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Rumsfeld: I won't quit

Will Dunham / Reuters | April 19 2006

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, boosted by another strong endorsement from President George W. Bush, said on Tuesday no one is indispensable but he is not considering quitting in the face of criticism from a handful of retired generals.

Rumsfeld, an architect of the 3-year-old Iraq war who has been a lightning rod for criticism, has faced an unusual spate of calls for his resignation from six retired generals. They accused him of disregarding military advice, ruling by intimidation and making strategic mistakes.

"The president knows, as I know, that there are no indispensable men," Rumsfeld said. "Graveyards of the world are filled with 'indispensable' people."

Critics have accused him of bullying senior officers and contemptuously rejecting their advice, such as deploying more troops in 2003 to occupy Iraq.

Asked whether he was arrogant and autocratic as critics claim, Rumsfeld said in his typically blunt way, "You know me."

He twice offered Bush his resignation in 2004 amid the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. But Rumsfeld he said he would not consider resigning now to ease the burden on the president and Republicans during a congressional election year. "He (Bush) knows that I serve at his pleasure and that's that."

Asked why he would offer to resign after Abu Ghraib but not now, Rumsfeld replied, "Oh, just call it idiosyncratic."

At a Rose Garden ceremony, Bush lauded Rumsfeld as he did in a written statement last Friday.

"Don Rumsfeld is doing a fine job," Bush said. "He's not only transforming the military, he's fighting a war on terror -- he's helping us fight a war on terror. I have strong confidence in Don Rumsfeld.


"I hear the voices. And I read the front page. And I know the speculation. But I'm the decider. And I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense," Bush said.

Rumsfeld doubted there was broad dissatisfaction in the military ranks over his leadership. Speaking at Rumsfeld's side, Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, said he sees no such discontent.

Pace said senior military officers have ample opportunity to express their views to the Pentagon's civilian leadership.

"There are multiple opportunities for all of us, whatever opinions we have, to put them on the table. And all the opinions are put on the table," Pace said. "But at the end of the day, after we've given our best military advice, somebody has to make a decision. And when a decision's made by the secretary of defense, unless it's illegal or immoral, we go on about doing what we've been told to do."

"Don't even suggest that -- illegal or immoral," Rumsfeld jokingly told Pace.

Rumsfeld, as he seeks to contain the controversy, also met more than a dozen retired military officers who work as commentators for news organizations.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, No. 2 in the Senate Democratic leadership, said Democrats might push for a test vote on Rumsfeld, but several Democratic aides said no decision had been made.


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