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Bush Stands By Rumsfeld Against Resignation Calls

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (file photo) (epa) PRAGUE, April 15, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has rejected calls for his resignation, saying it would be like a "merry-go-round" if officials were changed every time they were criticized.

Rumsfeld was responding to calls by a growing number of retired generals for him to resign over his handling of Iraq. Those demands come as opinion polls show dwindling public support for the Iraq war. Now President George W. Bush has stepped in to express his full support for the defense secretary.

Criticism is nothing new to the U.S. Defense Secretary -- he has heard a lot of it over the last few years, chiefly from opponents of the Iraq war. But the criticism now is coming from some former high-ranking military officers.

In recent weeks, there have been calls for Rumsfeld's ouster from six retired generals, including former Major General John Batiste, who commanded an infantry division in Iraq.

"The best solution is for the secretary to step down and we get fresh blood in the Pentagon -- new civilian leadership [that] understands teamwork and doesn't lead with intimidation and arrogance," Batiste said.

The retired generals chiefly accuse Rumsfeld of disregarding military advice. They say he committed too few troops to the Iraq war, and they fault him for inadequate planning for the aftermath of the invasion three years ago.

In an interview aired by Al-Arabiyah television on April 14, Rumsfeld shrugged the criticism off.

"I respect their views. But obviously, out of thousands and thousands of admirals and generals, if every time two or three people disagreed we changed the secretary of defense of the United Sates, it would be like a merry-go-round," Rumsfeld said.

President Bush has entered the fray, saying Rumsfeld has his "full support and deepest appreciation." Bush said what he called Rumsfeld's energetic and steady leadership was exactly what was needed at this critical period.

Bush's move to issue a statement backing a member of his cabinet was highly unusual -- as has been the open criticism by the retired generals.

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