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Gen. Zinni: 'They've (PNAC) Screwed Up'

  1. May 25, 2004 #1
    Gen. Zinni: 'They've Screwed Up'

    One of the things you can't say about General Anthony Zinni is that he is not well informed. Retired General Anthony Zinni is one of the most respected and outspoken military leaders of the past two decades. To him the newcons (or PNAC) have hijacked American policy (in Iraq).

    "Zinni is talking about a group of policymakers within the administration known as "the neo-conservatives" who saw the invasion of Iraq as a way to stabilize American interests in the region and strengthen the position of Israel. They include Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith; Former Defense Policy Board member Richard Perle; National Security Council member Eliot Abrams; and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby."


    In the book, Zinni writes: "In the lead up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility, at worse, lying, incompetence and corruption."

    “I think there was dereliction in insufficient forces being put on the ground and fully understanding the military dimensions of the plan. I think there was dereliction in lack of planning,” says Zinni. “The president is owed the finest strategic thinking. He is owed the finest operational planning. He is owed the finest tactical execution on the ground. … He got the latter. He didn’t get the first two.”

    Zinni says Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time - with the wrong strategy. And he was saying it before the U.S. invasion. In the months leading up to the war, while still Middle East envoy, Zinni carried the message to Congress: “This is, in my view, the worst time to take this on. And I don’t feel it needs to be done now.”

    But he wasn’t the only former military leader with doubts about the invasion of Iraq. Former General and National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, former Centcom Commander Norman Schwarzkopf, former NATO Commander Wesley Clark, and former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki all voiced their reservations.

    Zinni believes this was a war the generals didn’t want – but it was a war the civilians wanted.

    “I can't speak for all generals, certainly. But I know we felt that this situation was contained. Saddam was effectively contained. The no-fly, no-drive zones. The sanctions that were imposed on him,” says Zinni.


    Zinni says he blames the Pentagon for what happened. “I blame the civilian leadership of the Pentagon directly. Because if they were given the responsibility, and if this was their war, and by everything that I understand, they promoted it and pushed it - certain elements in there certainly - even to the point of creating their own intelligence to match their needs, then they should bear the responsibility,” he says.
    Who specifically is he talking about?

    “Well, it starts with at the top. If you're the secretary of defense and you're responsible for that. If you're responsible for that planning and that execution on the ground. If you've assumed responsibility for the other elements, non-military, non-security, political, economic, social and everything else, then you bear responsibility,” says Zinni. “Certainly those in your ranks that foisted this strategy on us that is flawed. Certainly they ought to be gone and replaced.”

    Zinni is talking about a group of policymakers within the administration known as "the neo-conservatives" who saw the invasion of Iraq as a way to stabilize American interests in the region and strengthen the position of Israel. They include Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith; Former Defense Policy Board member Richard Perle; National Security Council member Eliot Abrams; and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

    Zinni believes they are political ideologues who have hijacked American policy in Iraq.

    “I think it's the worst kept secret in Washington. That everybody - everybody I talk to in Washington has known and fully knows what their agenda was and what they were trying to do,” says Zinni.

    “And one article, because I mentioned the neo-conservatives who describe themselves as neo-conservatives, I was called anti-Semitic. I mean, you know, unbelievable that that's the kind of personal attacks that are run when you criticize a strategy and those who propose it. I certainly didn't criticize who they were. I certainly don't know what their ethnic religious backgrounds are. And I'm not interested.”

    Adds Zinni: “I know what strategy they promoted. And openly. And for a number of years. And what they have convinced the president and the secretary to do. And I don't believe there is any serious political leader, military leader, diplomat in Washington that doesn't know where it came from.”

    Zinni said he believed their strategy was to change the Middle East and bring it into the 21st century.

    “All sounds very good, all very noble. The trouble is the way they saw to go about this is unilateral aggressive intervention by the United States - the take down of Iraq as a priority,” adds Zinni. “And what we have become now in the United States, how we're viewed in this region is not an entity that's promising positive change. We are now being viewed as the modern crusaders, as the modern colonial power in this part of the world.”
    Last edited: May 25, 2004
  2. jcsd
  3. May 25, 2004 #2


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    There was a nice op-ed in yesterday's (monday, May 24) NewYork Times by William Safire. Safire is a conservative and I don't agree with most of the stuff he writes. This one however, was enlightening. Here it is :

    "The three factions controlling Iraq — long suspicious of one another — are now on the brink of open tribal warfare. Not the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds — I mean the Pentagon, State Department and C.I.A.

    The spark setting off this U.S. bureaucratic conflagration is the former Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi, a sophisticated, secular Shiite who organized resistance to the Sunni despot Saddam Hussein before it was popular.

    Since 1996, the C.I.A. has hated him with a passion. In that year, our spooks egged on Iraqi officers to overthrow Saddam. Chalabi claims to have warned that the plotters had been penetrated, and when the coup failed and a hundred heads rolled, he dared to blame the C.I.A. for bloody ineptitude. This is at the root of his detestation by Tenet & Company and the agency's subsequent rejection of most Iraqi sources of intelligence offered by Chalabi's group.

    Less personal is the State tribe's aversion. At Foggy Bottom, a policy of pre-emption and of regime change, urged by Chalabi, was always disdained. When Baghdad fell, Arabists at State were heavily influenced by the preference of Sunni leaders in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan for another Baathist Sunni strongman to be installed in Saddam's place for the sake of regional "stability" — despite the wishes of Iraq's Shiite majority and Kurdish minority.

    The Pentagon, as we know, had a quite different view of our mission. Defense wanted to set up a democratic Iraq to cut off the incubation of terror in the Middle East. It found much of Chalabi's information, as well as his contacts in potentially meddlesome Iran, to be useful; indeed, as recently as last week, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Richard Myers, noted that intelligence supplied by him "saved soldiers' lives."

    Into this internecine snicker-snack was injected Robert Blackwill, a tall academician-diplomat who is becoming a kind of Wilsonian Colonel House to President Bush. His mission: get us out as occupying power by the beginning of summer, and pass off the job of organizing the transition to elections to the U.N. envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi.

    To accomplish this, Blackwill adopted a Lola policy: Whatever Brahimi wants, Brahimi gets.

    The U.N.'s man, an Algerian who was a top official of the Arab League, wanted first to protect the Sunnis, the group that had profited most during Saddam's reign. To accommodate Brahimi, Paul Bremer was told to welcome more Baathists into power and U.S. military commanders were prevailed upon to back away from an attack on weapons-laden Falluja, heart of pro-Saddam insurgency.

    Brahimi had another demand: cut off Chalabi, who was not only complaining loudly about the end of de-Baathification, but had led the Governing Council to hire an accounting firm and lawyers to investigate the U.N.'s complicity in the $5 billion oil-for-food kickback ripoff. On orders, Bremer shut down the Iraqi attempt to recover the stolen money. Accountants were hired who were more amenable to the U.N.

    Bremer then went all the way. He permitted Iraqi police to break into and trash Chalabi's political headquarters as well as his home, carting off computers and files, our way of thanking him for helping craft Iraqi constitutional protections. Gleeful C.I.A. operatives who accompanied the raid spread rumors that the troublesome Iraqi was a spy for Iran and a blackmailer of recipients of oil largess. True? Who knows? But his shattered picture made the cover of Newsweek, savagely labeled "our con man in Iraq."

    Although the Defense Department is too battered by the prison scandal to stand up for anybody, Chalabi went on an array of Sunday morning TV shows to demand a confrontation with the C.I.A.'s George Tenet before Congress and under oath. This agile pol sees how the Brahimi-Blackwill-Bremer blunderbuss can win him popularity with anti-Americans in Iraq.

    Brahimi, satisfied, is compromising on the makeup of the group assigned to hold sovereignty (like a hot potato) until elections early next year. Our staunch Iraqi allies, the Kurds, may now not be frozen out.

    Bob Blackwill, a dozen years ago, nicely updated a question conservatives asked about China a half-century before, telling me "There's the `who lost Russia?' problem." To avert the same question about Iraq in the future, I'll be listening for a strong note of steadfastness in the president's speech tonight. "
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