Friday, April 14, 2006

Growing number of military voices call for Rumsfeld's resignation

US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld is under increasing pressure to resign for allegedly mishandling the war in Iraq.

A sixth former general joined the criticism of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Thursday, saying Rumsfeld should resign.

"We need a new secretary of Defense," retired major general Charles Swannack, former commander of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, said on CNN. He said Rumsfeld had micromanaged the war.

Retired major general John Batiste, who commanded the Army's 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 also weighed in. He was quoted in USA TODAY saying that Rumsfeld should step down because he ignored sound military advice about how to secure Iraq after Baghdad fell.

"Sadly, we started something we weren't prepared to finish," Batiste said, adding that many senior officers shared his feelings on Rumsfeld.

The criticism from Batiste is a major blow, and one that will resonate within the Army. It's pretty common knowledge that he was offered a third star to return to Iraq and be the No. 2 U.S. military officer there but turned it down because he refused to serve under Rumsfeld.

President Bush is nothing if not loyal. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that President Bush "believes Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a very fine job during a challenging period."

Rumsfeld has heard calls for his resignation before...but from Democratic lawmakers like Sen. Edward Kennedy(d-MA) who could be expected to be somewhat..biased, that's the word I want. The new avalanche of criticism is a lot harder to ignore, because it comes from inside the ranks of the military.

Swannack and Batiste are the latest additions to the retired generals who have criticized Rumsfeld. Here's the rest of the list:

• Marine lieutenant general Greg Newbold, the former Pentagon top operations officer, who called Iraq an "unnecessary war" in a Time magazine column this week.

• Major general Paul Eaton, who was in charge of training Iraqi troops in 2003 and 2004, wrote last month in The New York Times that Rumsfeld is "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically."

• Army major general John Riggs, who told The Washington Post that his former colleagues in the military believe Rumsfeld and his close aides "should be cleared out."

• Marine general Anthony Zinni, the former commander of Centco and former special envoy to the Middle East said Rumsfeld should retire. He told CNN that Rumsfeld should be held accountable for a series of blunders, starting with ''throwing away 10 years' worth of planning, plans that had taken into account what we would face in an occupation of Iraq."

''I think he should [resign]. This is not personal, believe me. We grew up in a culture where accountability, learning to accept responsibility, admitting your mistakes, and learning from them was critical to us," Zinni said.

On the other side of the coin, we have Pentagon spokesman Eric Ruff, who disputed the contention that Rumsfeld failed to listen to military leaders. Ruff noted that Rumsfeld had met with the chiefs of the armed services 110 times last year. Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong, Gen. Tommy Franks' deputy during the invasion of Iraq, also weighed in supporting Rumsfeld, and said Rumsfeld solicited advice from military leaders involved in the fighting. "He listened to those who had information that was important and had the facts to back them up," he said.

Rumsfeld received further support from active military officers like Marine Corps Gen. Pete Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who went public in a press conference on Tuesday, April 11th.

Pace said the war plan was thoroughly vetted before the invasion was launched.

"We had discussions in the department, we had discussions in the National Security Council, we had discussions with the president. And they were extensive discussions. An awful lot of people around were not shy about giving their views," he said.

Pace also took on General Newbold directly, questioning whether Newbold knew all the facts about the invasion plans, noting he retired in September 2002, six months before the invasion took place.

"It's also important to go back and take a look, when you look at people talking: When did their personal knowledge end?" Pace said, noting that the war plan changed many times after Newbold's departure.

So what does all this mean?

On the one hand, it's obvious that a number of mistakes have been made in Iraq,and those of you who are Joshuapundit regulars have seen me examine a number of them.. though I would say most of the miscalculatons have been political rather than military. In any event, there's no blame in war, since errors are always rife. It's in the nature of battle and war itself, that things no one anticipates go wrong and that no plans are foolproof.

On the other hand, it is so uncommon for senior military officers in the United States to criticize civilian leaders that it has to make an impression on the White House and Congress. But getting rid of Rumsfeld would have such a political impact on the Bush Administration that I doubt it would happen as long as US troops are in Iraq..unless the criticism gets to the point that ignoring it is impossible.

And it's also important to note that none of Rumsfeld's critics, not even General Newbold are calling for an immediate pullout of US troops. Aside from the chaos that would ensue, and the signal it would send to our enemies, the retired generals are savvy enough to realize that a withdrawal is impossible until something is done to counter Iran.

And the last thing any of them want is a Iranian puppet state in the Shia areas of Iraq.

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