Former Top General Blasts Bush Administration On Iraq

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Add another former military bigwig to the ranks of those who’ve left the service only to come out later in public to call the administration’s Iraq policy incompetent and a hard-to-escape mess.

But this time it’s a huge former bigwig:

In a sweeping indictment of the four-year effort in Iraq, the former top American commander called the Bush administration’s handling of the war incompetent and warned that the United States was “living a nightmare with no end in sight.”

In one of his first major public speeches since leaving the Army in late 2006, retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez blamed the administration for a “catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan” and denounced the current “surge” strategy as a “desperate” move that will not achieve long-term stability.

“After more than fours years of fighting, America continues its desperate struggle in Iraq without any concerted effort to devise a strategy that will achieve victory in that war-torn country or in the greater conflict against extremism,” Mr. Sanchez said, at a gathering here of military reporters and editors.

Sanchez is seemingly suggesting that the U.S. is really in a kind of holding pattern, which supports a feeling many Americans (of both parties and no parties) have now begun to get that the real game plan may to run out the rest of President George Bush’s term and leave major Iraq policy adjustments to the next President.

General Sanchez is the most senior in a string of retired generals to harshly criticize the administration’s conduct of the war. Asked following his remarks why he waited nearly a year after his retirement to outline his views, he responded that that it was not the place of active duty officers to challenge lawful orders from civilian authorities. General Sanchez, who is said to be considering a book, promised further public statements criticizing officials by name.

“There was been a glaring and unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders,” he said, adding later in his remarks that civilian officials have been “derelict in their duties” and guilty of a “lust for power.”

The New York Times story says the White House had no immediate comment, but there will likely be one in coming days either from the White House — or from its large stable of surrogates. And you can expect some comments will attempt to discredit Sanchez.
NBC adds this:

His comments appeared to be a broad indictment of White House policies and a lack of leadership in the Pentagon to oppose them. Such assessments — even by former Pentagon brass — are not new, but they have added resonance as debates over war strategy dominate the presidential campaign.

Sanchez said the war in Iraq is “a nightmare with no end in sight,” adding America has no choice but to continue fighting or the country will sink into chaos, which will spread throughout the Middle East. America will be there “for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Sanchez is confirming what many experts suggest. The Iraq War will bog the U.S. down for some time to come, news stories of military deaths will continue — and most likely historians will consider it one of the biggest military miscalculations in American history.

The so-called surge of troops in Iraq is “a desperate attempt by the administration,” and the best the U.S. can do at this point is to “stave off defeat,” Sanchez said.

Asked when he realized the war was on the skids, Sanchez said, “15 June 2003″ — the day he took over as commander of coalition forces.

The officers and military leadership involved in the planning for the war in Iraq suffered from “an absolute lack of moral courage to stand up and do what was right in terms of planning,” Sanchez said. “We allowed ourselves to believe we would be greeted as liberators,” he said.

In other words, the military didn’t question the assertions from the administration’s civilian pro-war faction whom recent news reports and books such as Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s have shown formulated policy by positive affirmations rather than the traditional way taught in colleges of coolly listing and analyzing each option.

Sanchez said that the decision to disband the Iraqi army disenfranchised 300,000 to 400,000 Iraqis and put them out on the streets, fueling the insurgency.

The Army Times’ account was less sympathetic:

Jaws dropped as Sanchez glared out at the room, and then eyes rolled as he spent an hour blaming everyone but himself. Most of what he said about the military has been said before: There’s no grand strategy, the Iraqi Army should not have been disbanded, there was no planning for stabilization or recovery past the initial invasion and, “the administration has failed.”

He said deployment cycles aren’t working with current troop levels, that it will take decades to fix the “military’s full-spectrum readiness,” and that if the U.S. were to withdraw from Iraq, it would lead to “chaos that would lead to instability in the Middle East.” And, he said the Powell Doctrine — which requires a clear exit strategy as part of a war plan — was violated.

He said some poor strategic decisions in Iraq had become “defeats because of the media,” and that some reporters feed from a “pigs’ trough.”

He lamented the media’s treatment of Federal Emergency Management chief Michael Brown during Hurricane Katrina. Brown resigned from FEMA after accusations that he had mishandled the hurricane.

Writes Steve Clemons:

Generals don’t seem to be able to speak their minds when in uniform. Well, with the exception of Eric Shinseki — and very possibly David Petraeus who seems to be driving his own machinery on Iraq spin….Note to Generals today — it would help us to know your real views about attacking Iran NOW — rather than after the fact if we go that direction.

Intel Dump’s Phil Carter is also critical of the timing:

When you played the role that Sanchez did — commanding the war during its early stages, making so many critical errors — do you get to play the critic today? I mean, it’s as if Gen. William Westmoreland decided in 1971 to give a speech that called out LBJ and McNamara for messing up Vietnam. Sorry general… it just doesn’t work like that.

Of course, I agree with many of Sanchez’ criticisms here. He’s right when he says that we have never brought the full arsenal of American power to bear. He’s right that the “interagency” is broken. Duh. And he’s probably right that we still lack a strategy which can produce victory in Iraq — assuming such a thing exists, or that it can be attained. But these points are hardly original. And when you’re a top general, you don’t get credit for figuring things out after you give up command and retire. Sanchez had his moment to get things right, when he was commanding U.S. forces in Iraq, and he fell short. He was the apotheosis of an Army general officer corps that never quite “got it” in Iraq, never understood the essential nature of the war.

Ron Beasley warns:

Look out General – you can probably expect a visit from Michelle Malkin.

The Astute Blogger’s post has this headline: “GENERAL SANCHEZ — WHO WAS A LOSER WHO WAS RELIEVED OF HIS COMMAND IN IRAQ — BLAMES OTHERS AND CALLS IRAQ UNWINNABLE”