Today on CNN, retired Army Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack called for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's resignation. "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," the former commander of the 82nd Airborne Division said.Swannack joins former Central Command boss Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, Marine Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold and Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste -- all retired -- in demanding that Rumsfeld step down.Batiste, like Swannack, joined the fray relatively late, in an interview with CNN's Miles O'Brien on Wednesday. The interview opened with Batiste slamming Iraq's potential for democracy: "Iraqis, frankly, in my experience, do not understand democracy. Nor do they understand their responsibilities for a free society."The interview continued:O'BRIEN: So, you're suggesting a wholesale house cleaning [of Defense Dept. leadership]?BATISTE: I didn't say wholesale. I said new leadership in the Pentagon, a fresh start. You know, it speaks volumes that guys like me are speaking out from retirement about the leadership climate in the Department of Defense.O'BRIEN: What is going on that is -- what is it about that climate that is leading to difficulties, leading to trouble, leading to -- as you put it -- perhaps unnecessary bloodshed?BATISTE: I didn't say unnecessary bloodshed. But when decisions are made without taking into account sound military recommendations, sound military decision making, sound planning, then we're bound to make mistakes. When we violate the principles of war with mass and unity of command and unity of effort, we do that at our own peril.Ahem.I met Batiste a year ago when he was commander of the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq. We spoke for an hour about the insurgency, the Iraqi Army and the upcoming January election for an interim national assembly.The difference between Batiste's attitude then and his attitude now is suprising. Last year, he said the insurgency was "not an impressive effort", insisted that Al Qaeda was behind the worst attacks in Iraq and predicted that everday Iraqis would soon turn against insurgents. And the kicker -- he described the chunk of the World Trade Center that he kept in his office to remind himself why we had to invade Iraq.From the safety of retirement, and with his buddies watching his back, Batiste has lashed out at Rumsfeld. But Batiste is guilty of lapses in judgement just as gross as Rumsfeld's. The only difference is that Rumsfeld ranks higher, so his lapses have greater consequences. I'm not defending Rummy. But if Batiste were Secretary of Defense instead, I doubt we'd be much better off.Below are excerpts of my interview with Batiste:Q: What is the insurgent strategy?BATISTE: I haven't seen an insurgent strategy. I've seen disparate efforts. A piece of me says that we give them too much credit.Q: What is the gravest threat [in the 1st Infantry Division area of operations]?BATISTE: Al Qaeda.Q: How are Iraqi security forces shaping up?BATISTE: The enemy ... he's a coward, is what he is. It's not an impressive effort, and these great Iraqi security forces are figuring that out.Q: What does a successful election mean for Iraq?BATISTE: A good election is a huge victory. Our challenge is to give Iraqis an alternative to an insurgency. You know, I carry a piece of the World Trade Center ... to remind me why we're here.Q: Why are we here?BATISTE: To end radical Islamic fundamentalism.Q: But wasn't Saddam Hussein's regime hostile to radical Islamists?BATISTE: We could argue about that all night.[end of interview]--David Axe
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