W House backs Rumsfeld against generals' criticism
Washington, Apr 13: The White House gave a new vote of confidence to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today in the face of criticism from a handful of retired generals who are demanding Rumsfeld resign.
''Yes, the president believes Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a very fine job during a challenging period in our nation's history,'' White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.
Retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni kept up the pressure for Rumsfeld's scalp by telling CNN today that the defense secretary should be held accountable for a series of blunders, starting with ''throwing 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.
A recently retired two-star general, Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the Germany-based 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, today joined Zinni and other former senior officers calling on Rumsfeld to resign.
''I believe we need a fresh start in the Pentagon. We need a leader who understands teamwork, a leader who knows how to build teams, a leader that does it without intimidation,'' Batiste told CNN.
In recent weeks, retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold and Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton have also spoken out against Rumsfeld.
This comes as opinion polls show eroding public support for the 3-year-old war in which about 2,360 US troops have died and President George W. Bush is struggling to bolster American confidence in the war effort.
Bush rejects Rumsfeld's offers
Rumsfeld has at least twice offered to resign, but each time Bush has turned him down.
Pentagon spokesman Eric Ruff said Rumsfeld has ignored the calls for his resignation.
''This has not been a distraction to him. He looks at challenges that are facing this country in the global war on terror,'' Ruff said.
Critics have accused Rumsfeld of bullying senior military officers and disregarding their views. They often cite how Rumsfeld dismissed then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki's opinion a month before the 2003 invasion that occupying Iraq could require ''several hundred thousand troops,'' not the smaller force Rumsfeld would send.
Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Mike DeLong rejected the idea that new leadership was needed at the Pentagon.
''Dealing with Secretary Rumsfeld is like dealing with a CEO,'' he told CNN. ''When you walk in to him, you've got to be prepared.
You've got to know what you're talking about. If you don't, you're summarily dismissed. But that's the way it is, and he's effective.'' But DeLong acknowledged that more troops after the invasion would have helped maintain order in Iraq, particularly military police trained to deal with violent looting that many view as the precursor to the current insurgency.
The White House pointed to comments supportive of Rumsfeld from Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and said criticism was to be expected at a time of war in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
''We are a nation at war and we are a nation that is going through a military transformation. Those are issues that tend to generate debate and disagreement and we recognize that,'' McClellan said.