Rumsfeld in a World of Hurt Thursday, May 06, 2004 WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (search) is facing escalating criticism over handling of the U.S. military's abuse of Iraqi prisoners and was privately chided by President Bush, sources said Thursday. At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan said that Bush "absolutely" wanted Rumsfeld to stay on the job and declined to characterize Bush's comments to Rumsfeld on Wednesday - though another Bush aide said the president had given Rumsfeld a "mild rebuke." "The president met with Secretary Rumsfeld yesterday and they had a good discussion. I will leave it at that," said McClellan. "The president very much appreciates the job Secretary Rumsfeld is doing and the president has great confidence in his leadership." White House aides, however, said Bush made it clear to Rumsfeld that he was displeased over not learning about the pictures of U.S. soldiers posing with hooded or naked Iraqi prisoners until the images aired on national television. The president, in an interview Wednesday with the U.S.-sponsored Alhurra (search) television network, expressed "confidence in the secretary of defense" and "confidence in the commanders on the ground in Iraq." He promised "people will be held to account" for the prisoner abuses. Sen. John McCain (search), R-Ariz., told a morning network news show, "I don't presume to tell the president what he should do, but it's obvious that there's a lot of explaining that Secretary Rumsfeld and others have to do." McCain was responding to an editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that called for Rumsfeld to resign over the "botched handling" of the investigation into the prisoner abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison (search) and over earlier Iraq war decisions. Also, a column in The New York Times by Thomas L. Friedman called on President Bush to fire Rumsfeld "today, not tomorrow or next month." In its Thursday editions, the Post-Dispatch called for Rumsfeld's resignation not only because of the prisoner abuses but also because Rumsfeld "seriously underestimated" both the number of U.S. troops needed in the Iraq conflict and the threat from weapons of mass destruction posed by Saddam Hussein's government. "It's the accumulation of all these miscalculations, misconceptions and missteps - and an arrogant inability to admit his mistakes - that require him to step down," the editorial said. Rumsfeld was the architect of the Iraq war - and his department largely controlled the postwar occupation. As that occupation has become plagued by wide-ranging problems, including a stubborn insurgency, the criticism of him has grown. There were complaints that reconstruction contracts were not issued competitively and that there were too few U.S. soldiers on hand to secure the country. But the complaints have crystallized now - especially among Democrats, but even among Republicans - over the pictures of prisoner abuse by U.S. forces, and whether the Pentagon informed Congress or the president soon enough about the growing investigations. "The Congress ... has been kept completely in the dark," McCain said. Rumsfeld was to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday. "Get Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Myers a new job," Ivo Daalder, national security expert at the Center for American Progress, said, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (search), Gen. Richard Myers, in his criticism. "The notion here that we can somehow deal with this in the normal routines of business ought to be dispensed with," added Daalder, a former senior official at the National Security Council (search) during the Clinton administration and a foreign-policy adviser to former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean. "This is something that requires drastic action." Although the Bush administration has offered few specifics on how far it will take its quest for accountability, it has shown little inclination to go after top Pentagon brass like Rumsfeld and Myers. And troubles in Iraq don't necessarily translate into trouble for Rumsfeld, said Peter Brookes, diplomacy and national security expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington. "Just like in a sporting match, if the game doesn't go the way you want when you take the field, you don't pick up the ball and go home," Brookes said. "You have to adjust your game."