- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2006

Retired military leaders yesterday told Senate Democrats that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld should be replaced, saying he botched the war in Iraq.

Democrats said their long-standing criticisms of the administration are validated by a leaked intelligence assessment that reportedly found the Iraq war has helped spur more Islamic radicals.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said April’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), as described Sunday by the New York Times and The Washington Post, states “what many of us have been saying for months” about U.S. efforts in Iraq.

“It has made us less secure as a nation,” the Nevada Democrat said as the Democratic Policy Committee opened it’s first in a series of hearings to examine the war’s planning and execution, leading up to November’s elections.

According to the news stories, the intelligence report found Islamic radicalism has spread across the globe and the war in Iraq has contributed to that.

White House spokesman Tony Snow yesterday said the report “assesses that a variety of factors, in addition to the Iraq war, fuel the spread of jihadism, including longstanding social grievances, slowness of the pace of reform and the use of the Internet.”

He said “it also notes that should jihadists be perceived to have failed in Iraq, fewer will be inspired to carry on the fight.”

“In short, the news reports contain nothing that the president hasn’t said,” Mr. Snow told reporters.

Democrats said the administration should make the report public but Carl Kropf, a spokesman for Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, said in an e-mail message that “there is no indication that this NIE will be declassified.”

During yesterday’s hearing, three retired military leaders who served in Iraq told several Senate Democrats and one House Republican — Rep. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina — that Mr. Rumsfeld must go because he ignored advice for more troops, failed to make a post-invasion plan or equip troops properly and hid information from the public.

“I believe that Secretary Rumsfeld and others in the administration did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq,” retired Army Maj. Gen. John R.S. Batiste told the panel. Mr. Batiste, a self-described Republican who has been criticizing Mr. Rumsfeld for months, said the secretary “forbade military planners from developing plans for securing a postwar Iraq” and helped create the current insurgency by ignoring the potential for one, though it was “an absolute certainty.”

Retired Army Maj. Gen.Paul D. Eaton, who criticized Mr. Rumsfeld in the New York Times last spring, said the post-invasion effort in Iraq is about 60,000 troops short of what it needs for success and that the Army “is in terrible shape,” lacking proper equipment and resources. He said Mr. Rumsfeld falls short “strategically operationally and tactically.”

Retired Marine Col. Thomas X. Hammes said administration leaders have “failed to acknowledge we are in a war” and has not provided sufficient equipment, adequately supported the efforts to train Iraqis or asked Americans to make any wartime sacrifices.

All three of the retired leaders, however, backed up the administration assertion that pulling out of Iraq now would be disastrous and cause a dangerous regional instability. Mr. Rumsfeld said yesterday he has no intention of resigning and Senate Republicans sent out a long list of retired military leaders who strongly and publicly support him.

Republicans called the Democrats’ hearing a “stunt” and accused Democrats of ignoring anti-terrorism legislation.

“Today’s ‘hearing’ is an election-year smoke screen aimed at obscuring the Democrats’ dismal record on national security,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican. “I just wish that they would spend as much effort working with Republicans on passing the terrorist surveillance bill, passing military tribunal legislation and approving key anti-terror nominees, as they do on blocking, blaming and holding election-year stunts.”

cRowan Scarborough and Bill Gertz contributed to this story.

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