Top Marine said generals diminished by Rumsfeld

October 05, 2006|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Gen. James L. Jones, once the U.S. Marine Corps top officer who now is NATO's supreme commander, acknowledged yesterday that he had expressed concerns about the diminished role of the military's uniformed leadership to Gen. Peter Pace just before Pace rose to the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as reported in a new book.

But Jones insisted that the concerns he expressed focused more on the legal structure of the Pentagon's upper echelons than on personalities.

In State of Denial, by Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, Jones is quoted as telling Pace that the Joint Chiefs - the top uniformed officers of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines - had improperly "surrendered" authority to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The account of Jones' meeting with Pace - in which he is said to have expressed "chagrin" that Pace would want to serve as "a parrot on the secretary's shoulder" - is among the more notable claims in Woodward's book, since it marks the first time that an officer of Jones' rank and influence, while still on active duty, has publicly questioned Rumsfeld's role in war planning.

Several high-ranking retired generals, including two who commanded Army divisions in Iraq and a Marine who was a senior staff member for the Joint Chiefs during Iraq war planning, have called for Rumsfeld's resignation in recent months because of his handling of the war. However, Jones sought yesterday to distance himself from those officers.

"I do not associate myself with the so-called `revolt of the generals,'" Jones said. "I do not in any way associate myself with that particular group and will not associate myself in my retired life, either."

But Jones acknowledged that he had a wide-ranging conversation with Pace, a fellow Marine who has served with him in a variety of posts since 1970, during a September 2005 visit Pace made to Stuttgart, Germany, just after his nomination as Joint Chiefs chairman.

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