Tags: General | Denies | Coordinated | Effort | Oust | Rumsfeld

General Denies Coordinated Effort to Oust Rumsfeld

Friday, 14 April 2006 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste, one of several high-ranking military men urging the ouster of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said Friday there is no coordinated effort to get him fired, calling a recent series of critical statements "absolutely coincidental."

"I have not talked to the other generals," Batiste, interviewed from Rochester, N.Y., said on NBC"s "Today" show. Nevertheless, he said he thinks the clamor for Rumsfeld to step down is "happening for a reason."

Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division forces in Iraq, said he declined an opportunity to get a promotion to the rank of lieutenant general and return to the wartorn country as the No. 2 U.S. military officer because he could not accept Rumsfeld's tough management style.

He said he does not believe Rumsfeld has been sufficiently accountable for the plan that led to the invasion of Iraq and the ouster of Saddam Hussein, although he also said that "we have no option but to succeed in Iraq."

"I support civilian control (of the military) completely," Batiste told interviewers on CBS's "The Early Show."

But, he added, "we went to war with a flawed plan that didn't account for the hard work to build the peace after we took down the regime. We also served under a secretary of defense who didn't understand leadership, who was abusive, who was arrogant, and who didn't build a strong team."

Asked why he was focusing his criticism on Rumsfeld and not President Bush, Batiste replied, "My focus is on the Department of Defense. It's what I know."

The White House insisted that Rumsfeld continues to have President Bush's confidence. New White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten settles into his job starting next week, but few expect any moves regarding Rumsfeld.

"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 as two more retired generals called for the secretary's resignation Thursday, bringing the number this month to six.

"I have not talked to the other generals," Batiste told NBC Friday. "I think it is absolutely coincidental. ... I think it's healthy for democracy. I have nothing to gain in doing this. There is no political agenda at all."

Retired Army Major Gen. John Riggs told National Public Radio that Rumsfeld fostered an "atmosphere of arrogance." And retired Army Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack told CNN that Rumsfeld micromanaged the war. "We need a new secretary of defense," he said.

Military experts say the parade of recently retired military brass calling for Rumsfeld's resignation is troubling and threatens to undermine strong support that 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.

Earlier calls for Rumsfeld's replacement came from retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, retired Marine Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold and retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton.

Rumsfeld has been a lightning rod for criticism 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.

Republicans in Congress have offered Rumsfeld little in the way of public support.

Pentagon spokesman Eric Ruff said Thursday that Rumsfeld has not talked to the White House about resigning - and is not considering it.

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WASHINGTON -- Retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste, one of several high-ranking military men urging the ouster of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said Friday there is no coordinated effort to get him fired, calling a recent series of critical statements "absolutely...
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2006-00-14
Friday, 14 April 2006 12:00 AM
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