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Battle of the generals continues with article defending Rumsfeld

Four retired generals fire back at critics of defense secretary

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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 media skirmishes over Donald Rumsfeld continued Monday, as four retired generals wrote an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal defending the secretary of defense and suggesting that some of his critics don't understand the war on terrorism.

"Much of the acrimony expressed by Secretary Rumsfeld's military critics appears to stem from his efforts to 'transform' the military by moving to a joint expeditionary force that is lighter and more mobile in nature to meet the nation's current and future threats," the article said.

"Many senior officers and bureaucrats did not support his transformation goals -- preferring conventional weapons of the past ... which prove practically useless against lawless and uncivilized enemies engaged in asymmetric warfare," the writers continued. (Watch Rumsfeld fight fire with fire -- 2:18)

"It unfortunately appears that two of the retired generals (Messrs. Zinni and Newbold) do not understand the true nature of this radical ideology, Islamic extremism, and why we fight in Iraq. We suggest they listen to the tapes of United 93."

The op-ed piece was written by retired Lt. Gen. John Crosby, former deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command; retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, former assistant vice chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force; retired Maj. Gen. Buron Moore, U.S. Air Force, who was director of Central Command during Operation Desert Storm; and retired Maj. Gen Paul Vallely, former deputy commander of the U.S.. Army, Pacific.

Of the two Rumsfeld critics the article singled out, retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni is a former chief of the U.S. Central Command; retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold served as director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2000 to 2002.

In The Wall Street Journal article, the four retired generals wrote, "We do not believe that it is appropriate for active duty, or retired, senior military officers to publicly criticize U.S. civilian leadership during war," and called the Rumsfeld critics' feelings "irrelevant."

The article concluded, "So let's all breathe into a bag and get on with winning the global war against radical Islam. In time the electorate, and history, will grade their decisions."

At the White House briefing on Monday, press secretary Scott McClellan reiterated President Bush's support for Rumsfeld, and mentioned The Wall Street Journal article as evidence that retired generals stand behind the defense secretary.

Also on Monday, U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., a Tennessee Democrat running for his state's Senate seat, suggested replacing Rumsfeld with former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

"General Powell's experience resolving complicated and sensitive national security challenges is needed now more than ever. He will bring a respect for our military, a willingness to listen, a capacity to admit and correct mistakes, and an attention to detail that is absent now in the top job at the Pentagon," Ford said in a press release.

And CNN learned that the Pentagon has called a Tuesday meeting of all of its "TV generals," retired generals who serve as analysts for television and newspapers and get regular Pentagon briefings. They're expected to meet with Rumsfeld and discuss the current controversy.

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. Its existence was first reported in Sunday editions of The New York Times.

The memo came after six retired generals, including commanders who lead combat troop in Iraq, last week 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."

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."

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

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)

CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this article.

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