Associated Press quotes Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace in his first remarks following Secretary Gates’s announcement of his pending replacement on June 8:
Gen. Peter Pace disclosed that he had turned down an offer to voluntarily retire rather than be forced out. To quit in wartime, he said, would be letting down the troops.
Pace, responding to a question from the audience after he spoke at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., on Thursday evening, said he first heard that his expected nomination for a second two-year term was in jeopardy in mid-May. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on June 8 announced Pace was being replaced.
“One thing that was discussed was whether or not I should just voluntarily retire and take the issue off the table,” Pace said, according to a transcript released Friday by his office at the Pentagon. “I said I could not do that for one very fundamental reason,” which is that no soldier or Marine in Iraq should “think — ever — that his chairman, whoever that person is, could have stayed in the battle and voluntarily walked off the battlefield. “That is unacceptable as a leadership thing, in my mind,” he added.
Secretary Gates stated that his decision to drop Pace was made to avoid conflict with Congress. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was recently quoted calling Pace “incompetent” and other senior Congressional figures have questioned the candor of many statements he made before Congress over the last two years, particularly his assessment of the situation in Iraq. Some within the Pentagon have noted that Pace was “Rumsfeld’s man,” that he was ideologically wedded to the Neoconservatives – a view recently bolstered by a letter he furnished, on Pentagon letterhead, to the judge sentencing Scooter Libby – and that he suffered from chronic intolerance in his statements about homosexuals. The new choice will give Gates an important opportunity to place his own mark on the Pentagon.