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Iraq Transition

Top general defends Rumsfeld

Retired brass has called for the defense secretary's resignation



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Donald H. Rumsfeld
Peter Pace

(CNN) -- The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff defended Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from new criticism by former Pentagon brass Tuesday, telling reporters that "nobody works harder than he does."

"He does his homework. He works weekends. He works nights," Gen. Peter Pace said. "People can question my judgment or his judgment, but they should never question the dedication, the patriotism and the work ethic of Secretary Rumsfeld."

Pace opened Tuesday's regular Pentagon briefing with a defense of the planning for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, where U.S. troops have been battling a persistent insurgency since the fall of Saddam Hussein's government.

In the past month, three former generals have accused Rumsfeld of bungling the occupation of Iraq by refusing to commit enough troops to secure the country after taking Baghdad. (Watch one general cite mistakes in Iraq -- 1:30)

In a Time magazine essay published this week, retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold said the war plan was "fundamentally flawed," and many senior officers "acted timidly when their voices urgently needed to be heard." (Read Newbold's criticism)

"When they knew the plan was flawed, saw intelligence distorted to justify a rationale for war, or witnessed arrogant micromanagement that at times crippled the military's effectiveness, many leaders who wore the uniform chose inaction," wrote Newbold, who was the operations chief for the Joint Chiefs of Staff before retiring.

Another retired Marine general, former U.S. Central Command chief Anthony Zinni, has called for Rumsfeld to resign over his management of the war. And in a New York Times op-ed piece in March, former Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton called Rumsfeld "incompetent."

Asked if the criticism was affecting his ability to do his job, Rumsfeld said, "No."

Newbold left the service in October 2002 -- in part, he said, because of his objections to the upcoming invasion.

"Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I've been silent long enough," he wrote in Time. "I am driven to action now by the missteps and misjudgments of the White House and the Pentagon, and by my many painful visits to our military hospitals."

Rumsfeld said Newbold "never raised an issue publicly or privately when he was here that I know of." Pace also said he was unaware of any objections Newbold raised.

Pace said plans for the invasion were significantly overhauled between the time Newbold retired and the day American troops crossed the Iraqi frontier in March 2003.

He said members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed on to the war plan presented by Gen. Tommy Franks, then-commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, before it was presented to Rumsfeld and President Bush, and top officers had "every opportunity to speak our minds."

"And if we do not, shame on us, because the opportunity is there. It is elicited from us, and we're expected to," Pace said.

About 150,000 U.S. troops went into Iraq to topple Hussein, and about 130,000 remain there to provide security for Iraq's nascent government. But Zinni said estimates of the force needed for any invasion and occupation of Iraq during his 1997-2000 tenure as Central Command chief called for between 380,000 and 500,000 troops.

"The idea that you could control that country in the aftermath with those few troops was flawed," he told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Newbold criticized the Pentagon's civilian leadership for launching the invasion, which he said was done "with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions -- or bury the results." And he criticized fellow officers for not standing up to those leaders, saying their silence meant "that a fundamentally flawed plan was executed for an invented war."

But Pace said "lots of concerns" were raised by both military and civilian leaders -- and Newbold was not one of them.

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