Retired Officers' Critical Views Not Widespread, DoD Spokesman Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 17, 2006 Recent criticism voiced by a half dozen retired generals over Iraq war planning does not reflect the mainstream views of the officer corps, a senior Defense Department official told Pentagon reporters today.
"There are a handful of officers that have exercised their right to speak their mind, and certainly that's their right to do that," DoD spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
Brushing aside a reporter's suggestion there's widespread disagreement among senior officers over Iraq war planning, Whitman said there are thousands of active duty, reserve component and retired general officers from all of the armed services.
Over the past few weeks, several retired general officers have publicly criticized Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's leadership style while calling for the secretary's resignation over alleged planning mistakes for the post-war period in Iraq.
President Bush publicly praised the defense secretary through a special statement issued from Camp David, Md., on April 14. Rumsfeld's "energetic and steady leadership is exactly what is needed at this critical period," Bush wrote in his statement.
The United States is experiencing a historic and challenging time, Bush said, noting that the Defense Department has been tasked with a multitude of difficult missions since the start of the global war against terrorism. DoD is simultaneously transforming itself to better confront 21st-century threats, the president wrote.
"I have seen first-hand how Don relies upon our military commanders in the field and at the Pentagon to make decisions about how to best complete these missions," Bush wrote in the statement.
And yesterday a former senior officer weighed in with his support. "One of the things about Secretary Rumsfeld and working for him is you have tremendous access and you can present your arguments," retired Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers recalled yesterday during a television appearance on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."
The U.S. Constitution specifies civilian control of the military, Myers said. The defense secretary and the U.S. president, the military's commander in chief, personify that control.
"The commander in chief makes the decision, the secretary of defense makes the decision, and we live by those decisions," Myers said.
The retired chairman dismissed critics that say he and the Joint Chiefs failed to stand up to Rumsfeld and the president during Iraq war planning sessions.
"We gave him our best military advice, and I think that's what we're obligated to do," Myers said. "If we don't do that, we should be shot."