April 18, 2006

Rumsfeld: I won’t quit

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld,
boosted by another strong endorsement from President George W.
Bush, said on Tuesday no one is indispensable but he is not
considering quitting in the face of criticism from a handful of
retired generals.

Rumsfeld, an architect of the 3-year-old Iraq war who long
has been a lightning rod for criticism, has faced in recent
weeks an unusual spate of calls for his resignation from six
retired generals. They accused him of disregarding sound
military advice and ruling by intimidation.

"The president knows, as I know, that there are no
indispensable men," Rumsfeld said. "Graveyards of the world are
filled with 'indispensable' people."

Critics have accused him of bullying senior officers and
contemptuously rejecting their advice, such as deploying more
troops in 2003 to occupy Iraq. Asked whether he was arrogant
and autocratic as critics claim, Rumsfeld said in his typically
blunt way, "You know me."

Rumsfeld twice offered Bush his resignation in 2004 amid
the Abu Ghraib prison scandal but when asked Tuesday if he
would consider resigning to ease the burden on Bush and
Republicans during a congressional election year, he said: "No.
He (Bush) knows that I serve at his pleasure and that's that."

At a Rose Garden ceremony, Bush lauded the secretary as he
did in a written statement last Friday.

"Don Rumsfeld is doing a fine job," Bush said. "He's not
only transforming the military, he's fighting a war on terror
-- he's helping us fight a war on terror. I have strong
confidence in Don Rumsfeld.


"I hear the voices. And I read the front page. And I know
the speculation. But I'm the decider. And I decide what is
best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the
secretary of defense," said Bush, whose public approval ratings
are at a low for his presidency amid waning domestic support
for the Iraq war.

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff, said he does see dissatisfaction in the military
ranks over Rumsfeld's leadership. Pace, speaking at Rumsfeld's
side, also said senior military officers have ample opportunity
to express their views to the Pentagon's civilian leadership.

"There are multiple opportunities for all of us, whatever
opinions we have, to put them on the table. And all the
opinions are put on the table," Pace told reporters.

"But at the end of the day, after we've given our best
military advice, somebody has to make a decision. And when a
decision's made by the secretary of defense, unless it's
illegal or immoral, we go on about doing what we've been told
to do," he said.

"Don't even suggest that -- illegal or immoral," Rumsfeld
jokingly told Pace.

Among the retired generals who have criticized Rumsfeld
are: Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the 1st
Infantry Division in Iraq; Army Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, who
commanded the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq; and Army Maj.
Gen. Paul Eaton, who headed efforts to train Iraqi security

Rumsfeld said he wanted to let some time pass before
responding to his critics.

"I think that it's important to put all of what is going on
in context and recognize that people who are often talking
about what's taking place inside here do not know what is
taking place inside here," Rumsfeld said.