US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld offered to resign 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 President George Bush’s hands.
“He made that decision and said he did want me to stay on,” Rumsfeld told CNN’s Larry King Live yesterday.
In the CNN interview, Rumsfeld said that as defence 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.
Some had speculated last fall that if Bush was re-elected he would replace Rumsfeld, but in December the president said he wanted him to stay.
At a news conference at the Pentagon yesterday, Rumsfeld said he may not appear at a security conference in Germany next week because of a lawsuit there accusing him of war crimes for the prisoner abuse.
Attorneys from the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights filed a suit with German federal prosecutors last November charging that US officials, including Rumsfeld, are responsible for acts of torture against detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The lawsuit against Rumsfeld was filed in Germany because its laws allow for the prosecution of war crimes and human rights violations across national boundaries.
Because the United States is not a member of the International Criminal Court, the case could not be filed there.
Rumsfeld noted that he is travelling to Nice, France, early next week for a NATO meeting, and he is “very likely going to visit some other locations in that part of the world during that period”.