Rumsfeld Did Not Intimidate Joint Chiefs, Ex-Chairman Says

Associated Press
Monday, April 17, 2006

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 yesterday.

With Rumsfeld described by his critics as a micromanager who did not listen to military leaders, the Pentagon circulated a one-page memo late last week detailing the defense secretary's frequent contacts with numerous military and civilian advisers.

Richard B. Myers, the Air Force general who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs from 2001 until last fall, dismissed criticism that military leaders did not 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 ABC's "This Week." "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 . . . civilians make the decisions," he said. "And we live by those decisions."

The Pentagon memo, which was not dated or signed, put onto paper information that had been given orally to reporters on Friday. It is not unusual for the Defense Department to distribute such information to analysts, military officials and others who might be reporting or commenting on a Pentagon policy.

Senior military leaders "are involved to an unprecedented degree in every decision-making process" in the Defense Department, according to the memo. Rumsfeld, it said, had met 139 times with members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and 208 times with combat commanders from 2005 to the present.

Bush said on Friday that Rumsfeld "has my full support" and praised the defense secretary for his leadership.


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