This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from April 14, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
JIM ANGLE, GUEST HOST: An offensive this week from several retired Army and Marine generals who were calling on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign. They’ve accused him of committing too few troops to Iraq, misjudging the insurgency and refusing to listen to their views. But Rumsfeld has the full backing of President Bush. Do the critics have a point or are they just mad that Rumsfeld didn’t take their advice?
Our guest tonight has been in hundreds of meetings with Rumsfeld and other generals. Retired Air Force General Richard Myers worked closely with Rumsfeld as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and he joins us now. Good to see you sir.
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, FORMER JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: Good to be here. Thank you.
ANGLE: What do you make of this sudden flurry of criticism about Secretary Rumsfeld. There have been a few complaints along the way, but suddenly there is an outpouring of criticism.
MYERS: Frankly I don’t understand it. And furthermore I think it’s really bad for the military. I think it’s bad for civil military relations and I think it’s potentially bad for the country because the role of the military is not to judge or criticize our civilian bosses. I mean this country is built around civilian control of the military. And I think this could undermine that if we are not careful.
ANGLE: You are afraid that this will sound like the generals are saying we know better. The civilians should shut up and let us do what we want to do.
MYERS: Yes. It’s just not the role of the military. You know, my role as the chairman, when I was on active duty, the role of the senior military people that advise the secretary is to provide your best possible military advice, unfettered by political concerns or anything besides your best military advice and you do that and you try to do it the best you can.
ANGLE: Obviously people have different views on things there is no question about that.
ANGLE: And I’m sure you’ve experienced that on many an occasion. Was there a — in your meeting you with other generals and Secretary Rumsfeld, was there a free flow of discussion. Did people feel free to express their views?
MYERS: Absolutely. In fact, one of the things I think people misperceive Secretary Rumsfeld in at least one way and I don’t think people understand how collaborative he is when we are working tough issues and trying to come to how we feel about this. Most of the meetings he comes to he does not have a preconceived notion of what the answer is. He is very collaborative, I think almost to a fault. I have said well, boss, there is the answer right there. Let’s just go this way and he’ll say, "General Myers, just a minute, we have to consider this, this, and this." So he has this tremendous intellectual energy that allows him to look at these problems probably in more depth than most people have the patience or the energy to do. So no, he is very collaborative and he gets a lot of advice from a lot of people and he listens to that advice.
ANGLE: You’re saying that he resists the impulse to jump to conclusions, which is the opposite of what some others are saying.
MYERS: Oh, it’s very clear. I mean when we talk about serious issues and let’s use Iraq as an example. If we are talking about a serious strategic issue on Iraq, he’s going to want to hear from, first of all, General Casey and General Abizaid, the central command commander and our senior commander in Baghdad. Before General Casey is going to make a recommendation, what he did was when I was on active duty. He said, “Chairman, I’m not ready to talk about that yet.” Let me go out and talk to my three star over there, General Devine, when I was on active duty. Let me talk to my division commanders and we will get back to you. So, I mean, I don’t think people understand how collaborative this process has been. And sometimes it’s not just the military or the Department of Defense. Sometimes it requires the Department of State, the intelligence community, Treasury, whomever that might have a role in this business.
ANGLE: How then would you explain the comments of some of the generals including General Batiste who said that Secretary Rumsfeld is abusive, arrogant and didn’t build a strong team?
MYERS: Well, you know, I don’t know. I don’t know, I haven’t talked to General Batiste about this. I have a lot of respect for John Batiste. He was somebody I thought had great potential in the armed forces and he did lead a division and he did lead that division in Iraq. And we owe him a great deal of credit for that and for the sacrifice that he and his family made in his leadership. So I don’t know where he is coming from. I have not had a chance to talk to him. But, in terms of a team, I think from what I have seen, the team of senior military, at least when I was on active duty around Secretary Rumsfeld, the combatant commanders, the nine combatant commanders who report directly in the chain of command to the secretary to our commander in chief. The advisors off to the side, the Joint Chiefs of Staff of which the chairman is the principal military advisor, I thought we had a really strong team. Now, you know, you don’t have to like the style of your boss. I think we have all had bosses where we say well, gee, I wish he were — had a different style. And it’s — but that’s irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what the style is. And I certainly wouldn’t ever call Secretary Rumsfeld abusive. That’s just ludicrous.
ANGLE: He is brusque. He’s a tough taskmaster.
MYERS: He is.
ANGLE: One gets the impression he doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
MYERS: I think actually, I think he suffers, he is very patient with people that don’t have their story, their facts together. He is very patient in trying to get out of them what information they do have. He is also very loyal down the chain. You can check the record book, but at least when I was on active duty in these last four years, Secretary Rumsfeld never ever asked any commander in the field to be relieved. He has a lot of sympathy for those that are in the crucible of conflict and he knows mistakes will be made because there are a lot of things to deal with and he has been very tolerant of that.
ANGLE: Now, the people who have spoken out sound like they were crossed somewhere that they feel — to listen to them — feel betrayed somehow by the secretary of Defense. Did he reject their advice? Do you know of anything in particular that would prompt this?
MYERS: You know, I don’t know. I do not know. I have not talked to these individuals. Some of them have long standing, have been long-standing critics at least one of them, of the current efforts on the War on Terrorism of the administration in general and the secretary in particular. But others I just don’t know.
ANGLE: Let me ask you one other question before we go about, a little more than 30 seconds. There was talk of planning for possible action against Iran at some point down the road. Is that just prudent planning or is that something that people should be concerned about?
MYERS: I’m out of uniform now, I can’t tell you. But when I was in uniform I think what the American people would expect that when you deal with issues such as Iran and other important issues to our national — to our security interests, that you would talk about all instruments of national power of which the military is one and so you would always have a prudent planning ongoing. That would be part what you do normally. And it shouldn’t be alarming or anything else. It’s, you know, if asked, you want — you know, planning might tell you that you don’t have any feasible alternatives.
ANGLE: Got to go.
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