Gen. Sanchez tries to shift responsibility

NY Times:

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.

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 White House had no initial comment.

But his role as commander in Iraq during the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal leaves General Sanchez vulnerable to criticism that that he is shifting the blame from himself and exacting revenge against an administration that replaced him as the top commander in the aftermath of the scandal and declined to nominate him for a fourth star, forcing his retirement.

Though he was cleared of wrongdoing in the abuse matter by an Army investigation, he nonetheless became a symbol, along with officials like L. Paul Bremer III , the chief administrator in Iraq, of the ineffective American leadership early in the occupation.

Questioned by reporters after his speech, he included the military and himself among those who made mistakes in Iraq, citing the failure to insist on a better post-invasion stabilization plan.

But his main criticism was leveled at the Bush administration, which he said he said has failed to mobilize the entire United States government, other than the military, to contribute meaningfully to reconstructing and stabilizing Iraq.


This is pretty pathetic. In retrospect, Sanchez was pretty clueless when it came to a counterinsurgency policy. Under him the Army was in full scale whack a mole mode chasing insurgents and not protecting the people. He often said that we did not need more troops we just needed better intelligence.

Now that the surge has resulted in protecting people we are getting better intelligence with a soaring number of calls to the tip line and direct contact with the people. We have al Qaeda on its heels and everyone who has actually been to Iraq has seen a huge difference, but he is acting like nothing has changed.

If he felt like the plan for dealing with Iraq was inadequate he had a duty to tell his superiors about it at the time and not after he retired. There is more second guessing by retired generals here. Like Sanchez they do not appear to be up to speed on how dramatically the situation has changed since the surge. The administration should call their bluff and send them on a trip to Iraq.

In January of 2004 Gen. Sanchez said "I really believe that the only way we are going to lose here, is if we walk away from it like we did in Vietnam." He was closer to being right then than he is now.

The Small Wars Journal Blog has a roundup of stories and comments about Gen. Sanchez's speech. Don't miss this one at Captain's Journal.

Bruce Kessler
finds that some of the General's most interesting comments were left out of the reports.


  1. Sanchez' comments, while too late to have any consequence, are no different than many we've heard before him.

    The execution of this post-war plan has been disastrous, and Sanchez, his superiors, the chiefs, Rumsfeld, and Bush do bear all of the responsibility for it. No surprise.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Should Republicans go ahead and add Supreme Court Justices to head off Democrats

29 % of companies say they are unlikely to keep insurance after Obamacare

Bin Laden's concern about Zarqawi's remains