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Prominent Congressional Democrat Calls for Rumsfeld Resignation - 2003-11-05

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. troops.

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. Rangel said.

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 said.

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.