7 Retired Top US Military:
Bush Screwed Up In Iraq
"It's a huge strategic disaster, and it will only get worse."

By Naomi Klein
The Guardian - UK
The nineteen months since the war in Iraq began, some of the most outspoken critics of President Bush's plan of attack have come from a group that should have been the most supportive: retired senior military leaders. We spoke with a group of generals and admirals that included a former supreme Allied commander and a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and they all agreed on one thing: Bush screwed up.
Adm. Stansfield Turner NATO Allied commander for Southern Europe, 1975-77 CIA Director, 1977-81
We are in a real mess. There are eighty-seven attacks on Americans every day, and our people in Baghdad can't even leave the International Zone without being heavily armored. I think we are in trouble because we were so slow in terms of reconstruction and reconstituting the military and police forces. We have lost the support of the Iraqi people who were glad to see Saddam go. But they are not glad to see an outside force come in and replace him without demonstrating we are going to provide them with security and rebuild their economy. I am very frustrated. Having a convincing rationale for going in gives our troops a sense of purpose. Whatever you call it, this is now an insurgency using the techniques of terrorism. With the borders poorly guarded, the terrorists come in. All in all, Iraq is a failure of monumental proportions.
Lt. Gen. William Odom Director of the National Security Agency, 1985-88
It's a huge strategic disaster, and it will only get worse. The sooner we leave, the less the damage. In the months since the invasion, the U.S. forces have become involved in trying to repress a number of insurgency movements. This is the way we were fighting in Vietnam, and if we keep on fighting this way, this one is going to go on a long time too. The idea of creating a constitutional state in a short amount of time is a joke. It will take ten to fifteen years, and that is if we want to kill ten percent of the population.
Gen. Merrill 'Tony' McPeak Air Force Chief of Staff, 1990-94
We have a force in Iraq that's much too small to stabilize the situation. It's about half the size, or maybe even a third, of what we need. As a consequence, the insurgency seems to be gathering momentum. We are losing people at a fairly steady rate of about two a day; wounded, about four or five times that, and perhaps half of these wounds are very serious. And we are also sustaining gunshot wounds, when, before, we'd mostly been seeing massive trauma from remotely detonated charges. This means the other side is standing and fighting in a way that describes a more dangerous phase of the conflict.
The people in control in the Pentagon and the White House live in a fantasy world. They actually thought everyone would just line up and vote for a new democracy and you would have a sort of Denmark with oil. I blame Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the people behind him -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary Douglas Feith. The vice president himself should probably be included; certainly his wife. These so-called neocons: These people have no real experience in life. They are utopian thinkers, idealists, very smart, and they have the courage of their convictions, so it makes them doubly dangerous.
The parallels between Iraq and Vietnam have been overblown, because we were in Vietnam for a decade and it cost us 58,000 troops. We've been in Iraq for nineteen months and we're still under 1,200 killed. But there is one sense in which the parallel with Vietnam is valid. The American people were told that to win the Cold War we had to win Vietnam. But we now know that Vietnam was not only a diversion from winning the Cold War but probably delayed our winning it and made it cost more to win. Iraq is a diversion to the war on terror in exactly the same way Vietnam was a diversion to the Cold War.
Gen. Anthony Zinni Commander in chief of the United States Central Command, 1997-2000
The first phase of the war in Iraq, the conventional phase, the major combat phase, was brilliantly done. Tommy Franks' approach to methodically move up and attack quickly probably saved a great humanitarian disaster. But the military was unprepared for the aftermath. Rumsfeld and others thought we would be greeted with roses and flowers.
When I was commander of CENTCOM, we had a plan for an invasion of Iraq, and it had specific numbers in it. We wanted to go in there with 350,000 to 380,000 troops. You didn't need that many people to defeat the Republican Guard, but you needed them for the aftermath. We knew that we would find ourselves in a situation where we had completely uprooted an authoritarian government and would need to freeze the situation: retain control, retain order, provide security, seal the borders to keep terrorists from coming in.
When I left in 2000, General Franks took over. Franks was my ground-component commander, so he was well aware of the plan. He had participated in it; those were the numbers he wanted. So what happened between him and Rumsfeld and why those numbers got altered, I don't know, because when we went in we used only 140,000 troops, even though General Eric Shinseki, the army commander, asked for the original number.
Did we have to do this? I saw the intelligence right up to the day of the war, and I did not see any imminent threat there. If anything, Saddam was coming apart. The sanctions were working. The containment was working. He had a hollow military, as we saw. If he had weapons of mass destruction, it was leftover stuff -- artillery shells and rocket rounds. He didn't have the delivery systems. We controlled the skies and seaports. We bombed him at will. All of this happened under U.N. authority. I mean, we had him by the throat. But the president was being convinced by the neocons that down the road we would regret not taking him out.
Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, 1997-2000
From the beginning, i was asked which side I took, Shinseki's or Rumsfeld's. And I said Shinseki. I mean, Rumsfeld proudly announced that he had told General Franks to fight this war with different tactics in which they would bypass enemy strongholds and enemy resistance and keep on moving. But it was shocking to me that the secretary of defense would tell the Army how to fight. He doesn't know how to fight; he has no business telling them. It's completely within civilian authority to tell you where to fight, what our major objective is, but it is absolutely no one's business but uniformed military to tell you how to do the job. To me, it was astonishing that Rumsfeld would presume to tell four-star generals, in the Army thirty-five years, how to do their jobs.
Now here's another thing that Rumsfeld did. As he was being briefed on the war plan, he was cherry-picking the units to go. In other words, he didn't just approve the deployment list, he went down the list and skipped certain units that were at a higher degree of readiness to go and picked units that were lower on the list -- for reasons we don't know. But here's the impact: Recently, at an event, a mother told me how her son had been recruited and trained as a cook. Three weeks before he deployed to Iraq, he was told he was now a gunner. And they gave him training for three weeks, and then off he went.
Rumsfeld was profoundly in the dark. I think he really didn't understand what he was doing. He miscalculated the kind of war it was and he miscalculated the interpretation of U.S. behavior by the Iraqi people. They felt they had been invaded. They did not see this as a liberation.
As for the recent news about the 380 tons of explosives that disappeared, it's irrelevant when they disappeared. This was known by the International Atomic Energy Agency as a site to be watched. Here is the issue: Bush tried to turn this into a political matter instead of answering questions about why he didn't follow the warnings of the IAEA. It was another example of Bush being a cheerleader instead of a leader. Nothing in Iraq was guarded except for the oil fields, which tells you why we were there. There are any number of indications that with a larger troop strength we would have been able to deal with such sites. Here is my other concern: The IAEA gave us a list of sites to be watched, so there may have been other dumps that were looted. After all, you don't just put one item on a list.
So what do we do? I think it would be very irresponsible for us to simply pull out. It sounds like a very simple solution, but it would have some complexity and danger attached. Still, Iraq is a blood bath, and we need to be dealing with this in a much more sophisticated way than the cowboy named Bush.
Gen. Wesley Clark NATO supreme Allied commander for Europe, 1997-2000
Troop strength was not the only problem. We got into this mess because the Bush administration decided what they really wanted to do was to invade Iraq, and then the only question was, for what reason? They developed two or three different reasons. It wasn't until the last minute that they came up and said, "Hey, by the way, we are going to create a wave of democracy across the Middle East."
That was February of 2003, and by that time they hadn't planned anything. In October of 2003, Donald Rumsfeld wrote a memo asking questions that should have been asked in 2001: Do we have an overall strategy to win the war on terror? Do we have the right organization to win the war on terror? How are we going to know if we are not winning the war on terror? As it has turned out, the guys on the ground are doing what they are told to do. But let's ask this question: Have you seen an American strategic blunder this large? The answer is: not in fifty years. I can't imagine when the last one was. And it's not just about troop strength. I mean, you will fail if you don't have enough troops, but simply adding troops won't make you succeed.
Adm. William Crowe Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1985-89
We screwed up. We were intent on a quick victory with smaller forces, and we felt if we had a military victory everything else would fall in place. We would be viewed not as occupiers but as victors. We would draw down to 30,000 people within the first sixty days.
All of this was sheer nonsense.They thought that once Iraq fell we'd have a similar effect throughout the Middle East and terrorism would evaporate, blah, blah, blah. All of these were terrible assumptions. A State Department study advising otherwise was sent to Rumsfeld, but he threw it in the wastebasket. He overrode the military and was just plain stubborn on numbers. Finally the military said OK, and they totally underestimated the impact the desert had on our equipment and the kind of troops we would need for peacekeeping. They ignored Shinseki. The Marines were advising the same way. But the military can only go so far. Once the civilian leadership decides otherwise, the military is obliged.
There is not a very good answer for what to do next. We've pulled out of several places without achieving our objectives, and every time we predicted the end of Western civilization, which it was not. We left Korea after not achieving anything we wanted to do, and it didn't hurt us very much. We left Vietnam -- took us ten years to come around to doing it -- but we didn't achieve what we wanted. Everyone said it would set back our foreign policy in East Asia for ten years. It set it back about two months. Our allies thought we were crazy to be in Vietnam.
We could have the same thing happen this time in Iraq. If we walk away, we are still the number-one superpower in the world. There will be turmoil in Iraq, and how that will affect our oil supply, I don't know. But the question to ask is: Is what we are achieving in Iraq worth what we're paying? Weighing the good against the bad, we have got to get out.,1



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