Stepping down is right thing
Donald Rumsfeld should resign for one simple reason: Our troops will not be as safe and the success of our mission will not be served if he continues as Defense secretary.
The tragedy of Abu Ghraib and Rumsfeld's failure to understand the gravity of the situation and keep the president and Congress informed were, in my view, the deciding factors. But these are not isolated incidents; they are the culmination of a series of serious miscalculations, poor planning and mistakes in the war in Iraq for which the secretary must accept responsibility.
The Pentagon's failures in Iraq began in the earliest stages, when the secretary ignored the warnings of top military experts that success would require far more troops and that we would meet with active, long-term resistance, not parades and flowers. As a result, our soldiers have been overextended and overburdened, and we don't have sufficient military personnel to stabilize the security situation.
It's also becoming clear that we went into Iraq without an exit strategy. There are now reports of senior military officers questioning whether the mission can be accomplished under current plans and suggesting that we face the prospect of American casualties for years to come.
Our troops went into combat without adequate personnel and vehicle armor or proper defensive systems on helicopters. Some estimates indicate that one in four U.S. combat deaths in Iraq might have been avoided if the Pentagon had just provided basic armor for the Humvees. How can we explain this failure to protect our troops when the administration has received every penny it asked for in Iraq?
In Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, our troops were assigned missions without proper leadership and training. After setting the tone for the mistreatment of prisoners by downplaying the Geneva Conventions, Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials failed to address conditions in Iraqi prisons, though reports of mistreatment emerged a year ago. Despite repeated requests from U.S. administrator Paul Bremer, the International Red Cross and even Secretary of State Colin Powell, no one took the steps necessary to correct the problems.
Now the situation our troops face in Iraq is more dangerous and the prospect of winning the war on terrorism is more uncertain because of this scandal.
I've known Don Rumsfeld for nearly 30 years. Calling for his resignation is not easy. But today, the genuineness of our apology for the situation at Abu Ghraib is at issue.
The secretary should step down to show that we are changing course. His departure would signal to our citizens and the world that America believes in accountability and we are committed to the ideals we espouse. In the years I've known Don Rumsfeld, I have always known him to be a patriot. Stepping down under these circumstances would be the highest form of patriotism.
(Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.)