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At least eight helicopters have been shot down in Iraq since January, and some were hit with shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.

Last month, U.S. military commanders said two or three al Qaeda cells were behind the helicopter attacks.

Gates on John Wayne

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates views legendary film star and patriot John Wayne as a model of moral leadership.

“I referred to John Wayne as a great American philosopher, and he basically said, ‘There’s right and there’s wrong, you can do one or the other,’ ” Mr. Gates told the Pentagon Channel this week.

“If you do the one, you’re living. If you do the other, you may be walking around, but you’re as dead as a beaver hat, and what he was trying to say is the importance of integrity. And I think for a leader, it’s important to be seen to have your actions consistent with your words. Accountability is obviously very important to me, taking care of our people.”

Mr. Gates said leadership is more than just making decisions on budgets and administrative matters. It also is “setting the tone … not just of integrity but of caring, of communicating to every person in the organization that their well-being is important to you, and that you want to know if somebody is not being treated right and that you’ll take care of that and for the people to have the confidence that that’s the attitude of the people that are making decisions that affect their lives.”

Bill Gertz covers the Pentagon. He can be reached at 202/636-3274 or at