- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2005

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s statements that Iraq is a “quagmire are uninformed and contradict” on-the-ground military leaders, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.

The Massachusetts Democrat is one of a minority of senators who never have traveled to Iraq to see the war firsthand.

The Pentagon chief’s comments escalated the war of words between Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Kennedy, who demanded the secretary’s resignation and said the war is being waged through “rose-colored glasses.”

On “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. Rumsfeld scoffed at Mr. Kennedy’s criticism of the war as a “quagmire,” a comment the senator made last week, and said that the three generals in charge in Iraq don’t agree.

“The allegation that it’s some sort of a quagmire and progress isn’t being made just isn’t true,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “That’s just flat wrong. We are not losing in Iraq.”

“Gen. [George] Casey, Gen. [Richard B.] Myers spoke and said we’re not in a quagmire. Gen. [John] Abizaid spoke and said we’re not in a quagmire,” Mr. Rumsfeld said, referring respectively to the U.S. commander in Iraq, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the head of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees Iraq.

“We have three experts who are in and out of Iraq or live there and this fellow, I don’t believe he’s ever been there. We’ve had 57 senators go to Iraq, but has he been there? Not to my knowledge.”

Later yesterday, Mr. Kennedy defended his “quagmire” comment, first made during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week and again called for Mr. Rumsfeld’s resignation on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

“The current policy is incompetency and is just not working,” he said. “This isn’t a Republican or Democratic comment. It’s just a comment that is more out of sadness and sorrow that we have a failed and flawed policy, and the president of the United States owes the true facts to the American people; not the rose-colored glasses that we get from the vice president of the United States or the secretary of defense,” Mr. Kennedy said.

“Iraq is absolutely consistent with Vietnam. They don’t like to hear about it, the administration doesn’t like to hear about it. Every time that you mention it, they attack those that mention it. But there has to be a political resolution. There has to be a military presence, but a political resolution to this problem ultimately. It cannot be just solved militarily.”

“That is the lesson we learned in Vietnam, and we don’t want to have to repeat that again in Iraq.”

When the CNN interviewer noted the rejection of the “quagmire” comments by the top U.S. generals, Mr. Kennedy dismissed them.

“I don’t think anyone could feel — the American people are rejecting this rose-colored view of Iraq today,” he said. “The current policy is not working. It’s not effective. We need accountability as well. And that’s why I think the secretary of defense should resign.”

Mr. Rumsfeld was asked on the Fox News network whether “as a former college wrestler, did you think to yourself, ‘I’d like to put this guy in a headlock’?”

The Pentagon chief laughed and said: “Oh, goodness no. I’ve known him forever. He does that. And I’m not supposed to get into politics.”

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