Former Top General Blasts Bush Administration On Iraq


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.


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  • domajot

    I can’t help it. The past colors the value I can give to Sandhez’s words. Abu Graib and all that it mens is just too terrible to put aside.

    As I remember, Investigaions found that lack of oversight and some of the interrogation techniques Sanchez had authorized were part of what led to the scandal. He blamed politics for his troubles.
    Even if that’s true, I would say that the finger of blame should also be pointed at his own poor judgment.

    Now, when reading his words, it’s hard to forget what sort of man has wriitten them.

  • Somebody

    Here is another telling article about the late great General.

    Sanchez retired from the Army last year, two years after he completing a tumultuous year as commander of all U.S. forces in Iraq. As he stepped down, he called his career a casualty of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

    He was never charged with anything but he was not promoted in the aftermath of the prisoner abuse reports. He was criticized by some for not doing more to avoid mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners.

    This is that hippy era movement culture rearing its ugly head. Blame anything and everything but ME. He reminds me of Jake Blues in the blues brother in the sewer as Carrie Fisher holds a gun on him threatening to kill him for not showing up for their wedding.

    “There was a flood. My car broke down. My tux didnt come back from the tailor. Their was an earthquake, I had a headache!”


  • krit

    This is one of those situations when there’s enough blame to spread around. Sanchez own hands are not clean, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t been pursuing a deeply flawed strategy for years either. He does seem to have an axe to grind , however. Its impossible to sort out who was accountable for all of the decisions leading into and surrounding the conduct of this disasterous war, as everyone involved is obfuscating or finger pointing.

    The part of his statements that I do believe is that those who planned the war lacked moral courage and allowed themselves to fallaciously believe that we would be greeted as liberators, when there was ample evidence to the contrary. It also seems evident that we are stuck in an endless war because of the flawed strategy, and that the surge is more of a holding pattern than anything else.

    Of course, any decrease in death and violence is always welcome, so Gen. Petraeus should be commended for achieving that. Its just that Iraq’s fate is out of our hands now. The military part is the only part that we can even partially control, but that won’t have any affect on the Iraqi government, and won’t provide water, electricity and jobs.

  • stevesh

    Although, apparently, American citizens cannot be left to assess the General’s remarks on our own, the actual speech is here:

    An excerpt follows. Enjoy. Caps in the original!


  • domajot

    And how does what you sayy change Sanchez’s own record or standing?

    The nation is in a quagmire in Iraq.
    Sanchez says nothing to enlighten that others haven’t said bejore him and he does not redeem himself by saying it.

    He’s just a hiccup in the midst of a debate.

  • RockyTermanini

    General Ricardo Sanchez testimony about Iraq nightmare is another nail in Bush’s coffin. I am glad that he got out of his closet and voiced his frustration. What amazes me is that our beloved president has no vision of the present or the future. Many citizen still eat his bullshit and think it is a piece of candy. His “laissez fair” attitude is defies any religion. He is going to cruise the rest of his term and pass dirty laundry to the next president. Bravo Mr. President.