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Programming note: Who are Donald Rumsfeld's defenders and critics? Tonight at 7 pm. ET on "The Situation Room."

Pentagon fights back over Rumsfeld

Memo defends defense secretary; Myers dismisses criticism

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Richard Myers' 2005 farewell ceremony is attended by President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Peter Pace, right.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon made public Sunday a memorandum it sent to supporters and critics of Donald Rumsfeld, after a week in which several retired generals called for the defense secretary's resignation.

The memo is an apparent attempt to challenge accusations that Rumsfeld has not adequately considered the views of U.S. military leaders in formulating decisions.

"The U.S. senior military leaders are involved to an unprecedented degree in every decision-making process in the Department of Defense," the first line of the memo said.

Entitled "U.S. Military Leaders and their Involvement in National Security Decision-Making," its existence was first reported in Sunday editions of the New York Times.

The one-page memo, which bears no date and no indication of who wrote it, said Rumsfeld met 139 times with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and 208 times with combatant commanders since the beginning of 2005.

The memo came after six retired generals in recent days publicly stated their criticism of Rumsfeld's leadership and called for his resignation.

Retired Gen. Richard Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the retired generals' criticism is "inappropriate, because it's not the military that judges our civilian bosses."

He rejected suggestions that the joints chiefs had been intimidated by Rumsfeld and President Bush.

"I absolutely disagree with that, of course. I mean, we gave him our best military advice," he told ABC's "This Week." "That's what we're obligated to do. If we don't do that, we should be shot."

He added, "In our system, the civilian control of the military means that civilians make the decisions. ... And we live by those decisions."

Myers also defended former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, who drew the Pentagon's ire when he told Congress in February 2003 that "something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" would be needed to govern Iraq after a war.

Rumsfeld, who advocated a smaller force, discounted that estimate within days.

Shinseki, who retired in June 2003, "was inappropriately criticized, I believe, for speaking out," Myers said.

He added, however, that Shinseki's estimates "never came up" in meetings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Rumsfeld also drew support from retired Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong, the former deputy chief of U.S. forces in the Middle East. Writing in The New York Times, DeLong said the generals were wrong to blame Rumsfeld for the problems the United States now faces in Iraq -- "and when they do so in a time of war, the rest of the world watches."

"Mr. Rumsfeld does not give in easily in disagreements, either, and he will always force you to argue your point thoroughly. This can be tough for some people to deal with," DeLong wrote.

"I witnessed many heated but professional conversations between my immediate commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, and Mr. Rumsfeld -- but the secretary always deferred to the general on war-fighting issues."

On the Sunday news shows, Rumsfeld received the support of some GOP politicians, while Democrats continued to call for his resignation.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, backed Rumsfeld.

"I think he's been a spectacular secretary of defense, one of the best in American history, and I certainly do not think he ought to resign," the Kentucky senator told "Fox News Sunday."

But Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Democratic member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the generals' criticism must be weighed seriously.

"These are very significant commanders. They led troops in Iraq, Afghanistan. They've led major infantry divisions. This is very, very important. And I think you ought to pay attention here," the Connecticut senator told Fox.

"These are generals who are not only speaking for themselves, but I suspect are speaking for a lot of senior military people who are in uniform today and under Article 88, of course, of the military code, would be not permitted to make public comments about the president or the secretary of defense," he said.

Former NATO military chief Wesley Clark, who called for Rumsfeld's resignation during his unsuccessful 2004 Democratic presidential campaign, told Fox News, "It's not about how many meetings you have, really -- it's about the results."

"What these generals are saying is, there are people who understood that you needed more troops, that this wasn't going to be a cakewalk, that you needed to do certain things," Clark said.

"The secretary of defense chose not to listen to that advice, he chose to run the war his way. It hasn't worked, he's accountable. He should be held accountable. It's up to the president to make the decision and get somebody in there who can lead the Defense Department."

Retired Brig. Gen. James Marks, who works as a CNN military analyst, said Sunday he had dealt with Rumsfeld only "from a distance" in the run-up to the war and did not call for his resignation.

"I kind of had the impression that his mind and those around him had been made up in terms of what we were going to do and how we were going to go about doing it," Marks said. "There were many planning sessions that took place, and there were requests for forces that were denied."

Retired Brig. Gen. David Grange, also a CNN military analyst, said Sunday it would be "inappropriate" for Rumsfeld to step down, adding that the criticism came from "a small number" of retired generals.

"My concern with the whole dialogue that's going on is the morale of the force, and we have a mission to accomplish," Grange said.

Bush said Friday that Rumsfeld has his "full support and deepest appreciation." The president said he had spoken with his defense secretary hours earlier and expressed "strong support for his leadership during this historic and challenging time for our nation." (Full story)

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