Rumsfeld Iraq Memo Sought 'Major Adjustment'


Dec. 3, 2006 — -- Days before The Iraq Study Group submits its report on Iraq policy, a call for change has been made from an unlikely source -- Donald Rumsfeld.

Just a day before the November election, the then-defense secretary sent a note to the president acknowledging problems and slow progress in Iraq and saying it was "time for a major adjustment" of U.S. strategy.

In the classified Nov. 6 memo, which was obtained by The New York Times and confirmed by the Pentagon, Rumsfeld admitted that "what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough."

Rumsfeld then listed 15 possible actions -- including, as many Democrats have suggested, a modest withdrawal of U.S. forces, and "taking your hand off the bicycle seat" so the Iraqis know they have to "pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country."

That may fly in the face of what the president has been espousing as recently as last Thursday.

"We're going to stay in Iraq to get the job done, so long as the government wants us there," Bush said during a trip this past week to Jordan.

Today, White House officials seemed to downplay the idea of a disconnect, saying the Rumsfeld memo is merely part of a larger internal review of Iraq policy.

"What Secretary Rumsfeld did, I think very helpfully," President Bush's top national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, told ABC News' "This Week," "was put together a sort of laundry list of ideas that ought to be considered as part of that review."

Also on that "laundry list" were the possibilities of publicly announcing benchmarks for the Iraqi government, increasing U.S. trainers, accelerating draw-down of U.S. bases, and providing security only for those areas that "actively cooperate."

Rumsfeld's memo, delivered to President Bush two days before Rumsfeld resigned, also suggested using a tactic Saddam Hussein used -- paying key political and religious leaders to "help us get through this difficult period."

Hadley said Bush will determine the way forward in Iraq and announce it "within weeks" by consulting a variety of people, including the Iraq Study Group, which is expected to make proposals on Wednesday.

One analyst said the release of the Rumsfeld memo will make it difficult for Bush not to shift tactics.

"It is definitely harder for him to go forward with his previous policy with Rumsfeld admitting it's failing, so he needs a new policy," said Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution.

Rumsfeld also suggested some public relations strategies for the president -- saying that in recasting the goals of the military mission, the administration should "go minimalist" and announce the approach is a "trial basis." He added that would give Bush time to move to another course, if necessary, and "therefore not 'lose.'"

Among the possibilities Rumsfeld said should be avoided include continuing on the current path, which the White House had been calling "staying the course." He added that no firm withdrawal date should be set, nor should a large number of U.S. forces be sent to Baghdad to try and control the city.

ABC News' Geoff Morrell contributed to this report.

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