Can Rumsfeld withstand backtalk of former commanders?

Crusty and unapologetic, Donald H. Rumsfeld is the public face of an unpopular war and a target of unrelenting criticism. A growing number of commanders who served under him say he has botched the Iraq operation, ignored the advice of his generals and should be replaced.

The White House insists the defense secretary retains President George W.Bush's confidence. Few close to the administration expect him to be shown the door.

"The president believes Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a very fine job during a challenging period in our nation's history," Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said Thursday as the administration circled its wagons around the embattled Pentagon chief.

Two more retired generals called for Rumsfeld's resignation on Thursday, bringing the number this month to six, reports AP.

According to X inhua, Retired Army Major General John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004-2005, was the latest to call for Rumsfeld to step down.

"I think we need a fresh start" at the top of the Pentagon, Batiste said in an interview with The Washington Post, which was published on Thursday.

"We need leadership up there that respects the military as they expect the military to respect them. And that leadership needs to understand teamwork," he was quoted as saying.

Many of his peers felt the same way, he said on CNN Wednesday. "It speaks volumes that guys like me are speaking out from retirement about the leadership climate in the Department of Defense," he said.

The Post report said Batiste was offered a promotion to three-star rank to return to Iraq and be the No. 2 U.S. military officer there but he declined because he no longer wished to serve under Rumsfeld.


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