US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has made his first public comment over calls for his resignation by a group of retired
generals, telling conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh that
“this too will pass”.
Mr Rumsfeld made no direct reference during the live interview with Limbaugh to the six retired generals who called for him to quit, but he suggested that his defence had only just begun.
“You know, this, too, will pass,” he said when Limbaugh asked him how it felt to go from sex symbol to having “practically the entire media jump on the case of these six generals demanding your ouster?”
“I think about it, and I must say, there’s always two sides to these things, and the sharper the criticism comes, sometimes the sharper the defence comes from people who don’t agree with the critics,” Mr Rumsfeld said.
The Defence Secretary said he was pleased to see other retired generals step up to defend him.
They included retired general Richard Myers, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; retired general Tommy Franks, the commander of the 2003 invasion of Iraq; retired lieutenant general Michael DeLong, Franks’s former deputy at the US Central Command; and retired admiral Vernon Clark, the former chief of naval operations.
‘Eye of the beholder’
Asked why he was being attacked now, Mr Rumsfeld said he did not know. “I can’t climb into other people’s minds,” he said.
“I was amused that Admiral Vern Clark said ‘Yes, he is tough and these are tough times and we need people in government who are tough-minded. So I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” he said.
The attacks on Mr Rumsfeld’s leadership and military judgement have carried unusual weight because his critics include three recently retired senior commanders in Iraq and a former operations chief of the Joint Staff.
President George W. Bush moved to quell the dissent on Friday declaring his “full support” for Rumsfeld and saying his leadership was exactly what was needed.
Four more retired generals, writing in The Wall Street Journal newspaper, said it was inappropriate for active duty or retired officers to criticize the civilian leadership during a war.
“Calling for the secretary’s resignation during wartime may undercut the US mission and incites individual challenge to the good order and discipline of our military culture,” they wrote.
The four, John Crosby, Thomas McInerney, Burton Moore and Paul Vallely, said Mr Rumsfeld was “arguably one of the most effective secretaries of defence
our nation has ever had.”
Mr Rumsfeld will press his case at a Pentagon meeting on Tuesday with military commentators, many of them retired senior officers now working for US television networks.