Monday, June 27, 2005

Bush Leagues Go On Defensive as War Criticism Mounts

Bush Leagues Go On Defensive as War Criticism Mounts
McClatchy Newspapers
Jun 27, 2005, 03:07

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's call on Thursday for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign - delivered before television cameras in a one-on-one confrontation at a hearing - was only the latest note in a crescendo of criticisms against the Bush administration as polls show Americans souring on the war in Iraq.

And while the defense secretary showed no inclination to march to Kennedy's orders, he and other top administration officials might be shaping their rhetoric in response to the shifting public sentiment.

In his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Rumsfeld told lawmakers, "From the beginning of this we have recognized that this is a tough business. It is difficult. That it is dangerous, and that it is not predictable."

Rumsfeld also spoke of President Lincoln's unpopularity in 1864 because of the protracted Civil War, and he recited Lincoln's remarks to an Ohio regiment.

"I quote: 'I wish it might be more generally and universally understood what the country is now engaged in,' " Rumsfeld said. " 'There may be mistakes made sometimes; and things may be done wrong, while the officers of the government do all they can to prevent mistakes. But I beg of you, as citizens of this great republic, not to let your minds be carried off from the great work we have before us.' "

In a CNN interview later in the day, Vice President Dick Cheney also tapped imagery from past military successes.

"If you look back at World War II, the toughest battles, the most difficult battles, both in Europe and in the Pacific, occurred a few months before the end," he said.

And Cheney sought to recast a recent assertion he made on the same network, seized on by some as a sign the administration is misleading Americans: that insurgents were in "the last throes." Testifying earlier in the day on Capitol Hill, Gen. John Abizaid, commander of the U.S. Central Command, said that the insurgency appeared as strong as it had been six months before and had more foreign fighters. Cheney explained his own assessment by saying, "If you look at what the dictionary says about 'throes,' it can still be a violent period."

Democratic criticisms have built as independent national polls in the last two week show majorities beginning to favor at least partial withdrawal, and rising numbers of Americans doubtful U.S. goals will be accomplished in Iraq or are worth the loss of life.

At the Senate hearing, Kennedy said Iraq had become a quagmire for the United States and accused the defense secretary of having misled Americans prior to and throughout the war....