Monday, April 17, 2006

Retired generals who are criticizing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s prewar planning are out of line and need to remember who their boss is, top military and civilian officials — including a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — said on yesterday’s political talk shows.

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said yesterday that the behavior and comments from six generals is “inappropriate” for military officers.

“I think there are professional standards that you have when you are in uniform that carry on when you retire,” he said.

“It’s inappropriate because it’s not the military that judges our civilian bosses. We’d be in a horrible state in this country, in my opinion, if the military was left to judge the civilian bosses, because when you judge Secretary Rumsfeld, you’re also judging the commander in chief, because that’s the chain of command, and that’s just not appropriate,” Gen. Myers told ABC’s “This Week” program.

The generals — four from the Army and two from the Marine Corps — now say the defense secretary intimidated senior officers and “meddled” in war plans that, they say, resulted in “poor war planning” after Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein was deposed. The retired generals said Mr. Rumsfeld lacked ground troops and failed to foresee the insurgency in Iraq by al Qaeda terrorists.

Gen. Myers said the generals did not question the prewar plans, and went a step further by saying that any military officer would be derelict in his duty if he did not voice his concerns.

“We gave him our best military advice, and that’s what we’re obligated to do. If we don’t do that, we should be shot,” Gen. Myers said.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said the criticism is personal “because I think many of them didn’t like Rumsfeld personally.”

“Look, this is a free country. I think they’re entitled to say whatever they choose to say,” Mr. McConnell said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“But it does remind us that civilian control of the military in this country is important, and at the end of the day, the civilian leaders are the ones who make the decision,” Mr. McConnell said.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican, agreed and also said on “Fox News Sunday” that the generals on the ground have confidence in their leader.

“Don Rumsfeld listens to generals. He doesn’t obey them,” Mr. Gingrich said.

“We have civilian control. The president is in charge as commander in chief; the secretary of defense works for the president. The generals advise; the generals don’t control,” Mr. Gingrich said.

Some Democrats, however, continued yesterday to say Mr. Rumsfeld should resign.

“I think the nation and this president would be well-served if there were a change of team,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said on CNN’s “Late Edition.” “I think the problem with Mr. Rumsfeld is that he is very stubborn. He is very determined.”

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, defended the generals and their comments as “significant” on “Fox News Sunday.”

“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,” Mr. Dodd said.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said there is always “value added” to have the retired general’s opinions on public record.

“But I like the value added by people like former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Dick Myers, who thinks that Secretary Rumsfeld has done a superb job, and many other generals,” Mr. Hunter said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

“With a community of about 5,000 retired generals, to have six of them come out against you from a politician’s point of view ain’t bad. We have lots of people that want to remove us on a regular basis. We just try to keep it under 50 percent,” Mr. Hunter said.

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