreatment," Mr Bush said.
It was the first time Mr Bush had made direct mention of the abuse since photographs of gloating US guards and humiliated Iraqi prisoners surfaced a week ago.
Later, the White House spokesman Scott McClellan used the word "sorry" half a dozen times. "The president is sorry for what occurred and the pain it has caused," he said.
The president's media offensive followed critical reaction around the world to the photographs of prisoners being abused by US soldiers.
In the Middle East the degradation was widely portrayed as symbolic of American intentions towards the region.