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Rumsfeld resignation calls grow

BBC | April 14 2006

Pressure is growing on US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, with more retired generals calling for him to resign over the Iraq war.

The White House has said it is happy with the way Mr Rumsfeld is handling his job and the situation in Iraq.

But the backing comes as the number of retired generals calling for him to be replaced has risen to six.

It is being described as a rebellion led by those who know Mr Rumsfeld's handling of the war from the inside.

The two most recent generals to voice their unease about Mr Rumsfeld's handling of the war are retired army Maj Gen John Riggs and retired Maj Gen Charles H Swannack Jr.

In a radio interview Maj Gen Riggs, a former division commander, said it was time for Mr Rumsfeld to go because he fostered an atmosphere of "arrogance" among the Pentagon's top civilian leadership.

"They only need the military advice when it satisfies their agenda. I think that's a mistake, and that's why I think he should resign," he told National Public Radio (NPR).

Maj Gen Swannack Jr, who led the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq, went even further.

He questioned whether Mr Rumsfeld was the right person to lead the fight against terrorism.

"I really believe that we need a new secretary of defence because Secretary Rumsfeld carried way too much baggage with him," he told CNN.

"Specifically, I feel he has micromanaged the generals who are leading our forces."

Maj Gen Riggs, who has been critically outspoken on problems facing the US military before, served in the army for 39 years and became a three-star general.

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions as a helicopter pilot during Vietnam, but retired with the loss of one of his stars after the army said he had misused contractors, according to the NPR website.

Maj Gen Swannack Jr commanded the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq from 2003-4.

The fresh resignation calls add to those already made by four other retired generals directly involved in the Iraq war and its planning.

Retired Marine Gen Anthony Zinni told CNN Mr Rumsfeld should be held responsible for a series of mistakes, beginning with "throwing away 10 years worth of planning, plans that had taken into account what we would face in an occupation of Iraq".

'Fine job'

But others have come out in support of the embattled defence secretary, who twice offered to resign over the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal - offers which US President George W Bush rejected.

Retired Marine Lt Gen Mike DeLong, who was deputy command of the Central Command as the US military prepared to invade Iraq in March 2003, said Mr Rumsfeld was good at his job.

"When you walk in to him, you've got to be prepared," he told CNN.

"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."

And the White House has made clear once again that Mr Rumsfeld retains its full support.

Spokesman Scott McClellan said President George W Bush believed Mr Rumsfeld was doing a "fine job" at a very difficult time - when the nation was at war and the military undergoing major restructuring.

Mr Rumsfeld, when asked if the calls for his resignation were affecting his ability to do the job, answered only "no".

And Gen Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said criticism was to be expected at a time of war in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

But he said people "should never question the dedication, the patriotism and the work ethic" of Mr Rumsfeld.

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