The generals vs. the secretary of defense

Another retired officer calls for Rumsfeld to resign.

By Tim Grieve
April 13, 2006 5:57PM (UTC)
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How many retired generals are there, anyway?

Retired Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who led the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq just last year, tells the Washington Post that it's time for Donald Rumsfeld to resign. Calling for a "fresh start" at the Pentagon, Batiste says Rumsfeld has fallen short on the ideals of teamwork and unity of command and that his failure to put enough troops on the ground in Iraq has led to problems like the abuses at Abu Ghraib.


As the Post notes, it's going to be hard for Rumsfeld or his supporters -- to the extent that he has any outside the White House -- to brush off Batiste's criticism. Before going to Iraq, Batiste worked as the top military assistant for Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. And last year, the Post says, he was offered the chance to return to Iraq as the No. 2 U.S. military officer there. Batiste is clearly not somebody on the margins.

And then there's the matter of numbers. Batiste is the fourth general in recent months to say that it's time for Rumsfeld to go. Add Batiste to Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, the Pentagon's former director of operations; Gen. Anthony Zinni, the former chief of the U.S. Central Command; Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who oversaw training of Iraqi forces; and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who said over the weekend that the United States has made "serious mistakes" in Iraq, and you've suddenly got a sea of retired brass laying blame at Rumsfeld's door.

The Los Angeles Times suggests today that there may be more to come, calling the recent public comments by retired generals "the culmination of months of intense but largely private debate among active duty officers about how best to voice dissent over Bush administration policies." The Times says that some of the officers' "falling out" with Rumsfeld may have begun at the beginning of the war, when the Pentagon pushed aside Army Gen. Eric K. Shinseki after he testified before Congress that several hundred thousand troops would be needed for an occupation of Iraq. But Boston University professor Andrew J. Bacevich suggests that the retired generals are now simply looking for someone to blame for a war gone badly. "I would take this as evidence that the search for scapegoats with regard to the Iraq war has now been fully engaged by the military," Bacevich tells the Times. "The officer corps doesn't want to get stuck with responsibility for a war that has already proven to be a disappointment and could result in failure."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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