- The Washington Times - Friday, April 14, 2006

President Bush, brushing aside an intensifying clamor among retired military commanders for Donald H. Rumsfeld’s resignation, said today his defense secretary enjoys his full support and that Rumsfeld’s leadership of the Pentagon was “exactly what is needed at this critical period.”

Bush apparently issued his statement to put to rest increasing calls for the secretary to go because of criticism that he has mishandled the Iraq war and made other mistakes.

“I have seen first-hand how Don relies upon our military commanders in the field and at the Pentagon to make decisions about how best to complete these missions,” Bush said in a written statement, issued while the president was spending the Easter weekend at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains.

“Secretary Rumsfeld’s energetic and steady leadership is exactly what is needed at this critical period,” Bush said. “He has my full support and deepest appreciation.” In an interview aired Friday on Al-Arabiya television, Rumsfeld said he intends to serve the president at his pleasure.

“The fact that two or three or four retired people have different views, I respect their views,” Rumsfeld said. “But obviously if, out of thousands and thousands of admirals and generals, if every time two or three people disagreed we changed the secretary of defense of the United States, it would be like a merry-go-round.”

Rumsfeld has come under increasing criticism from retired generals who find his management style and leadership of the war in Iraq lacking.

Retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste said Friday he thinks the clamor for Rumsfeld to step down is “happening for a reason.”

Batiste, interviewed from Rochester, N.Y., said on NBC”s “Today” show, said there was no coordinated campaign to get Rumsfeld fired, saying a recent series of critical statements about the Pentagon chief were “absolutely coincidental.”

“I have not talked to the other generals,” he said.

Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division forces in Iraq, said he declined an opportunity to get a promotion to the rank of lieutenant general and return to the wartorn country as the No. 2 U.S. military officer because he could not accept Rumsfeld’s tough management style.

He said he does not believe Rumsfeld has been sufficiently accountable for the plan that led to the invasion of Iraq and the ouster of Saddam Hussein, although he also said that “we have no option but to succeed in Iraq.”

“I support civilian control (of the military) completely,” Batiste told interviewers on CBS’s “The Early Show.”

But, he added, “we went to war with a flawed plan that didn’t account for the hard work to build the peace after we took down the regime. We also served under a secretary of defense who didn’t understand leadership, who was abusive, who was arrogant, and who didn’t build a strong team.”

Asked why he was focusing his criticism on Rumsfeld and not President Bush, Batiste replied, “My focus is on the Department of Defense. It’s what I know.”

“I have not talked to the other generals,” Batiste told NBC Friday. “I think it is absolutely coincidental. … I think it’s healthy for democracy. I have nothing to gain in doing this. There is no political agenda at all.”

Retired Army Major Gen. John Riggs told National Public Radio that Rumsfeld fostered an “atmosphere of arrogance.” And retired Army Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack told CNN that Rumsfeld micromanaged the war. “We need a new secretary of defense,” he said.

Military experts say the parade of recently retired military brass calling for Rumsfeld’s resignation is troubling and threatens to undermine strong support that Bush has enjoyed among the officer corps and troops.

With public anti-war sentiment increasing, “the president and his team cannot afford to lose that support,” said Kurt Campbell, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.

Earlier calls for Rumsfeld’s replacement came from retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, retired Marine Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold and retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton.

Rumsfeld has been a lightning rod for criticism since the war began in March 2003.

He was blamed for committing too few U.S. troops and for underestimating the strength of the insurgency. He took heat in 2004 over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the U.S. Army-run Abu Ghraib prison, and for a brusque response he gave to an Army National Guard soldier in Kuwait who questioned him on inadequate armor.

Republicans in Congress have offered Rumsfeld little in the way of public support.

Pentagon spokesman Eric Ruff said Thursday that Rumsfeld has not talked to the White House about resigning - and is not considering it.

Related article:

Retired general’s call puzzles Rumsfeld aides

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