Rumsfeld tells war critics to 'back off'
Updated: 2006-10-27 07:17
WASHINGTON - US Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday that
anyone demanding deadlines for progress in Iraq should "just back off," because
it is too difficult to predict when Iraqis will resume control of their country.
During a Pentagon news conference, an often-combative Rumsfeld said that
while benchmarks for security, political and economic progress are valuable,
"it's difficult. We're looking out into the future. No one can predict the
future with absolute certainty."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld gestures during a media
briefing at the Pentagon concerning the war in Iraq, Thursday, Oct 26,
He said the goals have no
specific deadlines or consequences if they are not met by specific dates.
"You're looking for some sort of a guillotine to come falling down if some
date isn't met," Rumsfeld told reporters. "That is not what this is about."
His comments came less than two weeks before an election for control of
Congress in which the Bush administration's conduct of the war has become a
defining issue. They also came two days after a timeline was first announced by
US officials in Baghdad and underscored strains that have emerged between the
Bush administration officials said Tuesday that they and Iraqi leaders had
agreed to craft guidelines toward progress in the country. The next day, Iraq's
president disavowed them, saying the benchmarks merely reflected campaign season
pressures in the US
Noting that this is the political season, Rumsfeld also complained that
critics and the media are trying to "make a little mischief" by trying to "find
a little daylight between what the Iraqis say or someone in the United States
Rumsfeld often spars with reporters at Pentagon briefings, but Thursday his
criticism of journalists seemed more pointed than usual.
"That's a rather accusatory way to put it," he said in response to one
question about reducing troop levels.
Members of both parties say next month's congressional elections have become
a referendum on the war in Iraq. Control of Congress could hinge on whether
voters believe the Bush administration is on the right path or if there should
be a change in course and significant reduction in US troop levels there.
Rumsfeld's comments on the benchmarks further muddied the waters on whether
there is agreement between the Iraqis and the US on how quickly progress must be
"They're still in discussions," he said.