Iraq War news

Monday, April 17, 2006 U.S. U.S.: "Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will be permanently damaged by failed U.S. planning for the aftermath of the Iraq invasion even if he survives calls for his resignation from seven former military commanders, defense analysts said.

The retired generals, who made their views public in interviews and essays over the past month, are adding to criticism from Democrats and some Republicans over what they say was Rumsfeld's failure to anticipate the instability in Iraq after Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled three years ago.

Rumsfeld's ability to achieve his broader goals at the Pentagon, such as completing the transformation of the U.S. military from the Cold War period to the post-Sept. 11 era, will be compromised by the damage Iraq has done to his reputation, according to Loren Thompson, an analyst with the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Virginia, and other military experts.

``Any time a war goes wrong on a defense secretary's watch, not only does history judge them poorly but their ability to get anything done is gravely damaged,'' said Thompson.

President George W. Bush and other supporters of Rumsfeld are trying to put a lid on the mounting criticism. Bush on April 14 issued a statement saying Rumsfeld has his ``full support and deepest appreciation.'' Retired Air Force General Richard Myers, who served as Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman under Rumsfeld, yesterday called the criticism from some of his former colleagues ``inappropriate.''

Already Weakened

The effort to quell Rumsfeld's critics may be too late, said Lawrence J. Korb, a defense official in the Reagan administration, and other military analysts.

``He's already been weakened by the failures in Iraq,'' said Korb, now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a policy research group in Washington. ``He can't possibly make a controversial decision'' without risking an uproar, Korb said.

Rumsfeld, 73, has become a target of criticism in large part because he demanded and won from Bush the authority to run the U.S. effort to rebuild Iraqi society after American forces removed Hussein from power in 2003. Rumsfeld insisted that the effort could be accomplished with a U.S. commitment numbering no more than about 150,000 troops, even though some, such as then- Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki, said a force more than three times that might be needed.

Myers said senior civilian leadership at the Pentagon ``inappropriately criticized'' Shinseki ``for speaking out.'' He didn't identify those leaders leadership, but Shinseki's assertion was challenged publicly by both Rumsfeld and his top deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz. Rumsfeld named Shinseki's replacement more than a year before the general was set to leave the Pentagon.


Critics say Rumsfeld's war plan failed to prepare for the postwar occupation of Iraq and mistakenly assumed that American troops would be welcomed as liberators after Hussein's fall.

Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia said Bush may be the real target of Rumsfeld's critics.

``A lot of this focus on an individual is a way of, maybe, criticizing the president,'' Allen said yesterday on CBS's ``Face the Nation'' program.

While Rumsfeld and Bush have pointed to signs of progress in Iraq, such as two parliamentary elections and a constitutional referendum, U.S. forces for years have battled a relentless Iraqi insurgency that has dogged political, economic and military progress in Iraq.


``The near-real-time history being written hasn't been particularly kind to Rumsfeld,'' said Andrew Krepinevich, director of the non-partisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment in Washington and a retired Army lieutenant colonel.

Americans are growing increasingly pessimistic about the conflict, which has claimed the lives of 2,373 U.S. military personnel as of April 14. A Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll last week found 58 percent of U.S. adults don't think the Iraq war was worth it. Public dissatisfaction with the war has been a large factor in pushing Bush's approval rating to a near-record low and may threaten Republican control of Congress in the November elections, the poll found.

Retired General Wesley Clark, a Democratic candidate for president in 2004, on Saturday joined six other former generals in urging Rumsfeld to resign. The others are Army Major General Charles Swannack, Army Major General John Riggs, Army Major General John Batiste, Marine Corps Lieutenant General Greg Newbold, Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni and Army Major General Paul Eaton.

Presidential Praise

They contend Rumsfeld mismanaged the military's post- invasion operations and ignored the advice of field commanders. Swannack, Batiste and Eaton all served in the Iraq war.

Eaton first made his views public in an article in the New York Times last month. In an April 10 interview, Eaton said he's gotten ``a lot of feedback and all of it has been positive'' from active and retired Army personnel, ranging in rank from sergeants to generals.

Rumsfeld, in an April 13 interview with Al-Arabiya Television, said he intended to stay in the job as long as Bush wants him there. The critics are just a few among the ``thousands and thousands of admirals and generals,'' he said.

Bush, in his statement last week, said Rumsfeld's ``energetic and steady leadership is exactly what is needed at this critical period.'' By contrast, when Bush was asked earlier this month about Treasury Secretary John Snow's future, the president said only that Snow ``is doing a good job.''

Rumsfeld's Defenders

Several ex-generals have come to Rumsfeld's defense.

Myers, who served as the nation's top military leader from October 2001 until last September, said Rumsfeld gave his commanders ``tremendous access'' and allowed them to present their arguments about strategy and tactics. Myers spoke on ABC's ``This Week'' program.

Retired Marine Corps General Michael DeLong, writing on the opinion page of the New York Times yesterday, said that while Rumsfeld wasn't easily swayed by his military commanders, he never took tactical control away from them.

Criticism from some former commanders may stem from Rumsfeld's efforts to transform the military, four other former generals wrote in today's Wall Street Journal. Rumsfeld's critics, preferring conventional weapons, didn't support his plans to make the military lighter and more mobile, the generals wrote. The criticism confuses U.S. troops and motivates the country's enemies, they said.


Bush is known for his loyalty to advisers and resistance to pressure from critics. He may also be reluctant to make a change because any Senate confirmation hearing for a successor would inevitably become a high-profile debate about the war's course.

Replacing Rumsfeld also may be difficult because he's a political mentor to Vice President Dick Cheney. Rumsfeld resigned from Congress in 1969 to join President Richard Nixon's administration as director of an antipoverty agency. While there he hired Cheney, who has been a key ally ever since.

In the past ``Rumsfeld was a buffer between the president and public criticism and staying behind him was a sign of Bush's strength,'' Thompson said. ``Now Rumsfeld is becoming the cause of the criticism and standing behind him could be interpreted as a sign of weakness.''

Thompson and the other analysts said political pressure from Republicans preparing to face voters in congressional races ultimately may push Rumsfeld aside.

``Rumsfeld will have been so weakened by this process that as the election approaches the White House will signal that his resignation wouldn't be unwelcome,'' Thompson said.

The achievement of some benchmark of progress in Iraq, such as the formation of a new government, might give Rumsfeld the opportunity to leave the Pentagon on his terms, Korb said. ``That would be one way for an out,'' he said.


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