Ex-Commander Says Iraq Effort Is ‘a Nightmare’

#1
WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 — In a sweeping indictment of the four-year effort in Iraq, the former top commander of American forces there called the Bush administration’s handling of the war “incompetent” and said the result was “a nightmare with no end in sight.”

Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, who retired in 2006 after being replaced in Iraq after the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, blamed the Bush administration for a “catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan” and denounced the current addition of American forces as a “desperate” move that would not achieve long-term stability.

“After more than four 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,” General Sanchez said at a gathering of military reporters and editors in Arlington, Va.

He is the most senior war commander of a string of retired officers who have harshly criticized the administration’s conduct of the war. While much of the previous condemnation has been focused on the role of former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, General Sanchez’s was an unusually broad attack on the overall course of the war.

But his own role as commander in Iraq during the Abu Ghraib scandal leaves him vulnerable to criticism that he is shifting the blame from himself to the administration that ultimately replaced him and declined to nominate him for a fourth star, forcing his retirement.

Though he was cleared of wrongdoing in the abuses after an inquiry by the Army’s inspector general, General Sanchez became a symbol — with civilian officials like L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority — of ineffective American leadership early in the occupation.

General Sanchez said he was convinced that the American effort in Iraq was failing the day after he took command, in June 2003. Asked why he waited until nearly a year after his retirement to voice his concerns publicly, he responded that it was not the place of active-duty officers to challenge lawful orders from the civilian authorities.

General Sanchez, who is said to be considering writing a book, promised further public statements criticizing officials by name.

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

White House officials would not comment directly on General Sanchez’s remarks. “We appreciate his service to the country,” said Kate Starr, a White House spokeswoman.

She noted that Gen. David H. Petraeus, the current top commander in Iraq, and Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador to Baghdad, said in their testimony to Congress last month that “there’s more work to be done, but progress is being made in Iraq. And that’s what we’re focused on now.”

General Sanchez has been criticized by some current and retired officers for failing to recognize the growing insurgency in Iraq during his year in command and for failing to put together a plan to unify the disparate military effort, a task that was finally carried out when his successor, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., took over in mid-2004.

General Sanchez included the military and himself among those who made mistakes in Iraq, citing a failure by top commanders to insist on a better post-invasion stabilization plan. He offered a tepid compliment to General Petraeus. The general, he said, could use American troops to gain time in Iraq but could not achieve lasting results.

Michael E. O’Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institution, criticized General Sanchez for implying in his speech that the current military strategy of relying on additional troops and on protecting the Iraqi people is little different than the strategy employed when he was in command.

Noting that calls by members of Congress for troops were rebuffed by the Bush administration in 2003, Mr. O’Hanlon said, “Sanchez was one of the top military people who condoned that, if not directly, then by his silence.”

General Sanchez’s main criticism was leveled at the Bush administration, which he said failed to mobilize the entire United States government, not just the military, to contribute meaningfully to reconstructing and stabilizing Iraq.

“National leadership continues to believe that victory can be achieved by military power alone,” he said. “Continued manipulations and adjustments to our military strategy will not achieve victory. The best we can do with this flawed approach is stave off defeat.”

Asked after his remarks what strategy he favored, General Sanchez ticked off a series of steps—from promoting reconciliation among Iraq’s warring sectarian factions to building effective Iraqi army and police units — that closely paralleled the list of tasks frequently cited by the Bush administration as the pillars of the current strategy.

General Sanchez, now a Pentagon consultant who trains active-duty generals, said the administration’s biggest failure had been its lack of a detailed strategy for achieving those steps and “synchronizing” the military and civilian contributions.

“The administration, Congress and the entire inter-agency, especially the State Department, must shoulder responsibility for the catastrophic failure, and the American people must hold them accountable,” he said.

His talk on Friday at the annual convention of the Military Reporters and Editors Association was not the first time that General Sanchez has been critical of the administration.

He said in an interview in June with Agence France-Presse that the best the United States could achieve in Iraq would be stalemate. And he drew a standing ovation at a gathering of veterans last month when he argued that the country’s problems in Iraq were the result of a “crisis in national political leadership.”

Though General Sanchez remained on active duty after leaving Iraq in 2004, he never received a fourth star, in part because, though he was popular with Mr. Rumsfeld, the Bush administration feared that his nomination hearings in the Senate would turn into a bitter partisan fight and a public replay of the details of the Abu Ghraib scandal.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/13/washington/13general.html?_r=2&hp&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

Sour grapes, defence of a tattered reputation, or self-evident truth?
 
#2
Whatever his motivation, he's promised more of the same.

While he did not criticize any official by name on Friday, he promised he will do so later.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/5210980.html
It will be interesting to see how the right counter-attack. Sanchez was in charge during Abu Ghraib, but was cleared on any wrong-doing, so it's hard to attack him that way.

My impression is that the US is a good six months behind Britain, possibly longer, in terms what can and can't be said in public regarding Iraq. The British press, from the Daily Mail leftwards, is now openly critical of the Iraq adventure. That is currently unthinkable in the US: any newspaper or TV editor who did it would face being tarred and feathered for alleged unpatriotic thought-crime.
 
#3
Not sure I'm with you there, Annakeny. Apart from the zealots at Fox Nexs, it's pretty easy to say that there's a shared understanding that the whole thing a festering turd in the middle of the dance floor. Where it all goes quiet is when people ask about what can be done to make the situation at least managable. Nobody in ther right mind on either side of the aisle is seriously talking about victory any more- at least not in the terms originally envisioned, but at the same time in the run up to an election year, nobody wants to be the grown-up who talks about defeat. Instead what you see here are gradual attempts to lower the bar when it comes to standards and expectations.

The fact is that since the UK commitment only represents about 3% of the total manpower involved, the UK is in a position whereby it can withdraw without everything crashing to the ground. The Americans don't have that luxury. As far as I can tell, the house of cards has to fall at some point, the current Administration are just playing for time so it doesn't happen on their watch. That way, when the next election cycle comes around they can do the same as the Hawks did in Vietnam and just thump their chest at weak-willed doves who cut off funds for the war as the source of defeat and draw attention from the fact that the strategy and management of the war led to only one inevitable conclusion. The sad thing is though that it'll probably work- a key part of American political culture is that they really don't handle the idea of losing very well at all.
 
#4
annakey said:
Whatever his motivation, he's promised more of the same.

While he did not criticize any official by name on Friday, he promised he will do so later.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/5210980.html
It will be interesting to see how the right counter-attack. Sanchez was in charge during Abu Ghraib, but was cleared on any wrong-doing, so it's hard to attack him that way.

My impression is that the US is a good six months behind Britain, possibly longer, in terms what can and can't be said in public regarding Iraq. The British press, from the Daily Mail leftwards, is now openly critical of the Iraq adventure. That is currently unthinkable in the US: any newspaper or TV editor who did it would face being tarred and feathered for alleged unpatriotic thought-crime.
Not having a clue what you are talking about never slows you down does it Annakey. Most of the US media has been fiercely critical of the US involvement in Iraq. Much of it is in fact heavily biased the other way as demonstrated by the thread on here recently about how desperate they are for bad news stories.

Most of the US Military personnel I have met who have served in Iraq won't watch any of the main news channels due to their biased reporting, including Fox for being too far the other way.
 
#5
LEGZ30 said:
...
Not having a clue what you are talking about never slows you down does it Annakey. Most of the US media has been fiercely critical of the US involvement in Iraq. Much of it is in fact heavily biased the other way as demonstrated by the thread on here recently about how desperate they are for bad news stories.
...
Frankly the US media is lead by nose by the Pentagon briefings and Congress position papers and only occasionally shamed into doing their jobs when their gullibility is revealed. If the lazy bastards diligently read think tank reports let alone could read Arabic they'd paint a march darker picture. The British press are even worse.

You'll get very diverse opinions from serving and retired soldiers on Iraq. They are shaped by where they served and how things went. LTG Sanchez had a very unhappy time in Iraq. Presiding over the military end of the truly disastrous CPA period. He'll forever be connected with the shameful episode of Abu Ghraib in the public imagination. He did after all allow it to happen on his watch. He never got his forth star. His next command, V Corps, deployed from Germany to Iraq and left him their holding the flag. I'd be a very bitter man in his shoes.

He's also right of course. It's increasingly clear there is no light at the end of the tunnel. A large part of the US Army will be pinned down in an increasingly chaotic region until well after the second President Clinton has left office.
 
#6
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world...ast/ 7042805.stm

New York Times, and the BBC, no friend of the US military, delightedly reports a speech by General Sanchez former Commander Iraq Multi National Force in 2003 where he has some nasty things to say about the political leadership and military problems in Iraq as is his democratic right - a right denied to millions in Iraq until the coalition invaded.

BUT he then went on to lambaste the media for deliberately witholding good news, for trying to push the 'Iraq in crisis' line all the time and refusing to provide balanced and impartial reports on Iraq. He also said very strongly that we should remain in Iraq until the surge has finished and Al Q are defeated which is closer ever day.

Isn't it funny how THAT part of his speech was missed by those clever highly paid people at the BBC and New York Times?

Even the Washington Post reported the first half on their front page and the second part made one small paragraph near the back!

And also:

"The other bad thing about this is that, in every news article I read on this, in none of them did they include his scathing criticism of the mass media.

I had to go to Power Line for that, where Mr. Hinderaker actually provided a link to the full transcript of GEN Sanchez's remarks. So, once again, proving GEN Sanchez's point on the unethical media, the media selectively reports what fits their agenda.

Here is the link to the Power Line post:

http://www.powerlineblog.com/arc...7/10/ 018743.php

Also unmentioned is his repeated savaging of Congress (including Democrats) and how their idiotic partisanship has caused most of the problems he cites here at home.

Another half story designed to push an agenda..... :D
 
#7
crab:
Not having a clue what you are talking about never slows you down does it Annakey. Most of the US media has been fiercely critical of the US involvement in Iraq. Much of it is in fact heavily biased the other way as demonstrated by the thread on here recently about how desperate they are for bad news stories.
Crab the America you live in must be entirely different one the rest of us inhabit even if we don't live there.
Fox News with Bill O' Reilly, Sean Hannity and the ass clown William Kristol are always on about how its going good over there but for liberals whining.
 
#9
goodkurtz said:
crab:
Not having a clue what you are talking about never slows you down does it Annakey. Most of the US media has been fiercely critical of the US involvement in Iraq. Much of it is in fact heavily biased the other way as demonstrated by the thread on here recently about how desperate they are for bad news stories.
Crab the America you live in must be entirely different one the rest of us inhabit even if we don't live there.
Fox News with Bill O' Reilly, Sean Hannity and the ass clown William Kristol are always on about how its going good over there but for liberals whining.
Which is why Crabtastc and I both said Fox News were the exception :roll:
 
#10
http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/014731.php

"It seems that half of the message retired General Richard Sanchez intended to deliver missed the cut at most newsrooms, and with most bloggers. . . . Why? Well, it turns out that Sanchez considered his first target the media itself, which he blames for a large part of the problems he sees in Iraq . . . . Given that, it seems highly ironic that the journalists covering the story attempted to cover up the acidic, biting, and mostly accurate criticisms of their own performance in this war while giving front-page treatment to Sanchez' criticisms of the political structure at the same time. If Sanchez has such credibility and standing to bring this kind of criticism to bear on Washington, why didn't the Post and other news agencies give the same level of exposure to his media criticisms as well? He basically accuses them of cynically selling out the soldiers to defeat American efforts to win the war, and made sure that those accusations came first before his assessment of the political failures, but you'd never know that from the Post."
 
#11
LEGZ30 said:
goodkurtz said:
crab:
Not having a clue what you are talking about never slows you down does it Annakey. Most of the US media has been fiercely critical of the US involvement in Iraq. Much of it is in fact heavily biased the other way as demonstrated by the thread on here recently about how desperate they are for bad news stories.
Crab the America you live in must be entirely different one the rest of us inhabit even if we don't live there.
Fox News with Bill O' Reilly, Sean Hannity and the ass clown William Kristol are always on about how its going good over there but for liberals whining.
Which is why Crabtastc and I both said Fox News were the exception :roll:
But they are not the exception. The NYT, The Washington Post and the wretched Weekly Standard and many others keep puffing the war up. Don't you remember just a couple of months ago how they were all saying the surge was going well?
 
#12
Your best bet is to read the whole speech for yourself. He is scathing about the US administration and the planning and preparation for the war but as Cabarfeidh points out far more of the speech is aimed at the partisan and inaccurate reporting in the main stream media.

YOUR UNWILLINGNESS TO ACCURATELY AND PROMINENTLY CORRECT YOUR MISTAKES AND YOUR AGENDA DRIVEN BIASES CONTRIBUTE TO THIS CORROSIVE ENVIRONMENT. ALL OF THESE CHALLENGES COMBINED CREATE A MEDIA ENVIRONMENT THAT DOES A TREMENDOUS DISSERVICE TO AMERICA. OVER THE COURSE OF THIS WAR TACTICALLY INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS HAVE BECOME STRATEGIC DEFEATS FOR AMERICA BECAUSE OF THE TREMENDOUS POWER AND IMPACT OF THE MEDIA AND BY EXTENSION YOU THE JOURNALIST. IN MANY CASES THE MEDIA HAS UNJUSTLY DESTROYED THE INDIVIDUAL REPUTATIONS AND CAREERS OF THOSE INVOLVED
THE DEATH KNELL OF YOUR ETHICS HAS BEEN ENABLED BY YOUR PARENT ORGANIZATIONS WHO HAVE CHOSEN TO ALIGN THEMSELVES WITH POLITICAL AGENDAS. WHAT IS CLEAR TO ME IS THAT YOU ARE PERPETUATING THE CORROSIVE PARTISAN POLITICS THAT IS DESTROYING OUR COUNTRY AND KILLING OUR SERVICEMEMBERS WHO ARE AT WAR
Even the Democrats get it

SINCE 2003, THE POLITICS OF WAR HAVE BEEN CHARACTERIZED BY PARTISANSHIP AS THE REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRATIC PARTIES STRUGGLED FOR POWER IN WASHINGTON. NATIONAL EFFORTS TO DATE HAVE BEEN CORRUPTED BY PARTISAN POLITICS THAT HAVE PREVENTED US FROM DEVISING EFFECTIVE, EXECUTABLE, SUPPORTABLE SOLUTIONS. AT TIMES, THESE PARTISAN STRUGGLES HAVE LED TO POLITICAL DECISIONS THAT ENDANGERED THE LIVES OF OUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS ON THE BATTLEFIELD. THE UNMISTAKABLE MESSAGE WAS THAT POLITICAL POWER HAD GREATER PRIORITY THAN OUR NATIONAL SECURITY OBJECTIVES. OVERCOMING THIS STRATEGIC FAILURE IS THE FIRST STEP TOWARD ACHIEVING VICTORY IN IRAQ - WITHOUT BIPARTISAN COOPERATION WE ARE DOOMED TO FAIL. THERE IS NOTHING GOING ON TODAY IN WASHINGTON THAT WOULD GIVE US HOPE.
and he is certainly not admitting defeat yet as some US media outlets would have had us believe

AMERICA HAS NO CHOICE BUT TO CONTINUE OUR EFFORTS IN IRAQ. A PRECIPITOUS WITHDRAWAL WILL UNQUESTIONABLY LEAD TO CHAOS THAT WOULD ENDANGER THE STABILITY OF THE GREATER MIDDLE EAST. IF THIS OCCURS IT WOULD HAVE SIGNIFICANT ADVERSE EFFECTS ON THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY. COALITION AND AMERICAN FORCE PRESENCE WILL BE REQUIRED AT SOME LEVEL FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE. GIVEN THE LACK OF A GRAND STRATEGY WE MUST MOVE RAPIDLY TO MINIMIZE THAT FORCE PRESENCE AND ALLOW THE IRAQIS MAXIMUM ABILITY TO EXERCISE THEIR SOVERIEGNTY IN ACHIEVING A SOLUTION.
The full speech is here

http://www.militaryreporters.org/sanchez_101207.html
 
#13
goodkurtz said:
LEGZ30 said:
goodkurtz said:
crab:
Not having a clue what you are talking about never slows you down does it Annakey. Most of the US media has been fiercely critical of the US involvement in Iraq. Much of it is in fact heavily biased the other way as demonstrated by the thread on here recently about how desperate they are for bad news stories.
Crab the America you live in must be entirely different one the rest of us inhabit even if we don't live there.
Fox News with Bill O' Reilly, Sean Hannity and the ass clown William Kristol are always on about how its going good over there but for liberals whining.
Which is why Crabtastc and I both said Fox News were the exception :roll:
But they are not the exception. The NYT, The Washington Post and the wretched Weekly Standard and many others keep puffing the war up. Don't you remember just a couple of months ago how they were all saying the surge was going well?
The New York Times? Really? You must be fcuking kidding me Kurtz.

I'll accept your stance on Faux News and on the Weekly Standard, but if your honestly going to tell me that the NYT is a conservative mouthpiece... I'm at a loss for words
 

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