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More Retired Generals Joining Call for Rumsfeld...s Resignation

By David S. Cloud
and Eric Schmitt


The widening circle of retired generals who have stepped forward to call for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation is shaping up as an unusual outcry that could pose a significant challenge to Rumsfeld’s leadership, current and former generals said Thursday.

Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., who led troops on the ground in Iraq as recently as 2004 as the commander of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, on Thursday became the fifth retired senior general in recent days to call publicly for Rumsfeld’s ouster.

“We need to continue to fight the global war on terror and keep it off our shores,” Swannack said in a telephone interview. “But I do not believe Secretary Rumsfeld is the right person to fight that war based on his absolute failures in managing the war against Saddam in Iraq.”

There was no indication that Rumsfeld was considering resigning.

Another former Army commander in Iraq, Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who led the 1st Infantry Division, publicly broke ranks with Rumsfeld on Wednesday. Rumsfeld long ago became a magnet for political attacks. But the current uproar is significant because the criticism is coming from generals who were involved in the invasion and occupation of Iraq under the defense secretary’s leadership.

There were indications on Thursday that the concern about Rumsfeld, rooted in years of pent-up anger about his handling of the war, was sweeping aside the reticence of retired generals who took part in the Iraq war to criticize an enterprise in which they participated. Current and former officers said they were unaware of any organized campaign to seek Rumsfeld’s ouster, but they described a blizzard of telephone calls and e-mail messages as retired generals critical of Rumsfeld weighed the pros and cons of joining in the condemnation.

The White House has dismissed the criticism, saying it merely reflects tensions over the war in Iraq. “The president believes Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a very fine job during a challenging period in our nation’s history,” the White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters on Thursday.