Senior House Democrat Urges Top Defense Hands to Resign
By DAVID FIRESTONE
The New York Times
WASHINGTON, Sept. 5 — A senior House Democrat called today for the resignation of the top two officials at the Defense Department, saying that miscalculations by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the deputy secretary, Paul D. Wolfowitz, had cost American lives in Iraq and damaged the nation's fiscal health.
In a letter to President Bush, Representative David R. Obey, the ranking minority member of the House Appropriations Committee, said the Pentagon should be relieved of its role in determining foreign policy in Iraq, in part because of errors made by Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Wolfowitz before and after the war.
"It is impossible to review the record of the past year and not conclude that they have made repeated and serious miscalculations," said Mr. Obey, who has represented northern Wisconsin for 34 years.
The unilateral conduct of the war and the planning for postwar occupation cannot be seen as "anything other than a disaster," he wrote.
The White House did not respond to the letter, but Stuart Roy, a spokesman for Representative Tom DeLay, the House Republican leader, dismissed Mr. Obey's call.
"Here the president is, freeing Iraqi citizens and giving them a first taste of democracy, and you have Democrats like Obey who come up with bizarre requests like this," Mr. Roy said. "They think they're going to get a political gain from this, but they're really running their own party off the cliff."
Mr. Obey's remarks reflected a growing fury among Congressional Democrats about the handling of the occupation and the vast sums that will be required to rebuild Iraq at a time of record-setting budget deficits in the United States. Later this month, the administration is expected to submit a supplemental spending bill for more than $40 billion to keep tens of thousands of troops in Iraq and to rebuild the country.
Mr. Obey will probably not be the last Democrat to demand high-level resignations.
On Thursday, Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, said Democrats were willing to pay to rebuild Iraq, but not for what she said was the administration's poor planning.
On the Senate floor today, Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, questioned how Republicans could be willing to spend tens of billions of dollars on Iraq while refusing to spend $6 billion to bring the administration's education program, known as No Child Left Behind, up to its authorized spending level.