Three retired generals have broken cover and silence in recent days and called publicly for President Bush to fire his defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld. Way past time for the officer corps to speak up, I say.
Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni was the four-star commander of U.S. Central Command just before 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has long experience in the Middle East, and President Bush used him as his negotiator in the Israel-Palestinian standoff.
Besides urging the firing of Rumsfeld, Zinni suggested that there was also something wrong with military leaders unwilling to risk their careers by speaking up against disastrous ideas that come down from their civilian bosses.
Currently serving officers have only to recall what befell the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, when he first opposed Rumsfeld's plan to cut Army strength by two more divisions, and the Army National Guard by four divisions, in August 2001, and then in February 2003 told a senator at a hearing that he thought it would require "several hundred thousand" American troops to occupy and pacify Iraq successfully.
It was the truth and it came from a standard formula that was not of Shinseki's making. But that estimate ran counter to Rumsfeld's idea, and Shinseki became an "un-person" in the Pentagon. He may have been chief of the Army, but Rumsfeld and others disparaged his estimate as wildly off the mark, and Pentagon officials leaked to the press that the vice chief would be his replacement, even though Shinseki still had 18 months on his tour as chief of staff before he would retire.