WH Press Briefing by Scott McClellan May 6, 2004
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 6, 2004
Press Briefing by Scott
The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:20 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. Let me update you on one world leader call from earlier today. Earlier today, the President and President Mubarak discussed their recent meeting in Texas, the Quartet meeting earlier this week and the statement from the Quartet and the way forward in the region. The two leaders have remained in close contact with one another since their meeting in Crawford through correspondence, as well, in addition to today's conversation.
Q Who initiated it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this was a mutually agreed to time when they call one another, the two leaders. Like I said, they remained in contact through correspondence since their meeting in Crawford, and it was a good discussion.
Q How long?
MR. McCLELLAN: It was brief, less than five minutes.
Earlier today the President had a good discussion with his Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. Freedom is coming to Cuba, as you heard from the President, and we want to hasten the day when Cubans live in freedom. The President stands solidly with the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom. Our objectives toward Cuba are to see an end to Castro's oppressive dictatorship, to support the Cuban people in the transition to democracy, and to help the Cuban people build a free market economy. We will have a fact sheet out here shortly, as well as an executive summary. And the State Department has some briefings later today on some of the specifics within that policy.
The President also looks forward this afternoon to meeting with King Abdullah and welcoming his good friend back to the White House. Jordan is a close partner of the United States and I expect the leaders to discuss a wide range of issues. And you will hear from them in the Rose Garden shortly after that meeting.
And with that, I will be glad to go to questions.
Q Senator Harkin has called for Secretary Rumsfeld to resign, and I think that Congresswoman Pelosi is, too. Is the White House sticking with the Secretary? Does the President -- is his support wavering at all with these critics --
MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely not. The President greatly appreciates the leadership of Secretary Rumsfeld and all our men and women in the military who are doing an outstanding job. The President has great confidence in the job Secretary Rumsfeld is doing, and he appreciates his service.
Q There was some criticism from the White House yesterday about the way the Secretary informed or didn't inform the President. Why is the President so solid behind him if he's unhappy about the --
MR. McCLELLAN: Because he thinks that Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a great job on our shared objective for bringing about a safer and better world and a more secure America. He is providing strong leadership to implement the policies of this administration.
Q Has the Secretary said anything to the White House about the criticism -- yesterday's criticism?
MR. McCLELLAN: We are always in close contact with Secretary Rumsfeld, Terry, and I'm not going to get into a discussion of private meetings the President has with the Secretary. The President's focus is on getting to the bottom of these allegations of prisoner abuse, and making sure that strong steps are taken to punish people and hold people accountable and to make sure that measures are put in place to prevent something like this from happening again.
Q Since the -- since the Secretary has been demonstrating leadership, as you say the President believes he has, where does the buck stop with this alleged prisoner abuse in Iraq? Does it stop at a lower level, or does it ultimately come up to the civilian leader of the Pentagon?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, John, there is an investigation underway. We do know that there were a few individuals involved in some appalling and despicable acts in the way prisoners were treated. And it's important that people be held accountable.
We also have several -- or the Pentagon and the military has a series of investigations going on right now to look at these issues in Iraq, and to look at all -- the entire prison system in Iraq and to see whether or not this may have been more systemic. But we need to let those investigations proceed. The President wants to know the truth. But I would just point out that the President strongly supports the work of the vast majority, the 99 percent of our men and women in the military who are doing an outstanding job representing America and serving with honor and distinction. And we should not lose sight of that.
Q So let me just be clear on this, that when you say that the President wants the Secretary of Defense to continue to serve him, are you indicating, pending the results of this Pentagon investigation?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm saying the President strongly supports his leadership and appreciates his service.
Q And wants him to stay on as Secretary?
MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely, John. He is doing a great job and the President appreciates the work of Secretary Rumsfeld, and all our men and women in the military.
Q Does the President --
Q So even though there was systemic failures --
Q Does the President take any responsibility for what happened at Abu Ghraib? And as the Commander-in-Chief, or as the President of the United States, is he responsible? It was on his watch.
MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, the people who are responsible need to be held accountable. That's what the President believes. This --
Q Does he think he's responsible?
MR. McCLELLAN: The actions of a few do not represent our United States military. Our United States military is committed to adhering to the highest standards of conduct, and they're committed to adhering to our international obligations in treating prisoners --
Q We didn't abide by our international --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and treating prisoners humanely. And the vast majority of our men and women in the military are upholding those standards of conduct. And we appreciate --
Q He doesn't take any responsibility, is that what you're saying?
MR. McCLELLAN: The people who are responsible for this need to be held accountable. That's what the President believes -- because what they did does harm what we are working to achieve, and it does not represent what America stands for, and it does not represent what the United States military stands for. And that's why when these allegations came to light, the Pentagon and the military took strong steps to address it and hold people responsible and correct this, correct any problems that many exist. And the President wants to continue to receive updates about these investigations going forward, and that's what he expects.
Q But he doesn't feel he had any role in any of this in terms of not abiding by the Geneva Accords?
MR. McCLELLAN: The people who have the role in this were the -- Helen, the people who had a role in this were ones that did not uphold the high standards and the values that America stands for and committed these despicable acts. Those are the people who are responsible for this.
Q But Rumsfeld said we weren't going to abide by the Geneva Accords on prisoners of war.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't think that's what he said.
Q But, Scott, there are the actions of a few, and then there's the system in which those actions took place. The United States has been running a prison system in Iraq now for the better part of year, for more than a year. The Red Cross for months, going back to last year, has been trying to alert the United States government of what it said were humanitarian abuses within that prison system.
MR. McCLELLAN: Can I stop you right there, real quick?
Q Major General Ryder -- Major General Ryder, within the Pentagon, filed a report last October in which, among other things, he said, there are humanitarian problems in the United States prison system. It seems as if the Pentagon, under Secretary Rumsfeld, did not get on this problem when it was brought to their attention.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me point out one thing about the Red Cross. We work very closely and cooperatively -- and in cooperation with the Red Cross. When they raise concerns, we take those concerns seriously. And I think if you talk to the military, they can talk about some of the ways we've addressed some issues that the Red Cross has raised. But we work in cooperation with the Red Cross on these matters.
Q But I'm talking about the system problem, not the actions of individuals. But the Red Cross has said, officials have said that they brought humanitarian problems, prisoner abuse problems within the prison system that U.S. forces were running in Iraq to the attention of the U.S. government last year.
Major General Ryder's report, among other things, said, "There are humanitarian problems within this prison system." The Pentagon didn't get after it. Why shouldn't Secretary Rumsfeld take responsibility for that problem?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think when it comes to the Red Cross that there are actions that have been taken and the military can probably talk to you further about those actions. And when allegations of prisoner abuse came to light more recently, the Pentagon -- the military in the region immediately began taking steps to bring people to justice who were responsible for those actions, and take steps to punish those individuals. They are pursuing charges and they're looking at additional criminal charges. And they also took steps to look at the entire prison system in Iraq to make sure that this was not a systemic problem. And the Red Cross is someone that we work closely with, and we listen to the issues that they raise. And the military has acted on some of those matters. So I think you need to keep that in mind when you're talking about some of these issues.
Q One more. General Taguba has already said that in his review of this matter, it was a systemic problem. Does the President agree with that?
MR. McCLELLAN: And I think that's all part of the investigation. And the President has been briefed on the Taguba report and the conclusions of it, and the President wants to continue to receive updates. The President's focus is on making sure that we are taking strong steps to hold people accountable and to prevent something like this from happening again. And the military --
Q Who is responsible for the system, not the action -- who is responsible?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I know. And the military -- the military has a series of investigations going on right now, some that are more narrowly focused, and some that are taking a more comprehensive look at matters. And we need to let those investigations proceed. I'm not going to try to make assumptions about those investigations that are ongoing right now, but the President wants to continue to receive updates about where things stand and he will -- he expects to.
Q But if you're looking for systemic problems in the Pentagon, can you really trust the Pentagon to investigate itself?
MR. McCLELLAN: I didn't say within the Pentagon. I said, looking at the Iraqi prison system and looking at the way prisoners are treated in Iraq.
Q Which is run by the Pentagon. I mean, you're saying -- you're basically sitting back to let Pentagon officials investigate their own systemic abuses.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, the President wants to make sure that action is being taken. And they are taking action. The President has confidence in the ability of the military to get to the bottom of this and to take the necessary steps to prevent something like this from happening again. It was the military, when this information came to light, that went public and said, we've got allegations of prisoner abuse here; we are launching investigations and we're going to pursue those individuals who may have been involved in these activities.
Q Also the military which did not bring the full extent of the abuse to the attention of the President.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that as --
Q Do you really think they're going to be more forthcoming now?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that as the investigations move forward, more information comes to light and you learn more about the precise nature of what occurred. And I think that's what we're seeing here.
Q Scott, you said that the President is continuing to receive updates about the follow-through on this. Back on that unknown date that we don't remember what the date is --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he talked with Secretary Rumsfeld on Monday, he met with him yesterday. He has received updates on the Taguba report, as well.
Q Okay, understood. Back on the day -- sometime, we think, in January; you don't remember the exact date, when he was first informed of this -- did he also ask for follow-through, and apparently he didn't get it, since he didn't find out --
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, when we went through this yesterday, I talked about how Secretary Rumsfeld informed the President that there were allegations of prisoner abuse in Iraq and that the military was launching investigations, they were looking into the matter so that they could address it. And the President wanted to make sure that that's what the military was doing, that they were working to address the matter, they were taking action. And they were at that point. Obviously, at that point, it was more of just a general nature that there were allegations of prisoner abuse. Since that time, we've learned more about the precise nature of things.
Q My question is, if there was just a general comment made by the Defense Secretary to the President about it, what happened next? What actions did the President ask to take? What kind of follow-through did he ask for?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President wanted to make sure -- he asked the questions and wanted to make sure that there was a full investigation going on to address these matters, and he was told that there were.
Q But between then and last Wednesday, can you give us any information about whether he was inquisitive, whether maybe that was --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, actually, General Kimmitt was briefing the public and talking about how there were investigations going on. And he briefed publicly about some of these matters after the initial release was put out by Central Command.
Q What is it that the President needed to know that Rumsfeld did not share with him?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, what --
Q What is it that Rumsfeld did not share with the President that the White House is upset about?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you're trying to jump into some of the media reports that we've all seen today, and I'm not going to get into discussing private meetings with Secretary Rumsfeld. The President had a good discussion with him yesterday. And I'll leave it at that.
Q Well, no, I'm not talking about the meeting yesterday. I'm just talking about, there's obviously concern that Secretary Rumsfeld did not bring this to the attention of the President in a timely manner, did not share with him the scope of the allegations that the Pentagon was dealing with. I'm just trying to determine what it is that the White House is concerned about.
MR. McCLELLAN: What we're concerned about is making sure that strong steps are being taken to hold people responsible and punish those individuals who were responsible, and that strong steps are being taken to prevent something like this from happening again. That's where the President's focus is, Jim.
Q The Pentagon says it was, in fact, doing that, and I know there's some consternation here that the President wasn't brought in sooner or more fully briefed. What is the nature of those concerns?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we have learned more about the precise nature more recently. And the President has had discussions, talked with Secretary Rumsfeld on Monday, to make sure that strong steps were being taken, and to make sure that a comprehensive look was being done to see whether or not this was a systemic problem. And the President's focus is on making sure that those actions are being taken seriously, and that they're being addressed.
Q Is there any concern that this would have been so much better if someone had come out and laid out the scope of these allegations, had been more forthcoming here to let people know? I realize it came up in January or March in Iraq --
MR. McCLELLAN: I appreciate where your interest is. The President's focus is on making sure that we're taking the appropriate steps to address this matter. That's where the President's interest is.
Q He's also focused on the impact overseas, and I'm just wondering if part of the consternation at the White House is over the fact that the President didn't know enough to get out in front of this or to instruct other people to get out in front.
MR. McCLELLAN: Any time there are allegations of abuse like this, it's a serious matter. And you learn more as the investigations move forward. And I think you're seeing that that's what's occurred here.
Q But is it accurate for us to say that the White House is not happy with the amount of information it received from the Pentagon about these allegations?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's accurate for you to talk about where the President's focus is right now, and the President's focus is on making sure that we're getting to the bottom of this, making sure that our military is getting to the bottom of this. And he has great confidence in their efforts to address this matter.
Q Two questions, please. When you've been using the word systemic the last couple of days, I think you've been limiting it to Iraqi prisons. Is there any interest or concern about military prisons elsewhere?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that obviously you always want to look at those issues. And I think the Pentagon has talked about those issues in recent days.
Q The L.A. Times lead story today mentions the date January 13th, and then it says, about that time in January -- "About that time in January, Secretary Rumsfeld mentioned the prisoner abuse investigation to the President at a regularly scheduled White House meeting." I wondered if having that data point helps you narrow down when this might have been?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think having those data points show when this information rose up to higher levels within the military. And certainly, as I said, Secretary Rumsfeld was the one who informed the President. So it would have been some time after Secretary Rumsfeld became aware of it. But the exact dates -- I cannot pinpoint that exact date of when the President was told.
Q Scott --
Q Excuse me.
Q This says in January --
MR. McCLELLAN: Right.
Q -- the Secretary mentioned it to the President. Now --
MR. McCLELLAN: And I don't know where that came from. I saw that Pentagon officials said they weren't -- they weren't aware, either.
Q Now you said, just a few months ago, that at that time, the President asked questions. That's typically memorialized. I wonder if people --
MR. McCLELLAN: No. I wouldn't necessarily say that that's the case. He meets with Secretary Rumsfeld on a regular basis and meets with him once or twice a week, at least, here at the White House in the Oval Office. So he has regular meetings with Secretary Rumsfeld. They talk about a number of important issues when it comes to our security concerns and what we're working to do in Iraq.
Q Okay, so if I may just ask a last question. Have people who were associated with that meeting, responsible for that meeting, looked in notes, email, phone calls to see if there was any follow-up done on these questions the President asked?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the Pentagon and the military continue to brief about the follow up that was going on and the investigations that were proceeding. That was all very well-known publicly.
Q The White House -- I'm sure the White House, it's in your interest to figure out what this date is --
MR. McCLELLAN: It's in our interest to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again, Mike. That's where our focus is.
Q So you can't -- you're not answering -- you won't say, do people -- made any effort to --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, our focus is on making sure that something like this does not happen again and to make sure that people are being held accountable.
Q Scott, just to clarify that. You said, no -- the answer is "no" to whether or not people are looking into it; people are not looking into it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Looking into?
Q Into whether or not there were notes taken, anybody took any --
MR. McCLELLAN: What we're doing is focusing on the actions that are being taken now, so, no.
Q Scott, two quick questions, please. Can I take you back here on problems in the U.S. We did a story here --
Q Wait, same subject before you change it?
Q It's a prisoner abuse in the Modesto, California area. Indian Sikh who was a prisoner at the local -- temple --
MR. McCLELLAN: Goyal, I wouldn't be able to address a local matter like that. I think you have to address it to authorities there.
Q He was starved to death. The Indian American community here really asking the presidential action or his awareness of this 72-year-old Indian priest at the local temple --
MR. McCLELLAN: We can talk about it later. I'm not aware of that local incident there.
Q Second --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, go ahead.
Q Second question now. Senate in the U.S., they have 60 votes as far as the immigration bill is concerned. If President is ready to sign because there are some little changes, but it will ensure that millions of illegal aliens --
MR. McCLELLAN: There are some reforms the President has committed to, and we're continuing to work with Congress on some of those priorities.
Go ahead, Ivan.
Q Scott, going back to the Rumsfeld issue. Despite what you say about the President still having full confidence in him, without getting into the nitty gritty of the meeting, did the President call Rumsfeld on the carpet? Was he dissatisfied with the way this was handled? And secondly, did Rumsfeld issue any kind of an explanation as to why he didn't inform the President personally about these photos and about what was taking place?
MR. McCLELLAN: I would not -- I appreciate the question. I've seen all the media reports, and as I pointed out yesterday, the President met privately with Secretary Rumsfeld. They had a good discussion. I'm just not going to get into discussing a private meeting that the President has with Secretary Rumsfeld. The President has great appreciation for the job that Secretary Rumsfeld is doing.
Q Any official --
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Norah.
Q Any official explanation, though, by Rumsfeld as to why he didn't inform the President?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, Ivan. Our focus is on making sure that we're getting to the bottom of this matter, and that we're taking the appropriate actions to address it.
Q Scott, Abu Ghraib obviously was the site of the torture that Saddam Hussein committed, and the President has repeatedly denounced. Now, it's an issue with U.S. soldiers. Would the President support calls by both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill to demolish the prison?
MR. McCLELLAN: Norah, I think that that's a question best addressed to the coalition in Iraq. I think that they can address those matters.
Q Is it something that's been discussed with the President?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not aware of any discussion on it. But, here -- go ahead.
Q Scott, the interviews that the President gave to Arab television yesterday, is there anything more that he feels like he can say or should say to address concerns, the concerns of Iraqis and the Arab world?
MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely, we must continue to speak out about what America does stand for, and what America does represent. America stands for freedom and democracy. America stands for promoting human rights and promoting human dignity. America stands for treating all people with dignity and respect, and that includes treating prisoners humanely and consistent with international accords. And the President will continue to talk about the values that we hold so dearly, and continue speaking out about what we are working to achieve in Iraq on behalf of the Iraqi people, which is a free and peaceful and brighter future. And that is critical in our efforts to win the war on terrorism, as well.
Q Can he offer --
MR. McCLELLAN: So he will continue to talk out about these issues.
Q Can he offer a direct apology?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this issue came up yesterday, and I said that the President was sorry for the pain that this has caused those individuals and their families.
Q Why doesn't he say it himself, Scott?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Ken.
Q It's important for the President to say it himself, though. You're saying that he has effectively apologized, but he himself has not apologized.
MR. McCLELLAN: The President yesterday in his interviews, one, addressed the questions that he was asked and talked about how the actions of these few individuals do not represent what America stands for, and it does not represent the America that he knows, as he put it.
Q He did not apologize.
MR. McCLELLAN: And he talked about how what happened was wrong, it was unacceptable, and it was inexcusable, and that when this comes to light, that America takes action to address this matter, and to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again.
Q The President had an opportunity to apologize, and he did not take that opportunity.
MR. McCLELLAN: And that's what we are doing. I think I've answered your question.
Go ahead, Ken.
Q Scott, without regard to what was said in the private meeting yesterday between the President and the Secretary of Defense, does the President feel he has been well served by members of his administration in terms of keeping him informed in a timely manner and a full manner?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I appreciate your question. And this is just another way to try to get into that type of discussion. The President's focus is on making sure that the appropriate steps are being taken to address this matter, and to make sure -- and to making sure that we're getting to the bottom of this. That's where the President's focus is. And the President greatly appreciates the job that Secretary Rumsfeld is doing, and the job that our men and women in the military are doing.
Q I understand that he has that attitude and that focus. My question isn't about what was said in a private meeting. My question is about the President's state of mind right now in terms of whether he feels he's been well served in terms of --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I told you where his state of the mind is. And he has great appreciation for the work of our men and women in the military and the leadership of Secretary Rumsfeld. And he's going to continue to stay focused on what we are doing going forward.
Q So you're saying he has no concerns about the way in which --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, Ken, I think, again, you're just trying to get me into a discussion of some of these media reports today, and I'm just not going to do that. I don't see any need for it.
Q Scott, back on the question of timing. Is it really possible that the President wasn't briefed by Secretary Rumsfeld until after a press release about this was issued?
MR. McCLELLAN: I never said that. After Secretary Rumsfeld was informed was when the President was informed.
Q You have said that.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it was after Secretary Rumsfeld was informed. He informed the President at some point after that.
Q But this could have taken place after the press release came out on --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's just totally speculating there, David.
Q I'm asking you if it's possible that this sort of thing could happen.
MR. McCLELLAN: That is totally speculating. So I'm not going to get into complete speculation. The President was informed by Secretary Rumsfeld, so obviously he was informed at a point after Secretary Rumsfeld was made aware of these allegations of prisoner abuse.
Q But Secretary Rumsfeld says he can't remember. We have a problem here.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead. Richard, go ahead.
Q The President has gone to great lengths to speak to the Arab people. Is he going to do -- to speak to the American people?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Is he going to speak to the American people about this? The President?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President speaks to the American people all the time, and he has been speaking to the American people. He spoke to the American people when he was asked questions in the Rose Garden on Friday. He spoke to the American people in interviews he participated in earlier this week, as well. You're going to hear from him again here shortly and I'm sure you're going to have the opportunity to ask him questions, as well. But the President has made his views very well known.
Q Scott, one, in the phone call with Mubarak, was this issue discussed at all? You didn't mention that.
MR. McCLELLAN: It was a brief conversation. The conversation was focused on the matters that I brought up at the beginning.
Q So it wasn't mentioned whatsoever?
MR. McCLELLAN: I wasn't on the -- I wasn't there for the call when it took place, so I'm not aware of what was discussed in terms of that.
Q Can you find out whether they discussed it?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll check, but it was a brief conversation and I think that really the focus was on -- more on the situation regarding the Israelis and Palestinians and how we can move forward on achieving the two-state vision.
Q And also -- when the President went to Secretary Rumsfeld's house for dinner on Friday night, did they discuss this matter at all? Was there any of the displeasure --
MR. McCLELLAN: That would be asking me to get into a private dinner that the President has. And he talks with Secretary Rumsfeld regularly about these issues, and certainly that issue was something that was in the media last week, so take it for what --
Q A two-part. You told us that you were, in your word, sure, that those Iraqis who murdered, mutilated, dragged and hanged from a bridge the bodies of four U.S. veterans in Fallujah would, in your words, be brought to justice. And my question, first part: Are you still sure? And if so, why?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, we expect those people to be brought to justice. That is a priority for our coalition.
Q The New York Times reports that the President told Arab TV that the abuses in the Iraqi prison, in his words, "does not represent the America that I know." The Washington Post reports that our National Park Service has just spent $5 million for an interpretive center at Manzanar National Historical site, where a California historical plaque says it was a concentration camp for Japanese Americans during World War II. And my question: Does the President believe there is any evidence at all that President Roosevelt, Dr. Milton Eisenhower, and the U.S. Supreme Court ever condoned any actual concentration camps?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I think you lost me somewhere in the middle of your statement. (Laughter.) You lost me somewhere in the middle of your statement.
Q They spent $5 million on this. Does he believe there's any -- that we had concentration camps? Does the President believe we had concentration camps in the United States?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, Les, I don't know exactly what you're referring to. I'll be glad to look at it.
Go ahead, Jeff.
Q We're seeing these photographs in the sterile environment of an orderly society. But do we have a sense of the root cause of these acts? Was it excessive punishment, as opposed to gratuitous sadism? And do we -- there's an implication here that some of these acts occurred as the result of punishment for misconduct by some of the inmates.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Jeff, I'm not going to try to be the investigator from this podium. There are investigations going on, and we need to let those investigations proceed.
Q Would it make a difference, Scott?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Connie.
Q Scott, are any special steps being taken to improve the morale of U.S. soldiers, which has got to be suffering now -- and of course, there have been problems with suicide and depression among some soldiers -- anything extra being done right now?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me talk about our men and women in the military. They are doing an outstanding job serving and sacrificing for an important cause in Iraq and in Afghanistan and other parts of the world. And the President has great appreciation for the job that they are doing. And that's why the President is firmly committed to making sure they have the best training and best equipment and that they have the pay and benefits that are befitting of people who are serving to defend the freedoms that we hold so dear.
David, you asked -- what was your question.
Q Is the U.S. still determined to capture or kill Mr. al Sadr, or --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think we've made it clear that he needs to be held accountable for what he has been charged and face justice and that his militia needs to be disbanded. That's what our view is.
Q Scott, the Red Cross generally deals government to government -- or from them to the government. Have they raised any questions, also -- and you said there were other venues that there were going to be investigations -- have they raised any concerns about the prisoners in Guantanamo, and their treatment, and are there being internal investigations on that?
MR. McCLELLAN: You can probably direct those questions either to be both the Red Cross and to the Pentagon -- and to the Pentagon, as well. We work very closely with the Red Cross on these issues. And we work in cooperation with the Red Cross. That's why I made that point earlier.
Q Scott, two questions, please. The first one is, you have told us that the President was uninformed about the photos that CBS was sending to the public. My question is, was anybody else at the White House in the high echelon informed by the Pentagon about the possibility of these pictures or --
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I said -- again, you heard when the President first became aware of it. He addressed that yesterday in his interview and I addressed it previously. I think this question came up the other day, too, and I spoke to it then.
Q Second question, a lot of legislators, senators, congressmen in the Democratic Party are asking for Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation. Do you think this is politically motivated? Or do you think, because they feel he's not done the job properly?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you will have to make those evaluations and look at who is making those statements and what those reasons may be.
Q Scott, there's a segment of society that differs with the White House as it relates to these pictures and the investigation of the U.S. soldiers' conduct to include Rush Limbaugh who, Tuesday, agreed with the caller, equating the pictures to a college fraternity prank, and said the U.S. soldiers should not be punished because it was an emotional release as they were letting off steam. What's the White House say about that?
MR. McCLELLAN: April, I think the White House says what we said yesterday and what the President has said over the last few days.
Q No, but Scott -- no, seriously. This man is a conservative --
MR. McCLELLAN: And I actually got asked a question earlier today about that matter.
Q But none --
MR. McCLELLAN: And I addressed it then.
Q But if you stand out strongly trying to let the Arab world know that this is wrong and then you have the proverbial spokesperson for the conservative party saying this, doesn't that send a mixed message?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President's views have been very -- have been made very clear.
Q Scott, up on Capitol Hill, Congressman Murtha, who is no dove by any stretch, says that the war being -- as it is being prosecuted now is unwinnable and that we either should mobilize -- which is the word he used, meaning send in a lot more troops -- or get out. I wonder if you have any reaction to that, this kind of rhetoric coming from the Hill?
MR. McCLELLAN: We disagree -- disagree strongly. What we are working to achieve in Iraq is critical to winning the war on terrorism. And we will succeed in Iraq because the cost of not succeeding is much higher, and we must continue to work with the Iraqi people and work with our coalition partners, and work with the United Nations to move forward on transferring sovereignty. And we have a clear strategy laid out for transferring sovereignty to the Iraqi people at the end of June. And we have a clear strategy for moving forward on improving the security situation and helping the Iraqi people in their reconstruction
Q But he even equated this prisoner abuse situation with the lack of enough manpower at the prison there. He said that's just one example of the need for more force.
MR. McCLELLAN: And the commanders in the field are the best -- are in the best position to make determinations about what troop levels are needed and what resources are needed. The President has made it very clear that our commanders will have the troop levels they need, and he's made it very clear that our troops will have all the resources they need, including the best equipment and best training and other resources that they need to carry out their mission.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
Q Let me come at this from a management standpoint. By not informing the President more about the actual abuses at Abu Ghraib, and the fact that these photographs were going to run that evening on television, he allowed an incredibly volatile political -- knowingly allowed an incredibly volatile political situation to blow up in the President's face. So how can the President have confidence in this person as serving him well?
MR. McCLELLAN: John, I appreciate your commentary, but this is just another way to try to get us into all these news reports that we've seen today. And I'm not going to do that. The President has great appreciation for the job Secretary Rumsfeld is doing.
Q As a manager, how could -- as a CEO, as he likes to fancy himself, of this administration, how could he have confidence in one of his -- let's call them corporate vice presidents for allowing a situation like this to blow up in their face?
MR. McCLELLAN: You're making a lot of assumptions about how knew what and when, so --
Go ahead, Jim.
Q Well, he wasn't told about the photographs, yes?
MR. McCLELLAN: And Terry -- and then Terry.
Q There's a young soldier who was among the first to bring this to the attention of his superiors by writing it down on a note and slipping it under the door of his superior. Perhaps others, as well. There's some concern among his family members that he might be the subject of some criticism for having done that. What do you have to say about those who brought this to the attention --
MR. McCLELLAN: Anybody who steps forward and reports the -- reports the shameful and appalling acts that we've seen in these images should be commended for bringing to this to the attention of his superiors and seeing that the appropriate action is taken.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you.
END 12:54 P.M. EDT