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Ex-Head Of Joint Chiefs Rejects Call For Rumsfeld Exit

Retired U.S. General Richard Myers (file photo) (AFP) April 16, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- A former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired General Richard Myers, has responded to a recent call for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation by saying the effort is "inappropriate" for retired military leaders.

Rumsfeld and President George W. Bush have rejected the appeal, which came from former senior officers angered by the handling of the Iraqi conflict. Rumsfeld said complying with the call would create a "merry-go-round" in which officials are changed every time they are criticized.

General Myers insisted it is not the military's place to criticize its civilian bosses over war strategy.

"It is just not professional behavior; it's not good for the military; it's not good for military-civil relations; and I think it's potentially bad for the country to have this kind of debate when we're at war," he said.

Six retired generals have called for Rumsfeld's resignation, accusing him of having a poor war plan. One of them is former Major General John Batiste, who commanded an infantry division in Iraq.

"The best solution is for the secretary to step down and we get fresh blood in the Pentagon -- new civilian leadership who understands teamwork and doesn't lead with intimidation and arrogance," Batiste said.

Chiefly, the retired generals accuse Rumsfeld of disregarding military advice. They say he committed too few troops to the Iraq war.

Today, a former supreme commander of NATO and an aspirant for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, U.S. General Wesley Clark, joined the six calling for Rumsfeld's resignation.

Clark, who commanded NATO during the 1999 Kosovo war, said on television that Rumsfeld had made bad policy choices and it was time for new leadership in the Pentagon.

Rebutting The Criticism

Meanwhile, President Bush has offered Rumsfeld his full support. And in an interview with Al-Arabiya television that was aired on April 14, Rumsfeld shrugged off the issue.

"I intend to serve the president at his pleasure, and the fact that two or three or four retired people have different views -- I respect their views. But obviously, out of thousands and thousands of admirals and generals, if every time two or three people disagreed we changed the secretary of defense of the United Sates, it would be like a merry-go-round."

"The New York Times" reported today that the U.S. Defense Department has issued a memorandum to former military commanders and civilian analysts that offers a direct challenge to the criticism made by the retired generals.

The newspaper said the one-page memorandum was sent by e-mail to the group of generals. The memorandum reportedly says that the U.S. senior military leaders are involved to an unprecedented degree in every decision-making process in the Department of Defense.

It says Rumsfeld has had 139 meetings with the Joint Chiefs of Staff since the start of 2005, and 208 meetings with the senior field commanders.

It is unusual for the Pentagon to issue guidance that can be used by retired generals to rebut the arguments of other retired generals.