More supporters rallied yesterday behind embattled US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, whose future at the Pentagon has been called into question by several prominent retired generals demanding his resignation.
Retired generals John Crosby, Thomas McInerney, Burton Moore and Paul Vallely said Rumsfeld was "arguably one of the most effective secretaries of defense our nation has ever had."
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, the four generals said that as long as Rumsfeld retains the confidence of US President George W. Bush, he will make the important calls at the top of the Department of Defense.
"That's the way America works," the generals said. "So let's all breathe into a bag and get on with winning the global war against radical Islam."
On Sunday, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers told ABC television that military officials -- even in retirement -- should keep their criticism to themselves.
"It's inappropriate, because it's not the military that judges our civilian bosses," said Myers, who left his post as senior US military adviser six months ago.
At least six former generals have called for Rumsfeld's ouster, some of whom held key combat commands and staff positions during the Iraq war. They say the defense secretary ignored military advice and deployed too few troops to pacify Iraq.
Myers denied that military leaders failed to speak up when they disagreed with Rumsfeld and Bush.
"We gave him our best military advice and I think that's what we're obligated to do," Myers said "If we don't do that, we should be shot."
However, Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd said the few generals who have dared to speak out represent just a fraction of the far larger number of detractors.
"Generals are not in the habit, even as retirees, to go around being critical of the civilian leadership. This is a very, very important event," he told the Fox News Sunday television program.
Republican lawmakers defended the president's choice.
Senator Mitch McConnell called Rumsfeld "a spectacular secretary of defense, one of the best in American history," also appearing on Fox News Sunday.
The late president Richard Nixon's secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, speaking on CNN television's Late Edition program, hailed Rumsfeld as "a distinguished public servant who has done an outstanding job."
"The issue now is whether in order to deal with a decision made three years ago, one should undertake the blood-letting that these generals are asking for," he said.
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