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Hagel: I've lost confidence in Rumsfeld
Lincoln Journal Star
DON WALTON
April 17, 2006

Sen. Chuck Hagel said Monday he shares the lack of confidence in Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld separately voiced by six retired generals.

"The concern I've had is, at a very dangerous time, (the) secretary of defense does not command the respect and confidence of our men and women in uniform," Hagel said.

"There is a real question about his capacity to lead at this critical time," he said.

"I have had many conversations with military leaders about their concern about what's happening at the Pentagon and with our force structure."

Hagel first expressed lack of confidence in Rumsfeld a year ago.

Concerns expressed by the six generals, four of whom served under Rumsfeld, should be taken seriously, the Nebraska Republican said.

Hagel was questioned about the issue during a conference call from Washington in which he briefed reporters about his trip last week to India and Pakistan.

The public criticisms voiced by the generals probably are unprecedented in modern times, Hagel said.

Hagel, who warned against a precipitate U.S. military attack on Iraq without broad international support and careful planning for the aftermath, said President Bush "needs to make the call" about Rumsfeld.

Responding to criticism from the generals, Bush has expressed his continued confidence in his defense secretary.

"The president has that responsibility," Hagel said.  "He's not asked for my advice on Iraq."

On another issue, Hagel said he believes the Senate will provide the 60 votes required to end debate and approve a comprehensive immigration reform bill after considering a number of amendments.

Hagel is co-author of a compromise proposal dealing with illegal immigrant workers already living in the United States.  Under his plan, most of the estimated 11 million illegal workers could earn their way to legal status.

Senate consideration of a number of amendments should precede a vote for cloture ending debate, Hagel said.

"Let everybody be heard, and then let's fix the problem," he said.

Reach Don Walton at 473-7248 or at dwalton@journalstar.com.

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