Rummy the unbendable must go

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As the war in Iraq lingers on years after we heard the words "Mission Accomplished," the need for a new policy exists. Or at least we need a new leader at the Pentagon.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has presided over little more than a stay-the-course response to the insurgents and their continuing waves of bombs. He doesn't bend.

This has nothing to do with the war on terrorism that the administration tries to link with al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Voters need to be reminded again and again that the ongoing effort for security is far different from the struggle and chaos in Iraq. Do not be misled by the spinners. Bush accuses everyone else of playing politics with this issue. He does it repeatedly, along with his aides.

Rumsfeld was a forlorn figure earlier this month in his appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He sat with a gloomy look on his face while his top two generals painted a sad picture of the current status of the war.

If a civil war does not exist already, it is close. The sectarian killing goes on with no sign of a letup. There is little talk of any troop withdrawal soon, although the White House wanted some units to return before the election in November.

The Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds are still fighting for the upper hand in the fragile government we helped put in place. How long will there be a U.S. presence there -- 10, 20, 30 years? Even then, a true democracy is unlikely.

A stubborn leader like George W. Bush will not ask for Rumsfeld's resignation. The secretary should step aside on his own.

It was a big gamble for Rumsfeld to return to the Pentagon for an encore after a tenure there during Gerald Ford's administration. The brass there, or some of them, were turned off by Rumsfeld's cocksure manner and ideas.

"Mission Accomplished" has become "Mission Without End." Retire, Mr. Secretary.