WASHINGTON – A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff disputes the contention by some retired generals that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld intimidated top military commanders into silence during planning for the invasion of Iraq.
To counter critics' description of Rumsfeld 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 uniformed and civilian advisers.
Retired Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, who headed the Joint Chiefs from 2001 until last fall, denied Sunday that military leaders failed to speak up when they disagreed with Rumsfeld and President Bush.
"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.
But retired Marine Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong, former deputy commander of the U.S. Central Command during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, said Monday he suspected Rumsfeld's critics simply didn't like Rumsfeld's management style and personality.
"His management style is a tough management style," DeLong said on NBC's "Today" show. "He's tough to work with. He is a micromanager, but he's very effective. He's very competent but very dogmatic and tough when he deals with people."
DeLong said that "when it came to matters of tactics and strategic thought he went with us (the military) if there was any disagreement."
Myers, the former Joint Chiefs chairman, said 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."
The Pentagon memo, which was not dated or signed, put onto paper information that had been provided 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 and 208 times with combat commanders from 2005 to the present.
Bush on Friday said that Rumsfeld "has my full support" and praised the defense secretary "for his leadership during this historic and challenging time for our nation."
On Sunday's news shows, Republican lawmakers either backed Rumsfeld or declined to take issue with Bush's support for him. Democrats continued to call for a change in Pentagon leadership.
Sen. George Allen, R-Va., suggested that people are looking for a "scapegoat," yet he called the retired generals who have criticized Rumsfeld "people of credibility."
Allen, on CBS' "Face the Nation," questioned whether replacing Rumsfeld would have any impact on the insurgents in Iraq, the training of security forces there or on how Iraqi leaders form their government.
Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that 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, R-Ind.
Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., who called for Rumsfeld to resign two years ago, said the issue now is about "the president's decision-making and judgment."
Bush's inability to put more important concerns ahead of keeping Rumsfeld as defense secretary "is not healthy for our country," Bayh said in a joint appearance with Lugar on ABC's "This Week."
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., told "FOX News Sunday" that criticism from retired generals "is a very, very important event."
"We ought to pay a lot of attention," Dodd said. "And the president would be very wise, in my view, asking him to step aside."