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Iraq Transition

Another general joins ranks opposing Rumsfeld

Defense secretary 'carries too much baggage,' Swannack says

Retired Gen. Charles Swannack says Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has "micromanaged the generals" in Iraq.


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Donald H. Rumsfeld
Department of Defense

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The commander who led the elite 82nd Airborne Division during its mission in Iraq has joined the chorus of retired generals calling on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to leave the Pentagon.

"I really believe that we need a new secretary of defense because Secretary Rumsfeld carries way too much baggage with him," retired Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack told CNN's Barbara Starr on Thursday.

Swannack is the second general who served in Iraq under Rumsfeld to call for him to resign. (Watch as more retired generals join chorus against Rumsfeld -- 1:29)

Retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste -- who led the 1st Infantry Division in northern Iraq in 2004-2005 -- called for Rumsfeld's resignation during an interview Wednesday on CNN.

He also suggested other changes among the top brass at the Pentagon.

"I think we need senior military leaders who understand the principles of war and apply them ruthlessly, and when the time comes, they need to call it like it is," he told CNN.

Former U.S. Central Command chief Anthony Zinni, former Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, and retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold also have called for Rumsfeld to step down.

Swannack is critical of Rumsfeld's management style.

"Specifically, I feel he has micromanaged the generals who are leading our forces there," Swannack said in the telephone interview.

"And I believe he has culpability associated with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and, so, rather than admitting these mistakes, he continually justifies them to the press ... and that really disallows him from moving our strategy forward."

Swannack, who served more than 30 years in the Army, said part of the problem at the Pentagon is Rumsfeld's system of promoting senior leaders.

"If you understand what Secretary Rumsfeld has done in his time in the Pentagon, he personally is the one who selects the three-star generals to go forward to the president for the Senate to confirm."

Swannack also criticized the way the war was being run before he retired.

In May 2004, while still on active duty, Swannack told the Washington Post that he thought the United States was losing strategically in Iraq.

General defends secretary

The White House has defended Rumsfeld, saying he is "doing a very fine job."

A former top aide to Gen. Tommy Franks, a former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, also stepped forward Thursday to defend Rumsfeld.

"Dealing with Secretary Rumsfeld is like dealing with a CEO," retired Marine Gen. Mike DeLong told CNN's "American Morning" on Thursday.

"When you walk in to him, you've got to be prepared, you've got to know what you're talking about. If you don't, you're summarily dismissed. But that's the way it is, and he's effective."

DeLong was the deputy commander of the U.S. Central Command from 2000 to 2003 under Franks.

Calls for a fresh start

Batiste said this week that the United States needs "a fresh start" at the Pentagon.

"When decisions are made without taking into account sound military recommendations, sound military decision-making, sound planning, then we're bound to make mistakes," Batiste told "American Morning" on Wednesday.

"When we violate the principles of war with mass and unity of command and unity of effort, we do that at our own peril." (Watch as the Iraq veteran criticizes the Pentagon's decision-making -- 1:30)

In addition to commanding the 1st Infantry in Iraq, Batiste also was a senior adviser to former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, one of the chief architects of the U.S.-led invasion.

"You know, it speaks volumes that guys like me are speaking out from retirement about the leadership climate in the Department of Defense," Batiste said.

Zinni, who also appeared Thursday on CNN, blamed Rumsfeld for "throwing away 10 years worth of planning."

Those plans "had taken into account what we would face in an occupation of Iraq," Zinni said.

"We grow up in a culture where accountability, learning to accept responsibility, admitting mistakes and learning from them was critical to us," Zinni said. "When we don't see that happening it worries us. Poor military judgment has been used throughout this mission."

White House stands by Rumsfeld

Rumsfeld said earlier this week that he wasn't stunned by the criticism from former military leaders. He said there have been "hundreds and hundreds and hundreds" of generals during his latest tenure as defense secretary, and it wasn't unusual for "several" to have unflattering opinions.

"And there's nothing wrong with people having opinions," he said Tuesday at a Pentagon briefing. "And I think one ought to expect that. When you're involved in something that's controversial, as certainly this war is, one ought to expect that. It's historic, it's always been the case, and I see nothing really very new or surprising about it." (Watch Rumsfeld take on his critics -- 2:39 )

In February 2005, Rumsfeld told CNN that he had twice offered President Bush his resignation during the height of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, but the president refused to accept it.

In the White House briefing Thursday, spokesman Scott McClellan said Rumsfeld has the full support of the president.

"The president believes Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a very fine job during a challenging period in our nation's history," McClellan said.

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, also defended Rumsfeld this week, telling reporters that "nobody works harder than he does."

"People can question my judgment or his judgment, but they should never question the dedication, the patriotism and the work ethic of Secretary Rumsfeld," Pace said Tuesday. (Full story)

CNN's Larry Shaughnessy contributed to this report.

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