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Supporters Rally Around Rumsfeld As Calls Mount For His Departure

The beleaguered Rumsfeld, for his part, characterized the critics as representing a minority opinion. Copyright AFP
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Apr 18, 2006
Supporters rallied Sunday behind embattled US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whose future at the Pentagon is an open question after calls by several prominent retired generals for his resignation.

Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers told ABC television's "This Week" program that military officials -- even in retirement -- should keep their criticism to themselves.

"It's inappropriate, because it's not the military that judges our civilian bosses," said Myers, who left his post as senior US military adviser six months ago.

"There are professional standards that you have when you are in uniform that carry on when you retire," he told ABC's "This Week."

At least six former generals have called for Rumsfeld's ouster, some of whom held key combat commands and staff positions during the Iraq war.

They say the embattled defense secretary ignored military advice and deployed too few troops to pacify Iraq. Despite the outcry, President George W. Bush has declared his "full support" for Rumsfeld.

Among the defense secretary's detractors is retired major general John Batiste, who last week said that Rumsfeld showed too little regard for his uniformed advisers.

"When decisions are made without taking into account sound military recommendations, sound military decision-making, sound planning, then we're bound to make mistakes. When we violate the principles of war with mass and unity of command and unity of effort, we do that at our own peril," Batiste told US television last week.

The beleaguered Rumsfeld, for his part, characterized the critics as representing a minority opinion.

"Out of thousands and thousands of admirals and generals, if every time two or three people disagreed we changed the secretary of defense of the United States, it would be like a merry-go-round," he told Al-Arabiya television last week.

However, US Senator Christopher Dodd said the few generals who have dared to speak out represent the just a small fraction of the far larger number of detractors.

"These are generals who are not only speaking for themselves but I suspect are speaking for a lot of senior military people who are in uniform today," the Democratic lawmaker said.

"Generals are not in the habit, even as retirees, to go around being critical of the civilian leadership. This is a very, very important event," he told the "Fox News Sunday" television program.

"Secretary Rumsfeld, with all due respect, is a past-tense man," he said.

Republican lawmakers defended the Republican president's choice.

Senator Mitch McConnell called Rumsfeld "a spectacular secretary of defense, one of the best in American history," also appearing on "Fox News Sunday."

Senator Richard Lugar told ABC's "This Week," President Bush makes the call, and the fact is that this is a period of frustration."

"The Iraq situation is politically volatile, and people are offering all sorts of reasons why something ought to happen," Lugar, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told ABC.

Meanwhile, President Richard Nixon's Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, speaking on CNN television's "Late Edition" program, hailed Rumsfeld as "a distinguished public servant who has done an outstanding job as secretary of defense."

"The issue now is whether in order to deal with a decision made three years ago, one should undertake the blood-letting that these generals are asking for," he said.

But Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein told the same program that Rumsfeld has overstayed his welcome in the defense chief post.

"I think the president would be well served and the nation well served with a new team," she told CNN.

Source: Agence France-Presse

related report

Pentagon Issues Memo To Counter Critics
New York, (AFP) Apr 16 - The US Defense Department has issued a memorandum to former military commanders and civilian analysts that offers a direct challenge to the criticism made by retired generals about Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The newspaper said the one-page memorandum was sent by e-mail to the group, which includes several retired generals who appear regularly on television, and came as the Bush administration stepped up its own defense of Rumsfeld.

The memorandum begins by stating, "US senior military leaders are involved to an unprecedented degree in every decision-making process in the Department of Defense," the paper quotes the document as saying.

It says Rumsfeld has had 139 meetings with the Joint Chiefs of Staff since the start of 2005 and 208 meetings with the senior field commanders, the report said.

Seeking to put the criticism of the relatively small number of retired generals into context, the e-mail message also notes that there are more than 8,000 active-duty and retired general officers alive today, The Times pointed out.

The message was released Friday by the Pentagon's office of the Directorate for Programs and Community Relations and Public Liaison, but it was unclear who wrote it, according to the report.

It is not uncommon for the Pentagon to send such memorandums to this group of officers, whom they consider to be influential in shaping public opinion, The Times said.

But it is unusual for the Pentagon to issue guidance that can be used by retired generals to rebut the arguments of other retired generals.

The memorandum followed criticism of Rumsfeld by at least six retired generals, who accused his of making mistakes in Iraq and failing to heed sound advice.

The document spoke directly to the thrust of the retired generals' complaints that Rumsfeld was a "micromanager" who often ignored the advice of military commanders, the paper noted.

The group that received the message was made up of both staunch Bush administration supporters and some who have been critical of administration policies, The Times said.

They are brought in periodically to consult with Pentagon officials and were notified on Friday that Rumsfeld wanted to meet with them this Tuesday, the report said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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