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Former Centcom Commander (Zinni) - Americans have been "conned"

Discussion in 'Legal' started by w4rma, Dec 30, 2003.

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  1. w4rma

    w4rma member

    Aug 13, 2003
    United States of America
    Iraq has old-school Marine regretting support for Bush :

    By Thomas E. Ricks
    The Washington Post

    12/28/03: (Seattle Times) Anthony Zinni's opposition to U.S. policy on Iraq began on the monsoon-ridden afternoon of Nov. 3, 1970. He was lying on a Vietnamese mountainside west of Da Nang, three rounds from an AK-47 assault rifle in his side and back. He could feel his lifeblood seeping into the ground as he slipped in and out of consciousness.

    He had plenty of time to think while recuperating. He promised himself that "if I'm ever in a position to say what I think is right, I will. ... I don't care what happens to my career."

    That time has arrived.

    Over the past year, the retired Marine Corps general has become a prominent opponent of Bush administration policy on Iraq, which he now fears is drifting toward disaster.

    Zinni, 60, still talks like an old-school Marine — a big-shouldered, weight-lifting, working-class Philadelphian whose father emigrated from Italy. Yet he finds himself in the unaccustomed role of rallying the anti-war camp, attacking the policies of the president he had endorsed in the 2000 election.

    "Iraq is in serious danger of coming apart because of lack of planning, underestimating the task and buying into a flawed strategy," he says. "The longer we stubbornly resist admitting the mistakes and not altering our approach, the harder it will be to pull this chestnut out of the fire."

    Three years ago, Zinni completed a tour as chief of the Central Command, the U.S. military headquarters for the Middle East, during which he oversaw enforcement of the two "no-fly" zones in Iraq and conducted four days of punishing airstrikes against that country in 1998. He served briefly as a special envoy to the Middle East.

    Zinni long has worried that there are worse outcomes possible in Iraq than having Saddam Hussein in power — such as eliminating him in such a way that Iraq will become a new haven for terrorism in the Middle East.

    "I think a weakened, fragmented, chaotic Iraq, which could happen if this isn't done carefully, is more dangerous in the long run than a contained Saddam is now," he told reporters in 1998. "I don't think these questions have been thought through or answered."

    It was a warning for which Iraq hawks such as Paul Wolfowitz, then an academic and now the No. 2 official at the Pentagon, attacked him in print at the time.

    Five years later, Zinni fears it is an outcome toward which U.S.-occupied Iraq may be drifting. Nor does he think Saddam's capture is likely to matter much.

    "Since we've failed thus far to capitalize" on opportunities in Iraq, he says, "I don't have confidence we will do it now. I believe the only way it will work now is for the Iraqis themselves to somehow take charge and turn things around. Our policy, strategy, tactics, et cetera, are still screwed up."

    Anthony Zinni's passage from obedient general to outspoken opponent began in the unlikeliest of locations: the 2002 national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Zinni was to receive the group's Dwight D. Eisenhower Distinguished Service Award, recognition for his 35 years in the Marine Corps.

    Vice President Dick Cheney was also there, delivering a speech on foreign policy. Sitting on stage behind Cheney, Zinni grew puzzled. He had endorsed Bush and Cheney two years earlier, just after retiring from his last military post, as chief of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in Iraq. But he was alarmed at Cheney's words:

    "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction," Cheney said. "There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."

    Cheney's certitude bewildered Zinni. At Central Command, Zinni had been immersed in U.S. intelligence about Iraq. He was all too familiar with analysts' doubts about Iraq's programs to acquire weapons of mass destruction, or WMD. "In my time at Centcom, I watched the intelligence, and never — not once — did it say, '(Saddam) has WMD.' "

    Though retired for nearly two years, Zinni says, he remained current on the intelligence through consulting with the CIA and the military. "I did consulting work for the agency, right up to the beginning of the war. I never saw anything. I'd say to analysts, 'Where's the threat?' " Their response was, "Silence."

    His concern deepened as he listened to Cheney. Zinni's conclusion was that the Bush administration was determined to go to war. A moment later, he had another, equally chilling thought: "These guys don't understand what they are getting into."

    Zinni is hardly a late-life convert to pacifism. "I'm not saying there aren't parts of the world that don't need their ??? kicked," says Zinni. "Afghanistan was the right thing to do," he adds, referring to the 2001 U.S. invasion to oust the Taliban regime and its al-Qaida allies.

    But he saw no need to invade Iraq. "He was contained," he says of Saddam. " ... He had a deteriorated military. He wasn't a threat to the region."

    Zinni's concern deepened at a February Senate hearing, six weeks before the war began, as he listened to Pentagon and State Department officials talk vaguely about the "uncertainties" of a postwar Iraq. "I was listening to the panel, and I realized, 'These guys don't have a clue.' "

    That wasn't a casual judgment. Zinni had thought about how the United States might handle Iraq if Saddam's government collapsed after the four days of airstrikes he oversaw in December 1998.

    "After the strike, we heard from countries with diplomatic missions in (Baghdad) that the regime was paralyzed, and that there was a kind of defiance in the streets," he recalls.

    So early in 1999 he ordered that plans be devised for the possibility of the U.S. military having to occupy Iraq. The resulting document called for a nationwide civilian occupation authority, with offices in each of Iraq's 18 provinces. That plan contrasts sharply, he notes, with the reality of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. occupation power, which for months this year had almost no presence outside Baghdad — an absence some Army generals say has increased their burden in Iraq.

    The more he listened to administration officials testify that day, the more Zinni became convinced that interventionist "neoconservative" ideologues were plunging the nation into a war in a part of the world they didn't understand. "These were dilettantes from Washington think tanks who never had an idea that worked on the ground."

    Increasingly, he began to believe that U.S. soldiers would wind up paying for the mistakes of Washington policy-makers. And that took him back to that bloody day in the mountains in Vietnam.

    He sees both conflicts as beginning with deception by the U.S. government. "I think the American people were conned into this," he says. Referring to the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which the Johnson administration claimed that U.S. Navy ships had been subjected to an unprovoked attack by North Vietnam, he says, "The Gulf of Tonkin and the case for WMD and terrorism is synonymous in my mind."

    And the goal of transforming the Middle East by imposing democracy by force reminds him of the "domino theory" in the 1960s that the United States had to win in Vietnam to prevent Southeast Asia from falling into communist hands.

    That brings him back to Wolfowitz and his neoconservative allies as the root of the problem. "I don't know where the neocons came from — that wasn't the platform they ran on," he says. "Somehow, the neocons captured the president. They captured the vice president."

    He is especially irked that, as he sees it, no senior officials have taken responsibility for their incorrect assessment of the threat posed by Iraq. "What I don't understand is that the bill of goods the neocons sold him has been proven false, yet heads haven't rolled," he says. "I think some fairly senior people at the Pentagon ought to go." Who? "That's up to the president."

    Zinni says he hasn't received a single negative response from military people. "I was surprised by the number of uniformed guys, all ranks, who said, 'You're speaking for us. Keep on keeping on.' "

    Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company
  2. Leatherneck

    Leatherneck Member

    Dec 28, 2002
    No. Virginia and Northern Neck
    Tony Zinni is a real straight shooter and clear thinker who, now that he's not shackled by four stars, speaks his mind. Well worth considering, even if you disagree.

    TFL Survivor
  3. moa

    moa Member

    Dec 30, 2002
    I thought even before the war started, that if Bush and Co. are really lying about WMD, it could cost him the next election and maybe even the future of the Republican Party. He could end up with too many independent voters as well as core Republicans being turned off. That means fewer votes for Bush, or votes against Bush and less campaign contributions.

    On the other hand, many others than just Bush said Saddam had WMD. Most of the world including the U.N. thought he had them. And, of course, Saddam had used them the Iran-Iraq War and against the Kurds. And, those are international war crimes and crimes against humanity.
  4. Coronach

    Coronach Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 20, 2002
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