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Retired Generals Call for Defense Secretary's Resignation

President Bush has rejected calls from a group of retired generals for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for alleged mismanagement of the war in Iraq. VOA's Peter Fedynsky reports that the unusual call was issued by military leaders previously involved in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Major General John Batiste led the U.S. First Infantry Division in Iraq. He is one of six retired generals who have publicly expressed dissatisfaction with Secretary Rumsfeld's leadership. Batiste says the Pentagon chief must be held accountable.

"By that I mean, we went to war with a flawed war plan. We certainly had the troops necessary to win the fight to take down Saddam Hussein, but we in no way considered the hard work to win the peace. Almost ten years of good, deliberate war planning by U.S. Central Command that was essentially ignored."

Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni was the head of Central Command in the late 1990's. As early as 2004, Zinni said the Pentagon's civilian leaders let down the young men and women of the U.S. military.

"I would hold them responsible. However, the President decides that. History will hold them responsible. But I think the President was owed better than he received from the civilian leadership in the Pentagon."

Lieutenant General Greg Newbold, former operations director on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently wrote in Time Magazine that the cost of flawed leadership continues to be, in his words, "paid in blood."

He says many senior U.S. military officers were intimidated not to protest against what he terms "a fundamentally flawed plan for an invented war" that allowed fighting the real enemy, in his view -- al-Qaida -- to become "a secondary effort."

On Friday, President Bush issued a statement of support for Rumsfeld, saying the Secretary's "energetic and steady leadership is exactly what is needed at this critical period." And the Secretary told al-Arabiya Television he would not step down.

Earlier, White House Spokesman Scott McClellan Rumsfeld's indicated that criticism of Rumsfeld could be linked to Pentagon opposition to the Secretary's attempt to create a leaner and more efficient fighting force.

"The secretary has also overseen the transformation of the military so that we are better prepared to confront the threats that we face in the 21st century. We are a nation at war and we are a nation that is going though a military transformation. Those are issues that tend to generate debate and disagreement. We recognize that."

Responding to suggestions that criticism of the Defense Secretary gives aid and comfort to the enemy, Major General John Batiste rejected the notion, saying, "the U.S. military is incredibly resilient."

The U.S Constitution mandates civilian control of the military, which has rarely expressed public criticism of its leaders. The military is also sworn to defend the Constitution, rather than any given administration.