'On The Edge' In Iraq

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A senior general and a Republican senator say the United States could lose in Iraq, and are pointing the finger at Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

"I think we are right on the edge in Iraq right now," says Sen. Chuck Hagel.

Rumsfeld and his staff didn't listen to military planners, and now the United States is "in a mess," the Nebraska Republican said on CBS News' Face The Nation.

"What is our policy? What are we doing? What is the possibility of us winning? That's all still in question," said Hagel, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "I think it's still in question whether Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and, quite frankly, General [Richard] Myers, [the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,] can command the respect and the trust and the confidence of the military of the American people to lead this country."

A senior general at the Pentagon tells the Washington Post he believes the United States is on the path to defeat – and Rumsfeld and his advisers are to blame. The Post reports great anger is building at Rumsfeld and his top advisers among career Army officers.

"The current OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense] refused to listen or adhere to military advice," the general said on the condition his name not be used, in part out of fear of punishment. "It is doubtful we can go on much longer like this," he added. "The American people may not stand for it - and they should not."

The top U.S. commander in the war told the Post that the United States is winning tactically. However, Army Gen. John Abizaid stopped short of projecting an overall victory. Rather, he said, "strategically, I think there are opportunities."

The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Times, the civilian-owned trade papers of the military sold at every U.S. military installation, accuse Rumsfeld and Myers of professional negligence in their handling of Iraqi detainees in a new editorial. "Accountability here is essential - even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war."

Earlier in the week, a senior State Department official indicated that Secretary of State Colin Powell repeatedly warned the Pentagon about the treatment of detainees, but to no avail.

Sen. Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, called for Rumsfeld's resignation on Face The Nation and warned the United States would "lose Iraq" unless the Bush administration shifts gears and starts working closely with the United Nations and other countries.

Democrats John Kerry, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and Sen. Tom Harkin have also called for Rumsfeld's resignation.

President Bush has supported Rumsfeld, saying last week, "He'll stay in my Cabinet." Mr. Bush ordered his press staff to squelch chatter about Rumsfeld getting fired, Newsweek reports. But the president and Rumsfeld are "not buddies," a senior administration official tells Newsweek, and if Rumsfeld hurts the president's re-election chances, those orders could change.

Sen. John McCain says it's too early to call for Rumsfeld's resignation, but he did not rule out the idea.

The former prisoner of war was among the most forceful interrogators of Rumsfeld at a Senate hearing last week that examined reports of abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

The Arizona Republican pressed Rumsfeld to lay out the line of authority through which procedural rules were laid down. When Rumsfeld started to say the documents were left at the Pentagon, McCain interrupted, told Rumsfeld a telephone call could get the information, and said: "You have to answer this question."

McCain said on a Sunday morning talk show that he still has no answers to all the questions he asked but said it would be premature to demand Rumsfeld's resignation.

"I did not get answers to some fundamental, and perhaps, the fundamental aspect of this, and that is, what was the chain of command that allowed the abuse at Abu Ghraib to occur?"

"We can make a much better judgment after we have gotten a lot of the answers," McCain said, "but I certainly think it would be terribly premature to call for his resignation at this time."
  • Joel Roberts

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