Monday, April 17, 2006

Former Joint Chiefs Chair Defends Rumsfeld

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld did not intimidate members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during planning of the Iraq war as some retired generals have charged, a former chairman said Sunday. Richard B. Myers, the Air Force General who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs from 2001 until last fall, also dismissed criticism that military leaders failed to stand up to Rumsfeld and President Bush when they disagreed with those civilian officials. "We gave him our best military advice and I think that's what we're obligated to do," Myers said on a Sunday news program. "If we don't do that, we should be shot." A half-dozen retired generals have called for Rumsfeld's ouster, citing mistakes in the conduct of the war in Iraq. Some have suggested that intimidation by Rumsfeld kept military leaders quiet even when they thought policies were flawed."You'd have to believe that everybody in the chain of command is intimidated, and I don't believe that," Myers said. He added that Rumsfeld allowed "tremendous access" for presenting arguments. "In our system, when it's all said and done ... the civilians make the decisions," he said. "And we live by those decisions." Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Bush is making "a good call" in retaining Rumsfeld. Facing a large agenda of foreign-policy issues, the president should not be distracted by operational disputes, said Lugar.