Just Above Sunset
May 23, 2004: What the former commanders are saying these days...
Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly complies some information.
US Central Command (CENTCOM) is an interesting place. I have a fine nephew, a Major in the Army now, West Point ’90, who may find himself at CENTCOM next June, unless they post him to Madrid or back to Istanbul.
Drum points out the former leaders of CENTCOM are getting a bit blunt about the mess we’re in with the Iraq business.
General Joseph Hoar, 1991-1994: "Paul Wolfowitz is a very bright guy, but he doesn't know anything about war-fighting, and I suspect he knows less about counterinsurgency operations.... I think that the neo-conservatives had their day, by selling to the President the need for invasion of Iraq. I think it's now time for a clean sweep—and it has been for some time, in my judgment—to get rid of these people."
General Anthony Zinni, 1997-2000: He believes the neocons, including Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense, have hijacked U.S. foreign policy: "In the lead-up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw, at minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility; at worst, lying, incompetence and corruption."
General Tommy Franks, 2000-2003: Doug Feith is "the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth."
General Binford Peay III, CENTCOM commander from 1994-1997, is now Chairman of the Board and Director, United Defense LP and Trustee, Marshall Foundation, National Defense University and VMI Foundation, and Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). Since United Technologies is a major defense contractor he is wisely saying nothing.
Kevin Drum points out that three of the past four CENTCOM commanders, "the guys who probably understand the military requirements of a war in the Middle East better than any other humans on the planet," think the people who planned this war are completely incompetent.
And Josh Marshall covers the press release for this week’s CBS 60 Minutes exposť –
Accusing top Pentagon officials of "dereliction of duty," retired Marine General Anthony Zinni says staying the course in Iraq isn't a reasonable option. "The course is headed over Niagara Falls. I think it's time to change course a little bit or at least hold somebody responsible for putting you on this course," he tells Steve Kroft in an interview to be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, May 23 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
The current situation in Iraq was destined to happen, says Zinni, because planning for the war and its aftermath has been flawed all along. "There has been poor strategic thinking in this...poor operational planning and execution on the ground," says Zinni, who served as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command from 1997 to 2000.
He blames the poor planning on the civilian
policymakers in the administration known as neoconservatives who saw the invasion as a way to stabilize the region and support
Israel. He believes these people, who include Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, the undersecretary
of defense, have hijacked U.S. foreign policy. "They promoted it and pushed [the war]...even to the point of creating their
own intelligence to match their needs. Then they should bear the responsibility," Zinni tells Kroft.
He still believes the situation is salvageable if the U.S. can communicate more effectively with the Iraqi people and demonstrate a better image to them. The enlistment of the U.N. and other countries to participate in the mission is also crucial, he says. Without these things, says Zinni, "We are going to be looking for quick exits. I don't believe we're there now, and I wouldn't want to see us fail here," he tells Kroft. Also central to success in Iraq is more troops, from the U.S. and especially other countries, to control violence and patrol borders, he says.
Zinni feels that undertaking the war with the minimum of troops paved the way for the security problems the U.S. faces there now - the violence Rumsfeld recently admitted he hadn't anticipated. "He should not have been surprised," says Zinni. "There were a number of people who before we even engaged in this conflict that felt strongly that we underestimated...the scope of the problems we would have in [Iraq]," he tells Kroft.
The fact that no one in the administration has paid for the blunder irks Zinni. "But regardless of whose responsibility...it should be evident to everybody that they've screwed up, and whose heads are rolling on this?"
When you are in the military you do not comment on the competence of your Commander-in-Chief. Once you’ve left the service one sees you can speak your mind.
Ah well. What do these guys know? Like Paul O’Neill and Richard Clarke and Robert Wilson and Larry Lindsey and all the rest, well, they are obviously “disgruntled showboaters.” Yeah. Sure.
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