WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld twice submitted his resignation last year during the scandal over the U.S. abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Iraq, but President Bush declined both times, he said in an interview airing Thursday.
The Abu Ghraib issue continues to dog Rumsfeld, who said at the height of the scandal last year that he would step down if he felt he could no longer be effective. He told reporters Thursday that he might skip next week’s European defense summit in Germany because of a lawsuit filed against him over the abuse at Abu Ghraib, the prison where U.S. soldiers were photographed abusing and sexually humiliating Iraqi detainees
“I submitted my resignation to President Bush twice during that period and told him that ... I felt that he ought to make the decision as to whether or not I stayed on,” Rumsfeld told Larry King in an interview airing later Thursday on CNN. “And he made that decision and said he did want me to stay on.”
“What was going on in the midnight shift in Abu Ghraib prison halfway across the world is something that clearly someone in Washington, D.C., can’t manage or deal with,” he said, adding: “I have no regrets.”
Earlier, Rumsfeld told reporters in Washington that he had “not made a final decision” on whether to travel to the Munich Conference on Security Policy, an annual meeting of defense officials and lawmakers.
The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed a suit with German federal prosecutors in November charging that Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials were responsible for acts of torture against detainees at Abu Ghraib. The lawsuit was filed in Germany because it allows for the prosecution of war crimes and human rights violations across national boundaries.
Last month, former Spc. Charles Graner Jr. of Uniontown, Pa., was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted in the case, and five other soldiers have pleaded guilty. Two others still face trial.
NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski, Jeannie Ohm and Scott Foster, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.