'Blizzard' of phone calls, emails as generals push Rumsfeld to quit

Published: Thursday April 13, 2006

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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 told the NEW YORK TIMES Thursday.

Major General Charles Swannack, former commander of the 82nd airborne, aired his views on CNN Thursday afternoon (Video at link).

Excerpts from the Times' story follow.


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."

Another former Army commander in Iraq, Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who led the 1st Infantry Division, publicly broke ranks with Rumsfeld on Wednesday. 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. No active duty officers have joined the call for Rumsfeld's resignation. In interviews, some currently serving general officers expressed discomfort with the campaign against Rumsfeld, which has been spearheaded by, among others, retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, who headed the U.S. Central Command in the late 1990s.