Home>News Center>World

Bush's backing of Rumsfeld shocks and angers Arabs
Updated: 2004-05-11 08:35

Arab commentators reacted with shock and disbelief on Monday over U.S. President Bush's robust backing of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld against calls for his resignation.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld escorts President George W. Bush from the Pentagon after Bush received a briefing May 10, 2004. Arab commentators reacted with shock and disbelief over Bush's robust backing of Rumsfeld against calls for his resignation. [Reuters]
Critics had called for him to quit after the furor over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners but analysts, editors and ordinary Arabs were united in their condemnation of Bush who said the United States owed Rumsfeld a "debt of gratitude."

"After the torture and vile acts by the American army, President Bush goes out and congratulates Rumsfeld. It's just incredible. I am in total shock," said Omar Belhouchet, editor of the influential Algerian national daily El Watan.

"Bush's praise for Rumsfeld will discredit the United States...and further damage its reputation, which is already at a historic low in the Arab world," he added.

Analysts have said the damage from images seen worldwide of U.S. soldiers abusing naked Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison would be indelible, incalculable and a gift to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

What people saw, they said, was the true image of the occupation: humiliation of an occupied people, contempt for Islam, sadism and racism.

"After Mr. Bush's decision to keep Rumsfeld, all their apologies seem like lip service," Dubai-based political analyst Jawad al-Anani told Reuters. "Mr. Rumsfeld would have certainly lost his job if the prisoners were American."

"The United States is spending so much money by setting up Alhurra television and Radio Sawa to improve its image in the Arab world...How can it reconcile that with keeping a man who has insulted every Arab through the abuses of Iraqi prisoners," added Anani, a former Jordanian foreign minister.

University of Algiers professor Mahmoud Belhimeur agreed.

"I cannot believe the United States reacts the way an authoritarian regimes would. Bush should have done the honorable thing and fired Rumsfeld," he said.


But Michael Cox, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, said the repercussions of firing the defense secretary would have been very significant for Bush.

Iraqi men sit outside the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, May 10, 2004, awaiting information about detained relatives. [Reuters]
"This has been Rumsfeld's war, and I suppose the political symbolism of trying to get rid of Rumsfeld would be huge."

Cox said he could not entirely rule out that Rumsfeld could go, if U.S. public opinion turned. But he added it would seem out of character for Rumsfeld to go quietly.

"'I want to spend more time with my family' doesn't sound too credible with Mr. Rumsfeld. With Mr. Powell maybe, but not Rumsfeld," he said.

A Saudi businessman, who asked not to be named, said keeping Rusmfeld would be seen as Washington's quiet approval of the abuse.

"This just confirms that what is happening in Iraq in general, and especially what is happening in Abu Ghraib is sanctioned by the American administration and that is a hell of a position to be in.

"I see no advantage in keeping Rumsfeld. Bush should be building bridges with the outside world."

Mustapha Ramid, a prominent Moroccan opposition member of parliament said: "It's normal for Bush to back Rumsfeld. The contrary would have been a real surprise. This shows that Bush takes responsibility for what's happening in Iraq."

  Today's Top News     Top World News

China, Britain push for stronger relations



Taiwan recount to settle vote dispute



China denies plan of administrative remap



Tornado pummels Guangdong areas, kills 6



Red Cross: Iraq abuse routine, systematic



Pedestrians obey laws or pay up


  Red Cross: Iraq abuse routine, systematic
  Bush's backing of Rumsfeld shocks and angers Arabs
  Mandela, in farewell speech, slams Iraq war
  US Embassy in Japan receives bomb threat
  Newspaper scores Rumsfeld, Myers for 'professional negligence'
  US reopens 1955 killing of black youth
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
  Related Stories  
Red Cross: Iraq abuse routine, systematic
Spain troops could leave Iraq earlier than thought
Blair apologizes for abuses in Iraq
Britain's Hoon in firing line over abuse allegations
First GI faces court-martial over Iraq abuse
US general blames abuse on poor leadership
Rumsfeld apologizes for Iraq prison abuse
  News Talk  
  Scandal over humiliation of Iraqi prisoners