Rumsfeld Must Go

Rumsfeld Must Go

Calls for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are growing louder. Here is a dossier on his critics, from A to Zinni.


Former CENTCOM chief Gen. Anthony Zinni recently joined the lengthening list of those calling for Secretary Rumsfeld’s removal, echoing an appeal first made in The Nation three years ago. Here are selections from the secretary’s most notable critics over the last three years, from A to Zinni.

The Nation

, April 21, 2003 [sent to press April 2] (“Rumsfeld Should Go”)

Many political figures activists and organizations–including Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and–are calling for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation. We took that step more than a year ago, and in our edit pointed to Rumsfeld’s rejection of concerns about treatment of Afghan and Al Qaeda prisoners. Rumsfeld’s departure would be only the beginning, not the end, of a full accounting of who was responsible for prisoner abuses in Iraq and elsewhere. Fully mindful of that fact, we join the call for his resignation.

The Defense Secretary should resign–now. Although George W. Bush is ultimately responsible for the catastrophe unfolding in Iraq, it is Donald Rumsfeld who is the Cabinet member directly charged with planning and carrying out the nation’s wars. He should take with him those two self-inflated policy warriors, Paul Wolfowitz (his deputy) and Richard Perle (head of the Defense Policy Board until his venality was exposed). Together with Vice President Cheney, they were the principal architects of this venture, in pursuit of which they have deceived the American people, misled US soldiers whose lives are at risk, scorned the United Nations and defied international law.

New York Times, April 16, 2003

For writers and editors who live at the far left of liberalism, little has changed. Last week, with the much criticized war plan suddenly looking brilliant, The Nation suggested that Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld should resign.

“Even if people think this is a great military victory, we wanted to be out front on this issue,” said Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation. “There is much to say about whether this is the last unilateralist war by the Bush regime or the first in a series to reshape the world in the Bush image.”

New York Sun, November 6, 2003

Yesterday, the dean of New York’s congressional delegation, Rep. Charles Rangel, added his voice to the choir. “It’s with a heavy heart that I come here to demand Don Rumsfeld’s resignation,” said Mr. Rangel, a Democrat.

Slate, April 20, 2004

Neocons Robert Kagan and William Kristol make the too few troops argument in the April 26 Weekly Standard and call on Rumsfeld to resign.

The Weekly Standard, April 26, 2004

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld famously talks about preparing for the “unknown unknowns.” Yet the present crisis was hardly unforeseeable, and Rumsfeld did not ensure that the military was prepared to deal with it. He failed to put in place in Iraq a force big enough to handle the challenges at hand. That is a significant failure, and we do not yet know the price that will be paid for it.

The question is whether Rumsfeld and his generals have learned from past mistakes. Or rather, perhaps, the question is whether George W. Bush has learned from Rumsfeld’s past mistakes. After all, at the end of the day, it is up to the president to ensure that the success he demands in Iraq will in fact be accomplished. If his current secretary of defense cannot make the adjustments that are necessary, the president should find one who will.

Washington Post, May 6, 2004

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said Rumsfeld should resign if investigators conclude the chain of responsibility reaches his office.

Washington Post, May 7, 2004

After his speech, Kerry said Rumsfeld should resign because of both his “miscalculation” on the war and the escalating outcry over the abuse revelations. “In this context, it compounds it,” Kerry said. “It was the way it was handled, the lack of information to Congress…not dealing with it…. But look, this is…the frosting. I think Iraq and the miscalculation, and the overextension of the armed forces, and the entire way in which they rushed the nation to war…is a huge, historic miscalculation. And I thought he should have resigned then, period.”

Los Angeles Times, May 7, 2004

He should do the decent and honorable thing. He should apologize to the Iraqi people for the conduct of those soldiers and he should resign. Immediately.

The Economist, May 8, 2004

Responsibility for what has occurred needs to be taken–and to be seen to be taken–at the highest level too. It is plain what that means. The secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, should resign. And if he won’t resign, Mr Bush should fire him.

Washington Post, May 10, 2004

Many Democrats, including Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the presumptive presidential nominee, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), have said Rumsfeld should go. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), a member of the intelligence panel, said on CNN that Rumsfeld, “for the good of this nation, needs to step forward and say, ‘As an important act to show we are changing courses…. I am stepping down.’ That would be an act of patriotism.”

A similar statement was made by retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark, a former Democratic presidential aspirant who also said the Iraqi people are likely–due to these abuses and other problems–to force a “catastrophic early end to this mission.” But two other Democrats who have criticized the administration’s handling of the conflict–Sens. Carl M. Levin (Mich.) and Evan Bayh (Ind.)–said they worried that Rumsfeld’s resignation, by itself, would make little difference because, they believe, the administration’s policies are so flawed.

New York Times, May 16, 2004

But many hawks across the political spectrum are having public second thoughts. The National Review has dismissed the Wilsonian ideal of implanting democracy in Iraq, and has recommended settling for an orderly society with a non-dictatorial government. David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, wrote that America entered Iraq with a ”childish fantasy” and is now ”a shellshocked hegemon.” Journalists like Robert Novak, Max Boot and Thomas Friedman have encouraged Mr. Rumsfeld to resign.

Washington Post, May 27, 2004

In calling for the resignations, Gore said that Rice “has badly mishandled the coordination of national security policy” and that “the nation is especially at risk every single day that Rumsfeld remains as secretary of defense.” Gore said three of Rumsfeld’s deputies should also resign: Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz; Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy; and Stephen A. Cambone, undersecretary of defense for intelligence.
 The sixth resignation Gore demanded was from Tenet, a holdover from the Clinton administration. “He is a personal friend, and I know him to be a good and decent man. It is especially painful to call for his resignation,” Gore said. “But I have regretfully concluded that it is extremely important that our country have new leadership at the CIA immediately.

Washington Post, December 17, 2004

Speaking to a local chamber of commerce Wednesday in Mississippi, Lott said: “I am not a fan of Secretary Rumsfeld. I don’t think he listens to his uniformed officers.” Lott said Rumsfeld should not be forced to resign immediately but “I would like to see a change in that slot in the next year or so.”

Washington Post, June 24, 2005

In the day’s most dramatic confrontation, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), a leading critic of the Iraq campaign, told Rumsfeld that the war has become a “seeming intractable quagmire.” He recited a long list of what he called “gross errors and mistakes” in the U.S. military campaign and concluded with a renewed appeal for Rumsfeld to step down.
 ”In baseball, it’s three strikes, you’re out,” Kennedy said before a standing-room-only session of the Armed Services Committee. “What is it for the secretary of defense? Isn’t it time for you to resign?”

Washington Post, November 13, 2005

Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Reagan-era Pentagon official, is a good example: In his Pittsburgh Post-Gazette column, Kelly recently called for Rumsfeld to resign, even though in many ways he “has been a terrific secretary of defense…. Army officers think Rumsfeld has it in for them,” Kelly wrote. “I don’t think that is true. But when a perception is as widespread as this one is, it becomes a reality.”

CNN, February 19, 2006


So you’re calling on Rumsfeld to resign or be fired?


I think that his leadership post-war in Iraq has been very damaging to the United States.


So should he be fired?


That’s the President’s call, but I think if I were going to change a Cabinet department, that’s the one I would change.

Knight-Ridder, March 7, 2006

Union officials representing more than 200,000 civilian defense workers across the country issued a vote of no-confidence Tuesday in Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and called on him to step down.

The resolution, the first time that federal workers have called for a defense secretary to resign, came in response to the Pentagon’s decision to appeal a federal judge’s ruling last week that blocks controversial new workplace rules for civilian Defense Department workers.

Guardian, March 17, 2006

The Economist’s views, though respected by politicians of all parties, are not always acted upon. The weekly has been urging the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to resign for some time. It backed Labour in the last general election and John Kerry in the 2004 US presidential elections.

CQ, March 20, 2006


Senator, yesterday Representative Murtha said that Rumsfeld should resign and the president’s top advisers advising him on the war should be fired. Do you agree with that?


Absolutely right.
 But you may recall, I called for him being fired a year ago. I called for him being fired nine months ago. I called for him being fired three months ago. I called for him being fired yesterday on “Late Edition.”

Guardian, March 20, 2006

Yesterday, calling on the US to keep its nerve, Mr Rumsfeld pointed to the swelling ranks of Iraqi government forces. But Mr Eaton, a former major general, said the defence secretary had “shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically”, and was “far more than anyone else, responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq”. Mr Rumsfeld had to step down, he said.

Meet the Press, April 2, 2006


Should someone resign?






Secretary of Defense, to begin with.


Anyone else?


Well, I think that, that we–that those that have been responsible for the planning, for overriding all the, the efforts that were made in planning before that, that those that stood by and allowed this to happen, that didn’t speak out. And there are appropriate ways within the system you can speak out, at congressional hearings and otherwise. I think they have to be held accountable.
 The point is, those that are in power now that have been part of this are finding that their time is spent defending the past. And if they have to defend the past, they’re unable to make the kinds of changes, adjustments, admit the mistakes and move on. And that’s where we are now, trying to rewrite history, defend the past, ridiculous statements that, “Well, wait twenty years and history will tell you how this turns out.” Well, I don’t think anybody wants twenty years to continue like it is now.

New York Times, April 3, 2006

When asked who should resign, General Zinni said, ”Secretary of Defense, to begin with,” adding that resignations should also come from others responsible for planning the war efforts and from military officials who sat by without pointing out potential problems.

Time, April 9, 2006

“So what is to be done? We need fresh ideas and fresh faces. That means, as a first step, replacing Rumsfeld and many others unwilling to fundamentally change their approach. The troops in the Middle East have performed their duty. Now we need people in Washington who can construct a unified strategy worthy of them. It is time to send a signal to our nation, our forces and the world that we are uncompromising on our security but are prepared to rethink how we achieve it. It is time for senior military leaders to discard caution in expressing their views and ensure that the President hears them clearly. And that we won’t be fooled again,” said Lt. General Gregory Newbold, retired director of operations at the Pentagon’s military joint staff.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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