A prominent Democrat in the House of Representatives is calling for the resignation
of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Charles Rangel, a strong supporter of the
U.S. military, accuses Mr. Rumsfeld of defending miscalculations in military
strategy in Iraq.
Mr. Rangel is a key critic of Bush administration planning in Iraq. He is
also a senior member of the House and his comments coincide with continuing
criticism of U.S. planning amid mounting attacks and losses of life among U.S.
Mr. Rangel singled out Secretary Rumsfeld's handling of a leaked memo in
which he appeared to question U.S. strategies in Iraq, as well as comments
Mr. Rumsfeld made following the deaths of 15 U.S. troops when their helicopter
was destroyed in a missile attack. "To be able to say to the American people
that he has no plan, he does not know whether we are winning or losing, he
does not know whether we are killing terrorists faster than creating them,
is not it time that he does the American people a service by resigning," Mr.
Secretary Rumsfeld has said his memo was aimed at trying to provoke wider
thinking within the Department of Defense.
Congressman Rangel dismisses this and says Mr. Rumsfeld has been "insensitive
toward U.S. troops and their families" and has continued to defend what Mr.
Rangel calls a "flawed policy". "He has had problems with [National Security
Adviser] Condoleeza Rice, he has had problems with the House, he has problems
with the Senate, and he has a problem with the troops that are there [in Iraq]," he
Mr. Rangel said other lawmakers share his views. But so far there is no indication
the House Democratic leadership will back his specific call, and few Republicans
are expected to risk doing so.
Administration officials have dismissed previous suggestions from House Democrats
that Mr. Rumsfeld or his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, resign. President Bush has
given no indication of any loss of confidence in his Defense Secretary.
Mr. Rangel rejects suggestions that a high-level resignation at this stage
would actually damage troop morale. He says he has heard from soldiers directly,
and through their families, that morale is poor.
This week, a group of Republican lawmakers recently returned from Iraq said
they believe morale among U.S. forces in Iraq remains high. One of them is
Congressman Max Burns. "Meeting with the troops and meeting with the leadership
there, I am convinced that we are in the right mode and the right position,
we are doing the right thing. I think the delegation had one consensus position,
and that was that failure is not an option, we must persevere we must make
sure that this is a stable and democratic state in the Middle East," he said.
Republicans have accused Democrats of trying to win election-year political
points by continuing to criticize the administration over Iraq.