Blunt Talk By General Anthony Zinni
May 22, 2004 3:08 PM   Subscribe

Blunt Talk by General Anthony Zinni

Whose foresight was 20/20.
posted by y2karl (16 comments total)
Why Wasn't There a Plan for Rebuilding Iraq?

"In 1998 we bombed Iraq. [Saddam Hussein] threw out the inspectors and we conducted an operation called Desert Fox, and we bombed facilities that could be used to develop weapons systems for WMD, because we didn't know if he had them or didn't have them, but we could hit missile production facilities, the intelligence headquarters, etc. At the end of that four days an interesting thing happened. I was commander of Central Command at the time, and we started to get reports from embassies that were in that they had never seen the government so shaken, almost paralyzed. And when I traveled around the region and spoke to Kuwaitis, Jordanians, and others, they said, 'You know, you are bombing them all the time, you are hitting them, and you are shaking them, what if he were to collapse? What if you got Saddam in a palace or somewhere, or the people rose up and its chaos? What are you going to do about it?'

"And it struck me then that we had a plan to defeat Saddam's army, but we didn't have a plan to rebuild Iraq. And so I asked the different agencies of government to come together to talk about reconstruction planning for Iraq. . . . I thought we ought to look at political reconstruction, economic reconstruction, security reconstruction, humanitarian need, services, and infrastructure development. We met in Washington, DC. We called the plan, and we gamed it out in the scenario, Desert Crossing. The first meeting surfaced all the problems that have exactly happened now. This was 1999. And when I took it back and looked at it, I said, we need a plan. Not all of this is a military responsibility. I went back to State Department, to the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, Department of Commerce and others and said, all right, how about you guys taking part of the plan. We need a plan in addition to the war plan for the reconstruction. Not interested. Would not look at it. So at Central Command before I left -- I retired in 2000 -- I started a plan called Desert Crossing for the reconstruction of Iraq. Because I was convinced nobody in Washington was going to plan for it, and we, the military, would get stuck with it. So when I left in 2000 we were in the process of that planning. When it looked like we were going in, I called back down to Centcom and said, You need to dust off Desert Crossing. They said, What's that? Never heard of it. So in a matter of just a few years it was gone. The corporate memory. And in addition I was told, 'We've been told not to do any of the planning. It would all be done in the Pentagon.'

"In February [2003], the month before the war, I was called before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to testify on this, and the panel before me was the planner for the State Department and the planner for the Pentagon. And they were briefing their so-called plan. It was clear to me, and I testified to that effect afterwards in the next panel, that there was no plan. That they were way underestimating what they were getting into. That they had done virtually no planning. And that they were in for big trouble. And to answer your question why didn't they do it, the only thing I can say, they naively misjudged the scope and the complexity of the problems they were going to have. They thought they could do it seat of the pants."

posted by y2karl at 3:09 PM on May 22, 2004

I can't to see what bull Bush tries to sling about this on Monday night's primetime speech. Zinni deserves a medal, but like so many good and honorable people, he's been thrust aside because he got in the way of the fairytales, lies, and delusions the administration had.
posted by amberglow at 3:29 PM on May 22, 2004

Now watch as Zinni's name is dragged through the mud and his motives, politics and background questioned as the administration tries to discredit him. Is he with us or against us? He obviously hates America!
posted by wsg at 4:12 PM on May 22, 2004

Thank goodness we have a few true believers left around here to counter this fancy-pants general with his purty words and big ideas.
posted by 2sheets at 6:45 PM on May 22, 2004

Is there anyone around these days who doesn't hate America? ;-)
posted by i_cola at 9:27 PM on May 22, 2004

Favorite quote

We have made a big mistake in bringing our guys in, the Gucci guerrillas from London that were the exiles that we propped up and put them over, and in positions of authority, and they are rejected by the Iraqi people."

Gucci guerrillas.
posted by stbalbach at 9:34 PM on May 22, 2004

wsg -- just watch for a Robert Novak "expose" on Zinni in the next few weeks, what with Novak being the Administration's media man for character assassination and such.
posted by clevershark at 11:11 PM on May 22, 2004

Let the character assassination begin!
posted by wsg at 11:47 PM on May 22, 2004

Yeah...I wonder what Rove and Cheney have on Zinni's wife...Oh wait...isn't Zinni of Lebanese decent? Well...there you have it....he's obviously one of the enemy. Probably a closet Muslim too. I bet he eats French Fries and not the approved Freedom Fries. I heard that once, he said he liked French two culinary strikes against him. Obviously a terrorist who should have habeas corpus rights removed and he should be re-educated down there in Cuba.

Oh...sorry...I was channeling Rush Limbaugh for a minute there...
posted by dejah420 at 12:11 AM on May 23, 2004

They're going after this guy, now. He had to know that his message would not be well-received in certain circles. He's a hero. The world is upside down. Right is wrong and wrong is right. Look out, General Zinni.
posted by wsg at 12:48 AM on May 23, 2004

I look at Zinni's comments as essentially conservative in character. It boils down to a real argument:

Is the greater middle east a stable place? That is, since WWII, for the most part, it has remained a cesspit (given) of dictators and general misery. But is its growing population and access to technology making it dangerously unstable?

Many US State Department and British Foreign Office personnel are of the opinion that these nations can control and contain, or adapt to these new circumstances.

But if this is not the case, then there are two options, ignore it and let it implode, or intervene and control the implosion.

There are reasonable arguments on both sides, the former being that the revolutions, civil wars, and other chaos would be containable, and as long as they don't spread, are really none of our business.
The latter argument is that such problems are unavoidably internationalized, and may lead to WMD use and destruction outside their region.

In retrospect, Zinni suggests that the US precipitated the instability in the first place, propelling diverse and even antagonistic elements into an internationalized war, such as the SE Asian Terrorist Groups, through southern Asia all the way to Chechnya. Iraq could have continued to have been contained, remained antagonistic to Iran, and the status quo maintained. Unlike terrorist organizations, it is a state, and as such, can be forced to conform by its peer states.

Conservative, likewise, in his approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, in that a smoldering conflict that might eventually be resolved is better than broad strokes such as Sharon's "disengagement" plan, that are more a win-lose scenario.

And yet his retrospective arguments are in vain, for the world has changed. There is no returning to his status quo. The US has opted to coerce the middle east to change on its terms, rather than, if, it was to do so on its own. The US now has a separate regional Command in Iraq, a semi-permanent base to "manage" the future of the region, and intends that there be no retreat from democracy and stability.

I would suggest that Zinni has fallen to a frequent complaint of generals: still fighting the last war.
posted by kablam at 8:30 AM on May 23, 2004

And yet his retrospective arguments are in vain, for the world has changed. There is no returning to his status quo. The US has opted to coerce the middle east to change on its terms, rather than, if, it was to do so on its own. The US now has a separate regional Command in Iraq, a semi-permanent base to "manage" the future of the region, and intends that there be no retreat from democracy and stability.

I would suggest that Zinni has fallen to a frequent complaint of generals: still fighting the last war.

I see... so, we should refrain from trying to learn from the clearn and obvious mistakes that we've made, and just bull ahead, staying the course as we have done?

Continue to play it "by the seat of the pants"?

Not kick the arrogant dogmatists who got us into this mess the hell out of their seats and maybe let someone take over who'd, say, plan, instead of planning to wing it?

We should just all shut up, I guess, and let the Gray Men drive what's left of our international clout right into the dirt....

OK, well, if that's what you think....
posted by lodurr at 11:32 AM on May 23, 2004

Iraq Setbacks Change Mood in Washington

"I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure," retired Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, a former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "We are looking into the abyss. We cannot start soon enough to begin the turnaround."

"If the current situation persists, we will continue fighting one form of Iraqi insurgency after another — with too little legitimacy, too little will and too few resources," warned Larry Diamond, a former advisor to the U.S. occupation authority in Baghdad. "There is only one word for a situation in which you cannot win and you cannot withdraw: Quagmire."

Hoar and Diamond's assessments were grimmer than most. But the two men were far from alone.

Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., commander of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, which returned from Iraq in April, has given reporters an equally blunt view. "We are winning tactically, but have made a few tactical blunders … [which] created strategic consequences in world opinion," Swannack said in an e-mail message. "We are losing public support regionally, internationally and within America — thus, currently, we are losing strategically." He added: "I believe Operation Iraqi Freedom is a just cause, America needs to stay the course and we must regain the moral high ground."

Another active-duty officer who recently returned from Iraq — and spoke on condition he not be identified — was crisper. "We could not have screwed up more if we had set out to do it deliberately," he said. "We gave ourselves all the disadvantages of occupation, but none of the advantages."

Even Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R.-Ind.), the cautious chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, warned that the U.S. might be headed for a dead end unless the administration outlined a clearer strategy. "A detailed plan is necessary to prove to our allies and to Iraqis that we have a strategy, and that we are committed to making it work," Lugar told administration officials at a hearing. "If we cannot provide this clarity, we risk the loss of support of the American people, loss of potential contributions from our allies and the disillusionment of Iraqis."

Leslie H. Gelb, a former president of the private Council on Foreign Relations — and a top Pentagon strategist during the Vietnam War — said he had never seen confidence sink as quickly in Washington as it has in recent weeks. "I've never heard the kind of dark defeatism I'm hearing now, both in and out of government, including the worst days of the Vietnam War," said Gelb, a Democrat. "Support for this war is plummeting. In Vietnam, that happened much more slowly, and only after much higher casualties."

posted by y2karl at 2:47 PM on May 23, 2004

Try as I might, I'm not seeing it. Hand wringers of all types might be convinced that *something* will happen, that something *has* to happen to bring it all crashing down.

But what? Management of Iraq is being turned over to the government one department at a time, lots and lots of Iraqis are being trained as military, police, civil defense and border patrol. No one is suggesting that the "paper" turn over of authority on June 30th will even be postponed, nor will the next January elections. And yes, there will most likely be an "upturn of violence." But so what? It will accomplish exactly nothing.

No one of moment seems to even be mounting an organized opposition, aside from the crumbling ruin of the Mehdi Army. So what is the crisis? What is the catastrophe?

HERE'S THE BET: (1)The turnover of power will happen on schedule, (2)as will the January elections. (3)The US will send home the two divisions scheduled to be sent on on time, this time. (4)al-Sadr will be exiled to Iran, killed, or turned over to Iraqi authorities to be prosecuted. (5)Bush will be re-elected. (6)The US will leave a large force in Iraq as part of a regional command. (7) There will be continuing incidental violence peaking with one last blow off for the elections.

I want everyone who disagrees with me to not do so now, but to wait until I am proven wrong, on ANY of these points, the feel free to rub it in and I will admit being wrong. That is, IF I am wrong. If I am not, eat crow.

Note: A "quagmire" doesn't mean we are still in Iraq. I contend we plan to stay in force until at least 2010, using it as a base to dominate the whole region.
posted by kablam at 8:10 PM on May 23, 2004

Gen. Anthony Zinni, USMC (Ret.) Remarks at CDI Board of Directors Dinner, May 12, 2004

And I think that will be the first mistake that will be recorded in history, the belief that containment as a policy doesn't work. It certainly worked against the Soviet Union, has worked with North Korea and others...

The second mistake I think history will record is that the strategy was flawed. I couldn't believe what I was hearing about the benefits of this strategic move. That the road to Jerusalem led through Baghdad, when just the opposite is true, the road to Baghdad led through Jerusalem. You solve the Middle East peace process, you'd be surprised what kinds of others things will work out...

The third mistake, I think was one we repeated from Vietnam, we had to create a false rationale for going in to get public support. The books were cooked, in my mind. The intelligence was not there. I testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee one month before the war, and Senator Lugar asked me: "General Zinni, do you feel the threat from Saddam Hussein is imminent?" I said: "No, not at all. It was not an imminent threat. Not even close. Not grave, gathering, imminent, serious, severe, mildly upsetting, none of those."

We failed in number four, to internationalize the effort. To the credit of President Bush 41, he set a standard that held up throughout the post-cold war period up until the Iraq war very well...

I think the fifth mistake was that we underestimated the task. And I think those of us that knew that region, former commanders in chief, I guess we can't use that term anymore - part of transformation is to change the lexicon - but former combatant commanders of U.S. Central Command, beginning with Gen. Schwarzkopf, have said you don't understand what you're getting into. You are not going to go through Edelman's "cakewalk;" you are not going to go through Chalabi's dancing in the streets to receive you. You are about to go into a problem that you don't know the dimensions and the depth of, and are going to cause you a great deal of pain, time, expenditure of resources and casualties down the road.

The sixth mistake, and maybe the biggest one, was propping up and trusting the exiles, the infamous "Gucci Guerillas" from London. We bought into their intelligence reports. To the credit of the CIA, they didn't buy into it, so I guess the Defense Department created its own boutique intelligence agency to vet them. And we ended up with a group that fed us bad information. That led us to believe that we would be welcomed with flowers in the streets; that led us to believe that this would be a cakewalk...

The seventh problem has been the lack of planning. I testified again during that period with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, right behind the panel of planners from the State Department and the Department of Defense, and I listened to them describe a "plan." I understood and knew that Gen. Franks and CENTCOM, would do their part. I knew damn right well the security piece would be taken care of, and I knew we had a good plan. I didn't hear anything that told me that they had the scope of planning for the political reconstruction, the economic reconstruction, social reconstruction, the development of building of infrastructure for that country. And I think that lack of planning, that idea that you can do this by the seat of the pants, reconstruct a country, to make decisions on the fly, to beam in on the side that has to that political, economic, social other parts, just a handful of people at the last minute to be able to do it was patently ridiculous...

The eighth problem was the insufficiency of military forces on the ground. There were a lot more troops in my military plan for operations in Iraq. I know when that plan was presented, the secretary of defense said it was "old and stale"...

The ninth problem has been the ad hoc organization we threw in there. No one can tell me the Coalition Provisional Authority had any planning for its structure. 144 bodies scraped from embassies around the world, people that I know, for fact, walked in and were selected and picked and put in the positions. Never quite fully manned-up until well into the operation. Never the kinds of qualifications or the breadth, and scope and depth it needed to work the problems down to the grassroots level...

And that ad hoc organization has failed, leading to the tenth mistake, and that's a series of bad decisions on the ground...

...Let me say something personally here, and I mean this. This was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

Because when I spoke out on this, at the beginning, I was part of this administration. They entrusted me with the Middle East peace process, which I thought…And they did it in a way, that they fully gave me the trust, not a lot of guidance or direction, to let me to be able to do what I needed to do.

And I was very supportive of this administration. Certainly Secretary Powell and those in the State Department that I respect tremendously. It was not my desire to see this administration fail. If anything, I had an allegiance and I think, owed them something for the trust they gave me.

When this started to come about and I realized that it was wrong. I realized that if I speak out, I lose either way. If I’m wrong, you know, another guy who couldn’t figure it out. If I’m right, it means we have casualties, lost treasure and our image around the world is destroyed.

It was a lose-lose proposition from the beginning. And so it was very painful to go down this road. I did not want to be right. I also knew by not being right, that was going to be painful too. But, it had to be said, because I can’t stand looking at the end of another news story and seeing the faces of those young kids.

My son is a Marine Officer in the infantry. I lost a member of my family in Iraq, the son of my cousin, already. So, it’s become very personal. Not to mention, just every one of those faces I see, I recognize. I mean, not directly, but these are, I mean, knew those sergeants and corporals and PFCs after 40 years, that paid a price for this, you know?

posted by y2karl at 9:33 PM on May 23, 2004

he spoke on 60 minutes last night too. a pretty damning indictment of the administration's handling of iraq, especially coming from someone in zinni's position.
posted by christy at 1:28 PM on May 24, 2004

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