Ex-Pentagon official: ‘Iraq a nightmare’

A former top US military commander in Iraq said the current White House strategy in Iraq will not achieve victory in the four-and-a-half-year war, which he described as “a nightmare with no end in sight” in a hard-hitting speech.

In the bluntest assessment of Iraq by a former senior Pentagon official yet, retired Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez also lambasted US political leaders as “incompetent,” “inept,” “derelict in the performance of their duty” and suggested they would have been court-martialed had they been members of the US military.

“There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight,” said Sanchez on Friday, addressing a meeting of military correspondents and editors in Arlington, a Virginia suburb of Washington.

He blasted President George W. Bush’s “surge” strategy which calls for maintaining more than 160,000 US troops in Iraq until the end of the year in the hope of reducing sectarian violence and bringing political stability.

The strategy has since been adjusted, with the current plan calling for the withdrawal of about 21,500 combat troops by next July to bring the total to the “pre-surge” level of 130,000 servicemen.

But Sanchez said he did not believe these changes would prove effective.

“Continued manipulations and adjustments to our military strategy will not achieve victory,” he said. “The best we can do with this flawed approach is stave off defeat.”

Born into a poor family in southern Texas, Sanchez rose through the ranks of the US military to become the highest-ranking Hispanic in the US Army.

In 1991, he served as a battalion commander during Operation Desert Storm, a US-led allied operation to drive Iraqi forces from occupied Kuwait.

He became commander of coalition forces in Iraq in June 2003, after the US-led invasion, and served in that capacity for a year.

Sanchez retired from the military in November 2006, part of the fallout from a scandal over abuse of detainees by US military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

Reacting late Friday to Sanchez’s comments, the White House evoked a September report to Congress by the current US military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker. They painted a difficult situation they said was nevertheless marked by gradual improvements.

“We appreciate his service to the country,” White House spokesman Trey Bohn told AFP, of Sanchez. “As General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have said, there is more work to be done, but progress is being made in Iraq. And that’s what we are focused on now.”

Sanchez, however, had a starkly different view.

“There is nothing going on today in Washington that would give us hope,” he said in his speech.

He said US political leaders from both parties have been too often consumed by partisan grandstanding and political struggles that, as he put it, at times have “endangered the lives of our sons and daughters on the battlefield.”

“There has been a glaring, unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders,” the retired general complained. “In my profession, these type of leaders would immediately be relieved or court-martialed.”

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

For all his criticism, Sanchez essentially agreed with President George W. Bush’s position that a precipitous US military withdrawal from Iraq would plunge the country and, possibly the whole region, into chaos.

He argued that some level of US military presence in Iraq would be necessary “for the foreseeable future.”

The New York Times cited Sanchez as saying he favored promoting reconciliation among Iraqi sectarian factions and standing up an effective Iraqi army and police force — projects already being tackled by the Bush administration.

It reported that the ex-commander was said to be considering publishing a book.


  1. SEAL

    I’m really getting tired of hearing that there is no solution and that we have to stay in Iraq for years. Even those who know what is wrong maintain there is no alternative but continued occupation. But this conclusion comes from our go it alone attitude. And it’s true we cannot solve the Iraq problem by ourselves.

    The other nations of the Middle East and Europe are just as tired of the situation as we are. Why don’t we get them together and ask for their help? Or present it to the United Nations? I would wager they would be more than willing to form a plan to provide the necessay money and manpower to end the sectarian killing. Together we could bring peace and stability to the country. Pressure would be applied to the Iraqi government to end the ingnorant fueding, establish control, and begin the rebuilding of the infastructue necessary for an economy to be generated. All of this could be accomplished within one year.

    Of course, this will never happen as long as George W. Bush is president. He wouuld have to give up control and that will never happen. But why hasn’t someone else suggested it? Are all of our so-called experts and government leaders so damned arrogant that they believe only we can get it right? We’ve done a piss-poor job so far. And Bush isn’t to be blamed for all of it. He could not have created this mess without the help of congress.

    Someone in the pack of candidates needs to step forward and flatly state they will end this war the only way possible – by asking for help. I know there are several who know this to be the solution. Those candidates who say they will bring the troops home and leave Iraq to fight it out know they are lying or they are completely stupid. The General is right. There is no way the world would condone our abandoning Iraq to a bloodbath civil war.

  2. acf

    For all his criticism, Sanchez essentially agreed with President George W. Bush’s position that a precipitous US military withdrawal from Iraq would plunge the country and, possibly the whole region, into chaos.

    He argued that some level of US military presence in Iraq would be necessary “for the foreseeable future.”

    And there you have it in a nutshell, the real success for Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, the excuse to occupy a significant area of the Middle East in an open ended way. Had success the way we might have envisioned it, by a peaceful resumption of life in Iraq with a stable democratic government been achieved, there would have been no acceptable rationale to remain in the region, but now, with the madness over there, the reason exists…a precipitous US military withdrawal from Iraq would plunge the country and, possibly the whole region, into chaos.

    As always with the Bush gang, it’s not what they say that’s important, it’s what they do that counts.

  3. SEAL

    acf: you’re absolutely right. I’ve been arguing with people for three years that the Bush gang isn’t stupid like everyone insists. They haven’t made mistakes and mishandled the invasion and occupation. Their plan has worked perfectly – for them. They have accomplished exactly what they set out to do. Create the never ending cash cow for the MIC.

    This one is a much more clever scheme than Vietnam was. No draft. They learned from the draft rebellion that ended Nam. Using mercs from private companies. They can use them for the “odd jobs” but don’t have to count their deaths or take responsibility for their behavior. They involved other countries to legitimize it. No imbedded reporters. All news (no news) is controlled. No filming of the fighting or the coffins to stir emotions. If you don’t see it, it isn’t there.

    The most glaring thing has been the lack of contact between Bush or Rice and the Iraqi government. No pressure has been applied to them to get their act together. They have been allowed to act like a bunch of children fussing about who gets the biggest desert (you can pronounce that either way, appropriately). It’s the oil, stupid. The only fair way to divide it is to give every citizen an equal share regardless of who’s ground it comes out of. Somehow that solution escapes them.

    The only thing we hear from Bush is how much faith and confidence he has in his hand picked cohort that, supposedly, is in charge of the Iraq government. This is the man that supplied all the misinformation they relied on for the invasion. The man that said the Iraqis would welcome us with flowers in hand and allow us to establish a permanent pressence in their country. The man that has accomplished nothing in four years. Yet Bush continues to declare the same support for him. The only time they meet is to cook up some phony declaration of new and exciting progress being made everytime congress puts on their bring the troops home charade.

    This absense of guidence/pressure by us has been the greatest hinderence to acheiving peace and stability. You cannot expect a stable country with an unstable government. The Iraqi people have no faith in their government. They basically ignore it and look to the Americans.

    But hey! The plan is working perfectly when you understand that the plan was to FUBAR Iraq from the beginning.

  4. Klaus Hergeschimmer

    Hey Seal, Kosovo is a prime example of sucess by having equal participation of international forces, the employment of NGO’s (that has the real understanding how to deal with getting civillian infrastructure up, running & functioning).

    Kosovo had a similar situation as Iraq comparativley with the principal ethnic factions of Albanian & Serbians at each others throats, and although the situation there still has a long way to go, there is no more large scale killings by death squads against Albanians with the situation still being sheperded along by the United Nations. I think this is an example of how Iraq could be administered.

    Bill Clinton didn’t screw around in the prosecution of the aerial attack against Milosovic, although it was a bit shaky at first; Clinton went right for Milosovic’s jugular by bombing Milosovics buddies business & capital investments, propaganda infrastructure & by bombing bridges in Serbia proper he got Milosivic to withdraw from Kosovo all through air-power; one of the rare instances that air-power alone worked well.

    But Clinton’s military flexing in this instance would have been for nuaght if he had not immediately backed this up with International forces coming in after the air-war to come into Kosovo to monitor the peace & Clinton’s immediate employment of NGO’s to get to work on rebuilding the civillian infrastructure.

  5. SEAL

    I saw something interesting today that confirms what so many of us have been saying for some time.

    We constantly see “national” polls that show Hillary Clinton at 43%, Obama at 24%, and Edwards at 10%. What they don’t tell us is those are only polls asking democrats who they prefer.

    Gallup conducted a different poll across the nation asking people, regardless of party or politics, only to name the people they had the most favorable impression of. Here are the results:

    _ Bill Clinton, 60 percent

    _ Barack Obama, 56 percent

    _ John McCain, 53 percent

    _ Rudy Giuliani, 52 percent

    _ John Edwards, 51 percent

    _ Al Gore, 50 percent

    _ Hillary Clinton, 49 percent

    _ George W. Bush, 37 percent

    What this confirms is the contention that, while Hillary may be the darling of the democratic party, she would be the worst possible candidate they could field in the national election for president.

    In a true national sampling, even John McCain has a better image than she does. Only the criminal in the Whitehouse rates below her. But the most interesting is the divergence between her and her husband. Apparently, Hillary’s image building has succeeded because people view them as separate people rather than as a married couple.

    What surprises me is, he was the cheating husband and she the wonderful forgiving wife, yet he is more admired than her and all the rest of them. Cheating husbands are totally acceptable in our society. That must drive the 37% crazy.

    Once again, it appears the democrap is going to nominate the worst possible candidate they have and wind up making 2008 a close election. In the last 58 years, the only candidate they offered for president that was right was Kennedy. But that happened only because of inspired and agressive “grass roots” support plus a hell of a lot of old man Kennedy’s money and old friends that took on the establishment and won.

    I think this only proves that the core of the democrap party is totally corrupt and sold out to the corporate czars just like the repugnants and they are spending a fortune to install the person who will continue business as usual. And this is the real why General Sanchez is correct when he says we will have to stay in Iraq for a long time.

  6. WaltervdH

    It seems the next move will be to attack Iran’s
    nuclear facilities with conventional weapons, then Iran will attempt to block the Straits of
    Hormuz.. That would cut off very substantial oil
    exports and cut off supplies to US Troops.. The Iranians could have their Shiite brethren fight to close the long supply road to Bagdhad, so little pee president little bee bush will have the perfect excuse to “Nuke ’em.”

    Now, if this can be arranged to happen so that the Muslim suicide bombers can pull off some real “biggies” a couple of months before the election, then martial law will be declared and
    Caligula will be proclaimed a God, and Emperor for life..

    I read The Declaration of Independence, and think of the slimy scum in all branches of our government—-it makes me want throw up.. What a bunch of traitors..

  7. Klaus Hergeschimmer

    Yes, of course that’s true Seal, but BushCo had a very narrow oppertunity to get Iraq’a infrastructure up and running after the invasion, but Chimp did all the wrong things (no surprise) such as totally de-constructing the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi goverment & re-construction projects using outside contractors instead of using local labor. And of course we know all re-construction money went down the Halliburton Rat Hole and other various profiteering companies.

    But of course, as we have been discussing, that was never the intention of ChimpCo to get Iraq functioning again.

    I was just backing up what your saying about getting a true International backing with transparency with all supporting International factions & in my mind, with the track record that NGO’s had in Kosovo that they would be a vital element if there is to be progress in
    truly getting Iraq on its feet. The worst thing I can think of is the poor drinking water quality which is just deplorable and hasn’t changed one bit under Chimp.

    But the way things are right now with the Chimp, it’s next to impossible to imagine anything of this nature happening as long as Chimp is in the center seat.

    The Democrappers total lack of balls & imagination dosen’t inspire any thought that they would do the correct mode of doing things to Internationalize a
    bid to get Iraq on its feet either, but I absolutely agree with you that an International effort as you described is the last hope.

    The DemoKrappers are such Spineless Jellyfish largely devoted to locking in its Jellyfish Seats in the presidential election that I don’t see any hope for the DemoKrappers regarding Internationalization until they get majorities in both houses and the center seat in the White Trash House. Even if the DemoKrappers get all they want next election, they always seem to manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

  8. SEAL

    Klaus: I’m sorry for being a smart-ass. All I intended was, “gee, I wonder if Clinton would have done the same if their was something in it for him/us besides a good deed.” I admired the way Clinton handled Kosovo. But polititions are money hungry animals and you never know about them until they’re tested.

    The most honest president we ever had was Truman. He left the White House a member of the middle class. Maybe that’s why his ratings were so low when he left? Money and poll numbers seem to rise and fall together.

    What is really wrong here is that no nation should ever think they have the right to preemptively attack any other nation on this planet without just cause and that would be the absolute proof of imminent attack by them.

    Regardless of the window dressing Bush assembled, the invasion of Iraq was only us with a little backup from Tony boy and everyone knows it. What Bush/we did was, and still is, no less criminal than what Hitler/Germany did. And, while we are not the hands on perps as Hitler and his ZZ was, we have nonetheless set off a genocide of parallel magnitude. Who knows what the final number will be?

    The only way our country can save face with the world is to admit our wrongdoing [calling it a mistake?] and ask for their help to clean up the mess. We cannot do what should be done and remove and punish those responsible because that would include most of congress. Personally, nothing would make me happier than to see them all in an Iraqi prison, but that is totally unrealistic. The people of America could never get their heads around that idea.