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How can we ignore the generals?

I received this e-mail from Congressman Richard Neal on Thursday and thought it was of interest. The following is an excerpt:

"Citing his mismanagement of the Iraq war, Congressman Richard E. Neal today called for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. After more than three years at war, approximately 2,396 American casualties, and with no honorable exit strategy in sight, Neal said it was time for Rumsfeld to step aside. In October 2002, Neal was 1 of 133 House Members who voted against the resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq.

"'Since the beginning of the war, I have had serious concerns and reservations about Donald Rumsfeld's leadership,' said Neal. 'I never believed that the Secretary of Defense sent enough troops to Iraq, but he dismissed those who questioned his judgment at the time. When Army General Eric Shinseki told Congress in 2003 that that 'several hundred thousand troops' would be needed to secure postwar Iraq, he was rebuked by Rumsfeld. That was a defining moment for many Americans who had doubts about the war. It suggested the Secretary of Defense was not listening to the advice of his military commanders. Unfortunately, events in Iraq have proven that General Shinseki was right.

"In the last month, seven retired military commanders have publicly called for Rumsfeld's ouster. Army General Wesley Clark, Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, Army Major General John Batiste, Marine Corps Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, Army Major Gen. Paul Eaton, Army General John Riggs and Army Major General Charles Swannack Jr., have all urged the Secretary of Defense to step down..."

As you know Reminder Publications has published a number of stories and photos that tell the stories of local people who are serving their country in Iraq at this time. We have taken our role as community journalists seriously on this subject as none of us want coverage of this conflict to devolve into just a numbers game of causalities and death.

We support the men and women who are doing their duty.

I grew up in an Air Force family. When I was a kid the slogan "Peace is our Profession" was something I either heard or read quite often. I never heard warmongering from anyone. People in the armed forces know exactly the price of conflict and they take it very seriously.

The administration of any military action is the result of a civilian authority (the President, the Secretary of Defense) making decisions based on information brought to them from a number of sources. They are not obligated, though, to follow the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or other military authority.

I can't remember another time when so many retired generals came forward to criticize an administration on the management of a war.

With the fragile state of the world today, can we afford to continue ignoring them?

This column represents the opinions of its author alone.

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