Skip to comments.Schoomaker calls retired generals' comments 'inappropriate'
Posted on 04/29/2006 12:35:18 PM PDT by No Longer Free State
ARLINGTON, Va. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker on Wednesday criticized retired generals who have come out against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other defense leaders, calling their comments unfortunate and inappropriate.
I was retired, and you didnt see me doing it, Schoomaker told reporters during a Washington press breakfast. If I thought what these officers were saying was true, I would not be here.
Schoomaker suggested that if the generals were so unhappy with their civilian masters, they should have left their jobs in protest.
I think we have a responsibility, while were in uniform, if we cant put up with whats going on, to pick up our saddle up and move on, Schoomaker said.
Such criticism could break the trust between military officers and their civilian counterparts in the future.
I think weve got to be very careful here, Schoomaker said. We do not want civil authority to distrust people who are giving them advice.
Schoomaker is the latest senior officer to weigh in on the unusually public debate among current and former military officials over Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush administrations handling of the war in Iraq.
In the past month, eight retired generals including recently retired commanders with experience in Iraq have called for Rumsfelds resignation, saying that he has mishandled the war on terror and lost the confidence of the military.
Many of the retired generals have made a point of noting Rumsfelds allegedly abrasive management style. But any officer who has made war his chosen profession, Schoomaker said, should be more than able to handle aggressive bosses.
Ive been in the Army 37 years, and I have worked for some tough people, Schoomaker said. Were soldiers. Were warriors. Ive never been intimidated in my life, by anybody.
Schoomaker said that he offers a lot of military advice, and I have never not been heard.
He noted, however, that I cant say Ive always been agreed with.
But no military professional should fool himself into thinking that offering advice and having it taken all the time are one and the same thing, Schoomaker said.
As top military leaders, We are responsible to provide independent advice to civilian leaders, who in turn have the Constitutional authority to make strategic decisions, he said.
That doesnt mean they agree with our advice all the time.
And if a military officers advice is not taken, Schoomaker said, You cant run around here with your nerves on your sleeve, [protesting] every time someone does something you dont agree with.
Military professionals who respect the chain of command must learn when the time has come to accept that, having had their say, they must step back and allow higher-ups to make the final call, he said.
Instead, I think you end up at a point [saying to yourself] look, is it legal, is it moral, is it ethical, can I live with the consequences? Schoomaker said.
If you cant, youve got a responsibility to do something about it, and do it while youre in the position, Schoomaker said.
But if youve gone through all of that, and lived with it, Im not quite sure what were doing here cleansing our consciences afterwards, Schoomaker said.
I think its inappropriate.
One of the things given to you at your retirement ceremony is a certificate of appreciation signed by the President (probably by a machine). I could not accept such a certificate with Clinton's name on it.
The CO offered to not present the certificate at the ceremony (it wasn't presented at all...I refused it). I still had to decline. If the certificate had not been presented a lot of people would have noticed and what kind of example does that set for the folks.
So, I had no choice but to decline a ceremony.
The Defense Department waves away the protesting generals as just a handful out of more than 8,000 now serving or retired. That seems to me too dismissive. These generals are no doubt correct in asserting that they have spoken to and speak on behalf of some retired and, even more important, some active-duty members of the military.
But that makes the generals' revolt all the more egregious. The civilian leadership of the Pentagon is decided on Election Day, not by the secret whispering of generals.
We've always had discontented officers in every war and in every period of our history. But they rarely coalesce into factions. That happens in places such as Hussein's Iraq, Pinochet's Chile or your run-of-the-mill banana republic. And when it does, outsiders (including the United States) do their best to exploit it, seeking out the dissident factions to either stage a coup or force the government to change policy.
That kind of dissident party within the military is alien to America. Some other retired generals have found it necessary to rise to the defense of the administration. Will the rest of the generals, retired or serving, now have to declare which camp they belong to?
It is precisely this kind of division that our tradition of military deference to democratically elected civilian superiors was meant to prevent.
Today it suits the antiwar left to applaud the rupture of that tradition. But it is a disturbing and very dangerous precedent that even the left will one day regret.
Everyone is saying that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s days are numbered, thanks in part to increasing calls by some former generals for Rumsfeld’s resignation.
But Rumsfeld was hired by George W. Bush to do precisely what he has done to the consternation of the generals who are now coming out to complain about him.
When President Bush brought Rumsfeld back to the Pentagon, the president told him to shake up the Pentagon, to transform it from the Cold War structure and culture that it was stuck in to a new force with strategies that could respond to the post-Cold War world.
Months before Sept. 11, as Rumsfeld began the transformation of the Pentagon, he ran into contumacious obstructionism from the army and its then-Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki. Shinseki dug his heels in and refused to change much of anything about the Army.
Shinseki went as far as to go behind Rumsfeld’s back to the Senate where his political mentor (and long-time family friend, Sen. Dan Inouye of Hawaii) and others backed his play.
But for the political cover Sen. Inouye gave Shinseki, he might have been fired then and there. Civilian control of the military means people such as Shinseki cannot be allowed to play the back-channel political games he played again and again.
Shinseki balked at striking at the Taliban. For the record, our forces slashed into the Taliban around Oct. 5, 2001, less than a month after Sept 11. But — aside from Rangers and Army Special Forces — the Army stayed home.
Shinseki wanted at least six months to assemble and move an enormous Soviet-like force into Afghanistan and the president wasn’t having any of it. This is why Shinseki retired in 2003 with a festering grudge against Rumsfeld.
And then Rumsfeld did the unthinkable. Instead of replacing Shinseki with one of his like-minded underlings, Rumsfeld looked for someone who would fight.
Gen. Peter Schoomaker, a Special Forces vet, was brought out of retirement to transform the Army in the middle of a war. And he did it. But in the process Rumsfeld, Schoomaker and his team shook up a lot of people.
"protesting generals as just a handful out of more than 8,000 now serving or retired."
In a sizable military, how many generals [and admirals] ought there to be? 1 per 2000 service members? 1 per 5000?
I went to a retirement ceremony of a good friend of mine, a Navy Commander. When it came time to read the certificate, the CAPT looked at her, and she said "no thanks". Everyone got a good laugh. The military loathed Clinton. Recall also, there were several generals who retired en-mass under Clinton and none of them spoke out, they just left the service. Some could have stayed, but they were principled individuals, and left and remained silent (at least publically).
Good for you. I am sorry you had to face that choice. It's a disgrace that you had to.
I wrote the White House in 2001 and explained my situation. I now have a certificate actually signed by the (current) President.
You are correct and that is why President Bush finally came out the other day and responded to a media question that Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a good job and he is staying.
I'm gald to see General Schoomaker join Generals Franks, Myers and Pace in showing real integrity in support of the SecDef.
And considering his relationship with the military, I think you should be proud to have it. That's a great ending to the story. I'm happy for you. You deserve it.
Congratulations, glad to hear that and it is appropriate.
In the Department of Defense there are:
34 - four star generals/admirals
124 - three star generals/admirals
278 - two star generals/admirals
439 - one star generals/admirals
Throw in the U.S. Coast Guard and you have 900 generals and admirals on active duty today. This is roughly the same number of generals/admirals who were on active duty in WWII when our military was 12,000,000 strong.
Given that on any given year 15-20% of those generals/admirals will retire each year it doesn't take much figuring to realize that the number of generals calling for Secretary Rumsfeld to resign is laughable.
Which makes me think that...
in the case of the 8 retired generals speaking out against Rumsfeld's & President Bush's policies...
...some how....some way...
....their pockets have been well-padded & their nest eggs multiplied by some underhanded people.
IMO, the trail probably ends at the DNC.
My first observation: There is no "Revolt of the Generals". Such a "revolt" involves a large number of senior flag officers resigning en masse for the same reason.
My second observation: All "policy" comments by these dissatisfied retired flag officers are inappropriate and meaningless. Inappropriate because they should not be trading on their ranks while not serving officers. Meaningless because they did not have the integrity to resign their commissions when they were soooo concerned about their superior's leadership
My last observation: Flag officers have careers of unbroken success. When they finally come up against a career brick wall each flag officer's true inner strength is finally revealed. Most survive the inner ordeal. It seems we have identified, in their retirement, some who have been found lacking
Summation: These petulant crybabies disgust me. I am ashamed they ever wore the uniform. They should go home to mommy to cry. Otherwise, they need to do the honorable thing and just shut up!
Good article. Thanks for the updates.
Roger you last....
The "retired Generals" calling for Rumsfeld's head, are literally no more than a pimple on the ass of our warrior clan..