Hillary Clinton: Rumsfeld should resign

New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday called on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign, after accusing him of "presiding over a failed policy in Iraq."

Clinton’s spokesman confirmed the senator said President George W. Bush should accept Rumsfeld’s resignation.

Clinton, a possible 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing earlier in the day, ripped into Rumsfeld for his handling of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

"We hear a lot of happy talk and rosy scenarios, but because of the administration’s strategic blunders and, frankly, the record of incompetence in executing, you are presiding over a failed policy," Clinton said.

"Given your track record, Secretary Rumsfeld, why should we believe your assurances now?" she asked him in a tense exchange.

Iraq is caught in the worst sectarian violence yet seen and faces the threat of civil war, two of the United States’ senior generals said on Thursday, three years after the invasion.

"Sectarian violence probably is as bad as I’ve seen it, in Baghdad in particular," Army Gen. John Abizaid, the head of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate hearing. "If not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war."

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, the most senior U.S. military officer, also said there was a "possibility" of civil war in Iraq, where the violence has claimed about 100 lives a day.

While a number of Democrats have called for Rumsfeld’s resignation, Clinton until now had stopped short of that.

Rumsfeld had planned to skip the committee hearing and instead hold a closed briefing with the full Senate, until Clinton publicly called on him to testify in the open forum.

She argued that senators and the American people "should hear directly from the top civilian leader at the Pentagon, the person most responsible for implementing the president’s military policy in Iraq and Afghanistan."

In his opening statement, Rumsfeld thanked the committee for inviting him to testify, and added, "Senator Clinton, thank you for seconding the motion."

© 2006 Reuters