(Host) Senator Jim Jeffords has joined those who are calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Jeffords says Rumsfeld must be fired to show the world that the United States is willing to be accountable for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) Jeffords says the release of photographs documenting the abuse of Iraqi prisoners shows reprehensible and unacceptable behavior on the part of some American soldiers – behavior that Jeffords says threatens to undermine efforts to develop a meaningful solution to the war in Iraq.
Jeffords says it’s imperative that some top American leaders be held accountable for these atrocities and Jeffords knows where he would start to clean house:
(Jeffords) “I’d start at the top, I’d start with Rumsfeld. I can’t believe that he was unaware of this and obviously that he is trying to defend everybody, including himself.”
(Kinzel) On Monday, President Bush went to the Pentagon to defend Rumsfeld. Bush said Rumsfeld is “doing a superb job and that the nation owes him a debt of gratitude.” Jeffords says he’s dismayed but not surprised by the president’s comments:
(Jeffords) “I think he’s taken in by him. I think he’s been schnockered by him. I think Rumsfeld has got some sort of control over the president.”
(Kinzel) Jeffords says Rumsfeld’s resignation is needed for the United States to show the world that the torture of Iraqi prisoners will not be tolerated:
(Jeffords) “I believe that until somebody like Rumsfeld is made to fall and get out of this situation, that it’s not going to be resolved. It’s not going to calm down.”
(Kinzel) Rumsfeld told members of Congress on Friday that he would resign if he felt he could no longer be an effective defense secretary. Jeffords thinks that day has come:
(Jeffords) “Well he can’t be, as far as I’m concerned. I guess every member of Congress has to speak for themselves on that. But I think that his image is going to be so linked to this that I don’t see how he can escape having to resign and get out of there for people to feel satisfied.”
(Kinzel) Jeffords says the administration’s handling of the prisoner abuse controversy is causing him to rethink if he’ll support the president’s plan to appropriate another $25 billion to support the war in Iraq.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.