Rumsfeld leaves under pressure after election
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the icon of the U.S. war on Islamic terrorists, succumbed to mounting pressure to resign, allowing the Bush administration to begin examining a new course on the bogged-down Iraq war where the American death toll exceeds 2,800.
Appearing with President Bush at the White House on Nov. 8, Mr. Rumsfeld referred to his many critics on Iraq by paraphrasing a hero, Winston Churchill: “I have benefited greatly from criticism, and at no time have I suffered a lack thereof.”
He then talked of “this little understood, unfamiliar war,” a conflict the Pentagon has dubbed “the
long war” because of the time it will take to dismantle al Qaeda worldwide.
“The first war of the 21st century is not well-known, it was not wellunderstood, it is complex for people to comprehend,” he said.
Mr.Bush,appearingthedayafter many Americans registered a protest vote against his Iraq policy, said, “As the secretary of defense, he has been dedicated to his mission, loyal to his president and devoted to the courageous men and women of our armed forces.”
Hewasflankedbyhisthedefense secretary-designate, former CIA Director Robert M. Gates, who will take a fresh look at Iraq policy.
White House press secretary Tony Snow told The Washington TimesthatMr.BushandMr.Rumsfeld had been talking about future operations in Iraq for months, but he did not know who first raised the issue of the departure.
“It wasn’t like, ‘come see the principal,’ ” Mr. Snow said, who noted Mr. Rumsfeld had offered twice to resign two years ago.
He said they both agreed that “Iraq is not working well enough andfastenough.”HereferredtoMr. Gates’ “new energy.”
He said Mr. Rumsfeld formally submitted his resignation on Election Day.
AdefensesourcesaidMr.Rumsfeld knew he was leaving at least several weeks ago.
Another factor in the two men’s thinking was that a Democratic victory likely means hours of inquisitions on Iraq policy by several House and Senate committees.
“If he’d have to go up to the Hill three times a week to answer another request, how effective would he really be?” said a former Pentagon official. “I think that’s got to be a factor on some level.”
His resignation ends the Rumsfeld era in the Pentagon that saw a supremelyconfidentdynamicmanager tear up years of static processes and war-fighting strategy to build a faster, lighter military with better intelligence and precision power. Along the way, he alienated some people at the Pentagon, especially senior Army officials.
Mr. Rumsfeld prided himself in management skills. But in the end, it was his perceived management failures in the three-year Iraq war that did him in.
Mr. Gates, an intelligence analyst by trade, is expected to do a top-tobottom review of Iraq strategy and of the generals executing it. He will also consult with the two officers whom Mr. Rumsfeld had handpicked to run the war, Army Gens. George Casey, the top commander in Iraq, and John Abizaid, who heads U.S. Central Command.
Mr.Rumsfeld,74,whowillstayin office until Mr. Gates’ Senate confirmation, became more than a paperpushing bureaucrat. The September 11, 2001, attacks on New York andthePentagonthrusthimintobecoming the face, and some say, the chiefstrategistforaglobalcampaign to find and kill al Qaeda terrorists.
After the attacks, Mr. Rumsfeld became a regular fixture on global television networks, talking about how he would be happy to have his troops kill members of the Taliban regime. His poll numbers soared to 70 percent job approval in late 2001 and early 2002 as U.S. troops ousted the Taliban in Afghanistan just a few months after the attack on America and as he secretly planned for war in Iraq.
Months after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein fell in April 2003, a deadly and vibrant insurgency began killing American troops with regularity. They used what the militarycalls“asymmetrical”weapons — roadside bombs and suicide bombers. Joined by al Qaeda jihadists, the enemy grew in strength and intelligence. It was able retake cities once held by the U.S. This year, insurgents controlled wide areas of Baghdad, descending the capital into daily sectarian violence as 140,000 American troops changed tactics to try to keep up.
As the U.S. death toll mounted and progress was hard to discern, a growing number of lawmakers called on him to quit. During the election,asDemocratselevatedIraq to their top issue, even a few Republicans made the same demand.
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republicanandaninfluentialspokesman ondefenseissues,declaredhehadlost confidence in Mr. Rumsfeld.
“This important change offers the administration and Congress a fresh opportunity to examine all aspects of our strategy and tactics in Iraq and make whatever changes are necessary to succeed there,” Mr. McCain said on Nov. 8. “I look forward to discussing with Secretary-designate Gates his ideas for correcting the mistakes of the past.”
One big mistake in the Iraq war was that the insurgency was not predicted or planned for. Because of this, critics said, the invasion force was too small. And it did not have the proper body or vehicle armor.
A scandal over the mistreatment of some inmates at Saddam’s infamousAbuGhraibprisonalsomade headlines. A human rights groups soon stuck Mr. Rumsfeld with the charge of “the architect of torture.” Mr. Rumsfeld’s job-approval numbers dipped into the low 30s.
During his tenure as defense secretary, Mr. Rumsfeld transformed and empowered U.S. Special Operations Command as the lead player in theglobalwar.Hesignedasecretdirective in 2003 giving them authoritytosecretlypenetrateforeignlands to hunt down and kill or capture al Qaeda members. Skeptical of the CIA’sspyingability,healsogavecommandos broader mandate to collect intelligence.
Mr. Bush picked Mr. Rumsfeld not to wage war, but to transform a military still stuck in the Cold War. He focused on the Army, killing someofitspetweaponsprojectsand breaking the Army division system intowhatbecameknownascombat brigade teams. He also shook up how and where U.S. troops are based abroad, reducing ground forces in both Europe and Asia.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
“I’m obviously disappointed with the outcome of the election, and as the head of the Republican Party, I share a large part of the responsibility,” said President Bush during a press conference on Nov. 8 at which he also announced the resignation of his defense secretary..