The evidence is overwhelming that President Bush is a complete failure as Commander-in-Chief. Gen. Zinni’s 2002 speech at CDI illustrates what was known by informed observers prior to Bush’s invasion of Iraq. A second speech last year lists ten distinct mistakes that were made in how Bush’s Iraq war was conducted.
Here is the bullet version of Gen. Anthony Zinni, USMC, (Ret.) Remarks at CDI Board of Directors Dinner, May 12, 2004
[T]he first mistake that will be recorded in history, [is] the belief that containment as a policy doesn’t work.
The second mistake I think history will record is that the strategy was flawed.
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.
We failed in number four, to internationalize the effort.
I think the fifth mistake was that we underestimated the task.
The sixth mistake, and maybe the biggest one, was propping up and trusting the exiles.
The seventh problem has been the lack of planning.
The eighth problem was the insufficiency of military forces on the ground.
The ninth problem has been the ad hoc organization we threw in there.
[T]the tenth mistake, and that’s a series of bad decisions on the ground. Disbanding the Army, this is one I’ll never understand . . . We had always intended if they didn’t fight, we’d get rid of the leadership, we’d keep them in tact, we’d provide for some of their training, and we would have the basis for a ready-made force to pick up some of the security requirements.
There was a Q&A following Gen. Zinni’s talk last year. Here are a few of his responses:
We also have to stop the tough talk rhetoric. One thing you learn in this business is, don’t say it unless you’re going to do it. In this part of the world, strength matters. And if you say you are going to go in and wipe them out, you better do it. If you say you’re going to do it and then you back off and find another solution, you have lost face. And we have got to stop the kind of bravado and talk that only leads us into trouble out there. We need to be more serious and more mature in what we project as an image.
Our whole public relations effort out there has been a disaster. I read the newspapers from the region every night online, and if you watch Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, or even some of the more moderate stations out there, and you read the editorials in the newspaper, there is a different war being portrayed in that region. A different conflict than we’re getting from Fox, CNN, CBS, et cetera. And we better get the two jibed somehow, because that has been a massive failure. And there again, we could use advice from the region as to how to go about it.
When Jack Murtha put forward his proposal to begin an immediate phased withdrawal, he was just telling the American people the same thing that Gen. Zinni suggested and that Murtha was in all likelihood hearing from active three and four star generals:
I think it’s time to take the U.S. imprimatur off of this idea . . . Look, the plan for the future of Iraq has to be done by Iraqis, by people in the region and by the international community not just handed to them by Americans.
I found out from a friend of mine who is in the CPA, that there are members of the CPA running around Iraq now giving lectures on Jefferson.
Now, I like Thomas Jefferson. I’m a Virginian. But, he’s another dead white guy out there, you know. And, we could be doing more useful things, I think, than that, with the people out there.
It was obvious from the first day that the so called coalition that Bush was so proud of was superficial cover for a unilateral U.S. invasion of Iraq:
PHIL COYLE: Gen. Zinni, I think the administration claims 38 countries are in the coalition.
ZINNI: Yeah. Fiji, I think, was a big contributor. (Laughter)
Gen. Zinni is far more circumspect than I am. In my opinion the Joint Chiefs have failed their Commander-in-Chief as well as their country:
LARRY KORB: General, Larry Korb. Under Goldwater-Nickles, the military are supposed to be able to talk to the president and the Congress, to tell them that. You’re quite right to talk about Gen. Shinseki. Where were the other chiefs when this planning for the war with all the optimistic scenarios were going? Don’t you think if they all have spoken out, it would have been harder for the administration to just push it along?
ZINNI: First of all, I’m not going to speak for the chiefs. And, I’m not going to speak against them in any way. I will tell you this. When I was a commander at U.S. Central Command, and Hugh Shelton was the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Hugh Shelton sent us the book
Dereliction of Duty. He required all of us 17 four-star General Commanders to read the book. And we all reported to Washington, I believe it was (the) 28th of January, 1998, for a breakfast meeting.
At that meeting was a then young Army Maj. McMaster who wrote the book. Dereliction of Duty describes the dereliction on the part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Vietnam War, who had strong feelings about all the mistakes that were being made, but didn’t speak their minds, and didn’t speak up, with the exception of former Commandant of the Marine Corps, David Shoup. The message to us, after we heard this, from Hugh Shelton is, that will never happen here. And the message to us from Secretary Cohen at that time, too, is that door is always open, and your obligation to the Congress, which is an obligation to the American people to tell them what you think, still stands strong. And that’s the expectation that we have.
They did not ever want to hear that we had a problem, something sticking our crawl, that we didn’t bring up to them, and we didn’t honestly express if we felt it had to be expressed. I can tell you there were times when I disagreed with the policy and I can tell you one time in particular that I was taken, personally, to a principals meeting, because the secretary and the chairman wanted to be sure that my views, which were different, were heard by the President.
Now, I think there is an obligation to speak the truth that when you’re confirmed, and when you raise your right hand in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee and in front of whoever the administers that oath for your appointment. You answer to those many bosses. One is the secretary of defense and the president, another boss is the Congress, who represents the people. And you’re going to have to speak the truth, like (Eric) Rich Shinseki did. It’s painful at times. Believe me. I’ve been down that road. But it is an obligation that comes with the uniform. And I think if there are those, and I don’t know this one way or another, I don’t ask, if there are those wearing that uniform that have concerns and doubts about this or objections, and didn’t voice it, there is going to be a second edition of Dereliction of Duty down the road.
RACHEL FREEDMAN: Thank you. We’re consistently hearing what’s going wrong in Iraq. In your opinion, is anything going right?
ZINNI: Well, I’m sure that you’re going to find anecdotal evidence of good news stories out there. And, I agree to a certain extent, much of that doesn’t make news. You probably have a lot of efforts at the local level, where schools are rehabilitated, where local village councils are functioning and cooperating with US forces, where local little market economies are starting to move.
But, it’s a matter of relevant news, good versus bad. Is the good news, of which I’m sure there’s a lot of, sufficient enough to say you’ve tipped it in the right direction, versus the bad news?
On the bad side, I see an insurgency that is about in its mid-life. You know what happens, this is a classic Maoist insurgency. It’s not uniquely Islamist, it’s classically Maoist. You begin by disabling the infrastructure; frightening the people; attacking the outside interveners; attacking those that cooperate with them. Show them that the local authorities are ineffective. You do this by a series of violent acts, terrorist activities. We saw this in Vietnam. You saw it in classic insurgencies.
You then move to convince people that the government is powerless and corrupt; that the outside intervention forces are there as powers to dominate colonial powers. And you try to make the case that you are the only viable representative they have. And eventually you move that to civil war. Unless the insurgency completes itself and succeeds, you’ll move it to civil war.
The civil war will be between whoever, ethnic groups, more likely between those that support the good news, the change, the cooperation with the U.S. or whoever, and those that now reject it, that side with the other side.
When I was in Vietnam, my first tour of duty, I was an advisor with the Vietnamese Marines. So, I went to Vietnamese language school. And, I lived, I wore the uniform of the Vietnamese Marines and we lived in the villages. They had a quartering act. And I remember one time I was in the house of a family in northern part of South Vietnam and after dinner, the mother of the house said, “Do you have any pictures of your family?” And I showed them to her in her house. And she said, “Why are you here?”