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Defense chief's memo said Iraq strategy needs major overhaul

Two days before he resigned as defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld submitted a classified memo to the White House that acknowledged that the Bush administration's strategy in Iraq was not working and called for a major course correction.

"In my view it is time for a major adjustment," wrote Rumsfeld, who has been a symbol of a dogged stay-the-course policy. "Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough."

Nor did Rumsfeld seem confident that the administration would readily develop an effective alternative. To limit the political fallout from shifting course, he suggested the administration consider a campaign to lower public expectations.

"Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis," he wrote in the Nov. 6 memo. "This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not 'lose.' "

Rumsfeld's memo suggests frustration with the pace of turning over responsibility to the Iraqi authorities; in fact, the memo calls for examination of ideas that roughly parallel troop withdrawal proposals presented by some of the White House's sharpest Democratic critics.

The memorandum sometimes has a finger-wagging tone as Rumsfeld says that the Iraqis must "pull up their socks," and suggests reconstruction aid should be withheld in violent areas to avoid rewarding "bad behavior."

Other options called for shrinking the number of bases, establishing benchmarks that would mark the Iraqis' progress toward political, economic and security goals, and conducting a program to attach Iraqi soldiers with U.S. squads.

By submitting the memo, Rumsfeld may have been trying to shape the coming strategy discussion and present himself as open to change.

The memo provides no indication that Rumsfeld intended to leave. It is unclear whether he knew at that point that he was about to be replaced.

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