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Rumsfeld critics off base ex-US military chief

Written by: Staff

WASHINGTON, Apr 15 (Reuters) Calls from a growing number of retired US generals for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign over his handling of the Iraq war are inappropriate, former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen Richard Myers said today.

Six former generals, joined today by former NATO commander Gen.

Wesley Clark, have spoken out against Rumsfeld, accusing him of arrogance, ignoring his field commanders and micromanagement. The calls come amid growing fears of a civil war in Iraq and slumping approval ratings for President George W Bush.

''I don't think it's our place in the military either in uniform or when you retire to make those judgments. That's not the military's role. They certainly can. It's their right to do that, I just think it's inappropriate,'' Myers told Fox News.

Clark, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, disagreed with Myers.

''It's more than appropriate, it's their responsibility,'' he told Fox news. ''I believe Rumsfeld hasn't done an adequate job. He should go.'' Bush took time out from his Easter holiday yesterday to express support for Rumsfeld and to counter the growing chorus calling for him to step down.

''Secretary Rumsfeld's energetic and steady leadership is exactly what is needed at this critical period. He has my full support and deepest appreciation,'' Bush said in a statement.

Rumsfeld dismissed the resignation calls in an interview with Al Arabiya television aired yesterday. ''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 States it would be like a merry-go-round,'' he said.

Clark said Rumsfeld's failure to heed the advice of senior officers was a major complaint and that the disaffection extends beyond the generals who have spoken out.

''Now these officers are saying at least give us somebody in the military chain of command who will listen. That's why Secretary Rumsfeld has lost their confidence. He's made bad policy choices.

It's time for new leadership.'' Myers, who retired last year, said he never heard the complaints being expressed against Rumsfeld during the four years he spent as America's highest-ranking military officer.

''What I'm hearing now I never heard as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,'' Myers said.

He said a shake-up led by Rumsfeld to make the Pentagon a more flexible organization could be one of the reasons for the disenchantment among the former senior officers.

One early US newspaper editorial dismissed the White House effort to save Rumsfeld's job.

''The ritual White House public relations offensive is wearing thin, especially when the people calling for Rumsfeld's resignation this time wore so many stars on their uniforms,'' the St. Petersburg Times said in an editorial today.

''The damage in Iraq is already done, but his (Rumsfeld's) continued tenure is now threatening to harm and politicize the military,'' it said.


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