Rumsfeld and the Grumbling Generals

Whatever happened to "old soldiers never die, they just fade away?" At least six former generals have called for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. What are the implications for the war in Iraq?

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DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.


NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: That famous quotation from General Douglas MacArthur may have to be amended, in light of an amazing uprising of retired generals against their civilian boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The generals challenged the conduct of the war in Iraq and in some cases the rationale for the war. In Time magazine retired Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold decried an unnecessary war fought on a zealous rationale that made no sense.

On NPR, retired Army General John Riggs called for Rumsfeld's resignation as one who only listens to the military when it serves his purpose. Retired Army General Eric Shinseki, while still in service, warned that the expeditionary force in Iraq was spread too thin and thereafter he was marginalized by the Bush Administration. Retired Army General John Batiste said that civilian leadership was needed that respected the military. And retired Major General Charles Swannack, who commanded the 82nd Airborne Division, spoke of Rumsfeld's absolute failures in managing the war.

To all of this, President Bush responds praising Rumsfeld's energetic and steady leadership. But this flap is not likely to end there. It's bound to escalate when Congress returns from its Easter recess and the pressure on Rumsfeld is likely to grow, raising an uncomfortable issue of civilian control over the military. This is Daniel Schorr.

LYDEN: Jousting among former generals over Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's job performance continued into the weekend. Retired General Richard Myers, the former chairman of the joint chiefs, said calls for Rumsfeld's departure by former military officers were inappropriate. Former NATO Commander Wesley Clark disagreed, saying that former commanders had a responsibility to speak out. And he added his own voice to those already calling for an end to the Rumsfeld era at the Pentagon, saying quote, "Rumsfeld hasn't done an adequate job. He should go."

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