Thursday, August 31, 2006

Democrats accuse Rumsfeld of political smear

Democrats accuse Rumsfeld of political smear
By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats accused Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday of a political smear after he assailed critics of U.S. policy in Iraq and the war on terrorism in a speech recalling those who favored appeasing the Nazis before World War Two.

"If Mr. Rumsfeld is so concerned with comparisons to World War Two, he should explain why our troops have now been fighting in Iraq longer than it took our forces to defeat the Nazis in Europe," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, House of Representatives Democratic Leader.

"Desperate to divert attention from his many failures as Defense Secretary, Rumsfeld is resorting to tactics that would make Joe McCarthy proud," added Rep. Pete Stark of California, referring to the disgraced Republican senator who with scant evidence accused many Americans of being Communists or sympathizers in the 1950s.

"The sooner Rumsfeld resigns, the safer America will be," Stark added.

Their comments came a day after Rumsfeld, in a speech in Salt Lake City, took aim at war critics. Rumsfeld noted that some world leaders tried to appease Hitler's Germany in the 1930s, and some critics today "seem not to have learned history's lessons."

"With the growing lethality and the increasing availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?" Rumsfeld asked.

Rumsfeld said "any kind of moral or intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong can weaken the ability of free societies to persevere" in any long war.

Pentagon press secretary Eric Ruff said, "He was not accusing critics of this administration of being soft on terrorism or anything of that sort."

"The point of the speech," added Ruff, "was to raise these questions, and at the same time to remind us that ... it's not in America's best interest to turn your back on history. And the lessons of the '30s are pretty clear."

But Pelosi responded on Wednesday: "Secretary Rumsfeld's efforts to smear critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy are a pathetic attempt to shift the public's attention from his repeated failure to manage the conduct of the war competently."

Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a member of the Armed Services Committee and retired Army officer, said, "Secretary Rumsfeld continually substitutes sloganeering for strategy. And any strategy relies not only on a plan, but also adequate resources. And in the case of Iraq, there was no adequate planning and insufficient resources from the very beginning."

"If there is a moral and intellectual confusion about this war, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is the one that is confused. His overly optimistic mischaracterizations of this war continue to confuse and dishearten Americans," added Rep. Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and a leading critic of the Iraq war.