President Bush has known for a very long time that many of his serving generals were finding it increasingly difficult to stomach his defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld's continuing presence at the head of the Pentagon was sapping morale among the American top brass. Their message came loud and clear last week through the hostile anti-Rumsfeld editorials of the US military media group which includes The Army Times.
Rumsfeld is a very obstinate man. He came to office determined to slim down the size of the army whatever they were up against. Including Iraq. "Stuff happens", he said in his now notorious phrase referring to post-invasion looting in the country. He was the first to champion Guantanamo Bay, proudly displaying pictures of detainees in their orange clothing.
Apart from George Bush, who must take ultimate responsibility, Rumsfeld more than other single individual, is responsible for US failures in Iraq. In July 2003, two months after the invasion, he instructed Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, to sack the entire Iraqi army and set about the de-Baathification programme. The Bush administration now agree with the generals that that was a huge mistake, as was Rumsfeld's view about the number of troops needed in Iraq.
In Britain, Rumsfeld was vilified by military commanders and senior officials. His decision to abandon the Iraq army directly contradicted a directive from Admiral, now Lord, Boyce, then chief of the defence staff who had instructed his commanders in the field to deal with Iraqi officers to help maintain law and order.
It is difficult to exaggerate the scorn directed at Rumsfeld this side of the Atlantic, among the military and security and intelligence agencies concerned - pragmatically - about the effect of Guantanamo Bay. He should be indicted, they say. But they say so privately because they are servants of the Blair government. And not one British minister dared to criticise Rumsfeld. That is one appalling feature of Rumsfeld's destructive tenure of office.