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Kerry reiterates call for Rumsfeld to resign

Says command must pay the price for Abu Ghraib abuse

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PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Citing the conclusion of an independent panel that higher command was also responsible for abuse of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, Sen. John Kerry Wednesday reiterated his call for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to resign.

"It's not just the little person at the bottom who ought to pay the price of responsibility," the Democratic presidential candidate said in a town hall meeting of Steamfitters Local 420 at a Philadelphia union hall.

Kerry said the Schlesinger report, which was released Tuesday, "said specifically that Secretary Rumsfeld set the climate in which these kinds of abuses were able to take place," he said.

James Schlesinger, who served as secretary of defense for presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and secretary of energy for Jimmy Carter, said the abuses depicted in the photographs taken last year at Abu Ghraib prison "were freelance activities" on the part of the night shift. Still, he said, direct and indirect responsibility for the mistreatment of prisoners at that facility and others went higher up the chain of command.

"There was sadism on the night shift at Abu Ghraib, sadism that was certainly not authorized. It was kind of 'Animal House' on the night shift," Schlesinger said.

But Schlesinger and the three other members of the independent commission -- who were appointed by Rumsfeld -- told reporters Tuesday that they did not believe Rumsfeld should resign. (Report: Abu Ghraib was 'Animal House')

"If the head of a department had to resign every time anyone down below did something wrong, it would be a very empty Cabinet table," said panel member Harold Brown, secretary of defense under President Carter.

Kerry -- who had previously called for Rumsfeld to resign over allegations of poor planning for the aftermath of the war in Iraq -- also recommended that President Bush appoint a commission "so that these abuses can never take place again. That's leadership and that's what ought to happen."

A second report on an investigation into Abu Ghraib -- the Fay report -- will recommend punitive action for those directly involved in the abuses.

"But what is missing from all these reports is accountability from the senior civilian leaders in the Pentagon and in the White House," Kerry said in a written statement.

"By failing to plan to win the peace, by failing to make sure our troops received the proper training, equipment, reinforcement and command guidance, and by failing to take corrective actions once all of this became apparent, Secretary Rumsfeld did not demonstrate the leadership required from a secretary of defense.

"That is why today I am calling on Secretary Rumsfeld to resign effective immediately."

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