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Rumsfeld twice offered to resign

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I wish we could fire him...twice.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says he twice offered President Bush his resignation during the height of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, but the president refused to accept it.

In an interview to be aired Thursday night on CNN's "Larry King Live," Rumsfeld says: "I submitted my resignation to President Bush twice during that period and told him that ... I felt that he ought to make the decision as to whether or not I stayed on. And he made that decision and said he did want me to stay on."

Rumsfeld has been a lightening rod for complaints against the wars on terrorism and Iraq since shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

He was unpopular with his military commanders, the intelligence community and many members of Congress, who accused him of mismanagement of the Defense Department and insensitivity to American forces in the field.

But the grumbling grew to a crescendo last April, when photos surfaced showing U.S. troops abusing Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

The photos sparked a furor internationally and on Capitol Hill.

Calls for Rumsfeld's resignation came from outspoken Democrats, including former presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts on the campaign trail, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware and Sen. Jon Corzine of New Jersey.

"No one has been held accountable" Corzine said. And Biden said last December, "It was time for him to step down a year and a half ago," adding that if the United States went to war "with the Army we had and it was ill-equipped, then we should have waited."

Even some leading Republicans, while stopping short of asking the defense chief to step down, were sharply critical as recently as last December.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, quoted by The Associated Press, said he had "no confidence" in Rumsfeld.

Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi said he was "not a fan of Secretary Rumsfeld," the AP reported.

The Washington Post reported in May that President Bush "privately admonished" Rumsfeld for his handling of the prison abuse scandal. The paper said the president was "not satisfied" and "not happy."

Rumsfeld testified back-to-back before the Senate and House Armed Services committees May 10.

"These events occurred on my watch," the embattled defense secretary told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "As secretary of defense, I am accountable for them and I take full responsibility."

But Rumsfeld said he felt he could continue to do his job.

"If I felt I could not be effective, I'd resign in a minute," he said, answering one lawmaker's query.

Bush resisted calls for him to fire Rumsfeld, and publicly expressed confidence in his Pentagon chief, and after his re-election in November, the president asked Rumsfeld to remain at the helm.

The Defense Department has come under criticism, including from some of its own soldiers, for the lack of armor on vehicles used in Iraq.

In December, Rumsfeld himself was asked directly about the armor shortage by a soldier during a visit to Kuwait. His reply: "You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have," triggered an avalanche of criticism.


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