WASHINGTON – Sen. John McCain (search) says his experience as prisoner of war does not color his views that Americans who are responsible for abuse of Iraqi detainees should be held accountable.
The Arizona Republican was among the most forceful interrogators of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search) at a Senate hearing last week that examined reports of abuse of Iraqi prisoners in a Baghdad prison complex.
He pressed Rumsfeld to lay out the line of authority through which procedural rules were laid down. When Rumsfeld started to say the documents were left at the Pentagon, McCain interrupted, told Rumsfeld a telephone call could get the information and said: "You have to answer this question."
On "Fox News Sunday," McCain said he still has no answers to all the questions he asked but said it would be premature to demand Rumsfeld's resignation.
"I did not get answers to some fundamental, and perhaps, the fundamental aspect of this, and that is, what was the chain of command" that allowed the abuse at Abu Ghraib (search) to occur?
"We can make a much better judgment after we have gotten a lot of the answers," McCain said, "but I certainly think it would be terribly premature to call for his resignation at this time."
McCain was asked if, considering his 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam (search), "When you see abuse by American guards of other prisoners, do you take it personally?"
"That was long ago and far away," McCain said. "I have to act in a way that's not personal, but what I think is in the best interests of the country."
To people who say that treatment of prisoners by Middle East governments often is far worse than the sexual humiliation and physical intimidation in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, McCain said they are missing the point.
"America's greatness is defined by the treatment of our enemies," he said.
McCain was a 31-year-old lieutenant commander in the Navy when he was shot down during a bombing mission over Hanoi on Oct. 26, 1967. He was tortured, held in solitary confinement and punished in other ways for displaying what his captors called a "bad attitude."