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Knives out for Rumsfeld
The Sydney Morning Herald
By Mark Coultan Herald Correspondent in New York
March 25, 2006

WITH more than a tinge of bitterness, the US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, has brushed off calls for his resignation.

The third anniversary of the start of the Iraq war led to a bout of self-analysis in America about the course and direction of the war, with much of the criticism focused on Mr Rumsfeld, who appears to be losing support even among people who otherwise support the Bush Administration.

The criticism started with the publication of a new book on the conduct of the war by the military correspondent of The New York Times, Michael Gordon, and Bernard Trainor, which says Mr Rumsfeld ignored generals in the field who wanted to deal with the insurgency during the early parts of the war instead of pressing on to Baghdad.

David Brooks, the paper's prominent conservative columnist, also called for Mr Rumsfeld's resignation last week, in what appears to be a growing conservative movement of supporting the war but condemning its execution.

Mr Rumsfeld provoked some of the criticism himself in an article in which he compared leaving Iraq to handing Germany back to the Nazis after World War II.

Henry Kissinger, former secretary of state to Richard Nixon, said the two situations were not analogous, while the former national security adviser to Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, called the comparison "absolutely crazy to anyone who knows history".

A retired major-general, Paul Eaton, responsible for training Iraqi troops until 2004, also called for Mr Rumsfeld's resignation in an article in The New York Times. "He has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone else responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq. Mr Rumsfeld must step down," he wrote.

Another columnist, Maureen Dowd, quoted "one Administration official" as saying that Mr Rumsfeld "does not hold the same sway in meetings any more, that he's treated as an eccentric old uncle who pops off and is ignored".

Mr Rumsfeld dismissed calls for his resignation. "Those kinds of calls have been going on for five-plus years," he said.

On the third anniversary of Iraq's invasion, President George Bush opened a campaign to recapture lost support for the war. He made four appearances in four days to bolster support for himself and the war. But polls show his support plummeting to record lows, along with support for the war itself.

In a news conference he defended Mr Rumsfeld, saying he was doing "a fine job", drawing obvious comparisons to his praise for the former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown doing a "heck of a job" on the Hurricane Katrina disaster - just before he was sacked.

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