Three retired military
officers who served in Iraq called today for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, telling a Democratic
"oversight hearing" on Capitol Hill that the Pentagon chief bungled planning for the U.S. invasion, dismissed the prospect
of an insurgency and sent American troops into the fray with inadequate equipment.
The testimony by the
three --two retired Army major generals and a former Marine colonel -- came a day after disclosure of a classified intelligence
assessment that concluded the war in Iraq has fueled recruitment of violent Islamic extremists, helping to create a new generation
of potential terrorists around the world and worsening the U.S. position.
In testimony before
the Democratic Policy Committee today, retired Maj. Gen. John R.S. Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq
in 2004 and 2005 and served as a senior military assistant to former deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, charged that
Rumsfeld and others in the Bush administration "did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for
the war in Iraq."
He told the committee,
"If we had seriously laid out and considered the full range of requirements for the war in Iraq, we would likely have taken
a different course of action that would have maintained a clear focus on our main effort in Afghanistan, not fueled Islamic
fundamentalism across the globe, and not created more enemies than there were insurgents."
Joining his call for
Rumsfeld to resign were retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton, who was responsible for training Iraq's military and police in 2003
and 2004, and retired Marine Col. Thomas X. Hammes, who served in Iraq in 2004 and helped establish
bases for the reconstituted Iraqi armed forces.
at a news briefing with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, rejected the demands for his resignation. Asked about the Capitol Hill
hearing and whether he was considering stepping down, Rumsfeld shook his head slightly and mouthed the word "no" before calling
for the next question.
Democrats today sought
to make the most of the National Intelligence Assessment and of the retired officers' remarks at the hearing, which Democratic
leaders said they had to hold by themselves outside the regular congressional process because of the Republican leadership's
persistent "neglect" of oversight.
"On the heels
of the disclosure that America's intelligence community has concluded that the war in Iraq has increased the terrorist threat,
today's hearing deals a fatal blow to any claim that staying the current course is an acceptable strategy for success in Iraq," said a statement issued by the office of Senate Minority Leader Harry M.
Batiste charged in his
testimony that Rumsfeld "is not a competent wartime leader" and surrounded himself with "compliant" subordinates.
"Secretary Rumsfeld ignored
12 years of U.S. Central Command deliberate planning and strategy, dismissed honest dissent, and browbeat subordinates to
build 'his plan,' which did not address the hard work to crush the insurgency, secure a post-Saddam Iraq, build the peace
and set Iraq up for self-reliance," Batiste said.
In addition, Rumsfeld
to acknowledge and even ignored the potential for the insurgency," the retired general said. "At one point, he threatened
to fire the next person who talked about the need for a post-war plan," Batiste added.
dismal strategic decisions resulted in the unnecessary deaths of American servicemen and women, our allies, and the good people
of Iraq," Batiste said. "He was responsible for America and her allies going
to war with the wrong plan and a strategy that did not address the realities of fighting an insurgency."
Eaton told the panel,
"We went in with a bad plan," adding that "stay the course is not a strategy."
Hammes said removing
the regime of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein "introduced major instability not just in Iraq,
but in the greater Middle East." And while the Bush administration has repeatedly said the war in Iraq is
critical to U.S. security, "it has asked nothing of the majority of U.S. citizens,"
"While asking major
sacrifices, to include the ultimate sacrifice, from those Americans who are serving in Iraq,
we are not even asking our fellow citizens to pay for the war," Hammes complained. "Instead we are charging it to our children
Responding to critics
who have charged that the National Intelligence Assessment shows the failure of Bush's Iraq war
policy, the White House today sought to put the best face on the document, which was completed in April and disclosed in the
news media Sunday.
"One thing that the
reports do not say is that war in Iraq has made terrorism worse," White House spokesman Tony Snow said.
The National Intelligence
Assessment "is not limited to Iraq," he told a news briefing. "The false impression has been created that the NIE focuses
solely on Iraq and terrorism. This NIE examines global terrorism in its totality, the morphing of al-Qaeda
and its affiliates and other jihadist movements. It assesses that a variety of factors, in addition to Iraq,
fuel the spread of jihadism, including longstanding social grievances, slowness of the pace of reform and the use of the Internet.
And it also notes that should jihadists be perceived to have failed in Iraq, fewer will be inspired
to carry on the fight."
All these points already
have been stated publicly by Bush, Snow asserted.
"Obviously, we're not
going to go into what the classified report does say, but what we did see in the newspapers yesterday, the substance, is precisely
what the president has been saying," he told reporters.
Separately, Vice President
Cheney today accused Democrats of advancing a "strategy of resignation and defeatism in the face of determined enemies."
In a speech at a Republican
fundraiser in Milwaukee, Cheney indicated that he was not backing away from national security issues despite Democrats'
criticism that the administration has mishandled the war in Iraq.
"As we make our case
to the voters in this election season, it's vital to keep issues of national security at the top of the agenda," Cheney told
Wisconsin Republicans, Reuters news agency reported. He specifically criticized Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, as well
as Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.
Reid replied in a statement,
"When the U.S. intelligence community confirmed that America is losing the war on terror
because of Bush failures in Iraq, this White House lost all credibility on matters of national security. With Iraq in
a civil war, Afghanistan moving backwards and our own borders unsecured, it's clear George Bush and Dick Cheney
are desperate to hide their record and distort the truth."