Brass Roasts Rummy

A group of retired generals who want to oust Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld resumed their offensive against the embattled military boss on Friday.

"He went to war with a flawed plan. He didn't account for the hard work to build the peace after we took down the regime," retired Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who served as an infantry division commander in Iraq for 2½ years until last November, said on CBS News' The Early Show.

"We also served under a secretary of defense who didn't understand leadership, who was abusive, who was arrogant, who didn't build a strong team," Batiste added.

Batiste is one of six former commanders who served under Rumsfeld who now say he should be dismissed. The defense secretary has become a lightning rod for criticism of the way the war in Iraq has been run, reports CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante.

Major Generals Charles Swannack and John Riggs, both retired Army, were the latest to call for Rumsfeld's resignation. Retired Marine General Gregory Newbold called in Time magazine for "replacing Rumsfeld and many others unwilling to fundamentally change their approach." And last month, Army Major General Paul Eaton wrote in The New York Times that Rumsfeld is "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically."

Other calls for Rumsfeld's replacement have come from Batiste and retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni.

Riggs told National Public Radio that Rumsfeld fostered an "atmosphere of arrogance." Swannack told CNN that Rumsfeld micromanaged the war. "We need a new secretary of defense," he said.

While Rumsfeld has offered his resignation at least twice to President Bush in the past, he has not talked to the White House about resigning in the face of this current criticism and is not considering it, reports CBS News White House correspondent Jim Axelrod.

The White House insists the defense secretary retains President Bush's confidence. Few close to the administration expect him to be shown the door.

"The president believes Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a very fine job during a challenging period in our nation's history," Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said Thursday as the administration circled its wagons around the embattled Pentagon chief.

Rumsfeld has said he relied on what his commanders in the field told him.

"I think the secretary's comments are disingenuous," Batiste told Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith. "I think he built that plan the way he wanted to, without regard to the Centcom work for ten years to build a deliberate plan."

Gen. Eric Shinseki, then the Army chief of staff, told Congress a month before the 2003 invasion of Iraq that occupying the country could require "several hundred thousand troops," rather than the smaller force that was later provided.

"And we all remember what happened to him," said Batiste. "He was retired early, and the Secretary of Defense did not go to his retirement ceremony."

Military experts say the parade of recently retired military brass calling for Rumsfeld's resignation is troubling and threatens to undermine the strong support Mr. Bush has enjoyed among the officer corps and troops.

With public anti-war sentiment increasing, "the president and his team cannot afford to lose that support," said Kurt Campbell, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.

Yet for President Bush to try to distance himself from Rumsfeld "would call into question everything about the last three years' strategy in ways the White House worries would send a very negative message," said Campbell, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


President Bush's dilemma, said Michael O'Hanlon, a military analyst with the Brookings Institution, is that the president "shares a lot of the responsibility for the key decisions on Iraq."

"Bush is implicated. For Bush to fire Rumsfeld is for Bush to declare himself a failure as president. Iraq is the main issue of his presidency," said O'Hanlon, who supported Bush's decision to invade Iraq and said he still supports the war.

The most nettlesome member of the Bush Cabinet, Rumsfeld has been a lightning rod since the war began in March 2003.

He was blamed for committing too few U.S. troops and for underestimating the strength of the insurgency. He took heat in 2004 over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the U.S. Army-run Abu Ghraib prison, and for a brusque response he gave to an Army National Guard soldier in Kuwait who questioned him on inadequate armor.

The Pentagon shrugs off the criticism of Rumsfeld.

"I don't know how many generals there are. There are a couple thousand at least, and they're going to have opinions," Pentagon spokesman Eric Ruff said. "It's not surprising, we're in a war."

But it is surprising, especially because it's a time of war, said P.J. Crowley, a retired Air Force colonel who served as a Pentagon spokesman in both Republican and Democratic administrations and was a national security aide to former President Bill Clinton.

"This is a very significant vote of no confidence and I think the president has to take this into account. The military is saying it does not trust its civilian leadership," said Crowley, now a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress.

Rumsfeld himself answered "no" when asked this week whether the march of retired generals was hurting his ability to do his job. "There's nothing wrong with people having opinions," he said.

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has become Rumsfeld's strongest defender in uniform. "He does his homework. He works weekends, he works nights. People can question my judgment or his judgment, but they should never question the dedication, the patriotism and the work ethic of Secretary Rumsfeld," Pace said.