Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the poster child for President George W. Bush’s failed Iraq war, is coming under increased fire to resign or be sacked.
Leading Democratic lawmakers on Monday urged President Bush to consider changing the civilian leadership at the Pentagon, one week Rumsfeld warned against fascism and appeasement as he defended U.S. policies in Iraq.
Rumsfeld drew heavy criticism from Democrats after telling an American Legion convention in Salt Lake City that "it is apparent that many have still not learned history’s lessons." In alluding to criticism aimed at Bush administration war policies, he used terms associated with the failure to stop Nazism in the 1930s.
The political parties renewed debate over Iraq and Rumsfeld’s tenure at the Defense Department as the traditional fall campaign season began on Labor Day.
In a letter released Monday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and 10 other congressional party leaders told the president that considering making such a change would show he recognizes the problems his policies "have created in Iraq and elsewhere."
"While a change in your Iraq policy will best advance our chances for success, we do not believe the current civilian leadership at the Department of Defense is suited to implement and oversee such a change in policy," the lawmakers wrote.
The 850-word letter criticizes Bush’s policies in Iraq, calling them part of a "stay the course strategy" that has failed to make the U.S. more secure, and it suggests several changes long called for by Democratic leaders.
Others who signed the letter were Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Carl Levin of Michigan, Joe Biden of Delaware, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Daniel Inouye of Hawaii; and Reps. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Ike Skelton of Missouri, Tom Lantos and Jane Harman of California, and John Murtha of Pennsylvania.
In response to the Democrats’ letter, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., issued a statement accusing Democrats, including national chairman Howard Dean, of calling for retreat from Iraq before the U.S. mission there was completed. U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq in March 2003 and removed dictator Saddam Hussein from power.
"The Democrat leadership finally agrees on something — unfortunately it’s retreat. Whether they call it ‘redeployment’ or ‘phased withdrawal,’ the effect is the same: We would leave Americans more vulnerable and Iraqis at the mercy of al-Qaida, a terrorist group whose aim — toward Iraqis and Americans — is clear," said McConnell, the Republican whip in the Senate.