Wednesday, April 21, 2004

'Warnings Ignored, Says Retired Marine General Zinni'

Gen. Zinni, former Commander of U.S. Central Command (the Middle East), once again speaks his mind, and once again pins the tail on the elephant. Yet he still gives Mr. Bush some slack that's not deserved...

Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni wondered aloud yesterday how Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld could be caught off guard by the chaos in Iraq that has killed nearly 100 Americans in recent weeks and led to his announcement that 20,000 U.S. troops would be staying there instead of returning home as planned.

"I'm surprised that he is surprised because there was a lot of us who were telling him that it was going to be thus," said Zinni, a Marine for 39 years and the former commander of the U.S. Central Command. "Anyone could know the problems they were going to see. How could they not?"

For years Zinni said he cautioned U.S. officials that an Iraq without Saddam Hussein would likely be more dangerous to U.S. interests than one with him because of the ethnic and religious clashes that would be unleashed.

"I think that some heads should roll over Iraq," Zinni said. "I think the president got some bad advice."

Known as the "Warrior Diplomat," Zinni is not a peace activist by nature or training, having led troops in Vietnam, commanded rescue operations in Somalia and directed strikes against Iraq and al Qaeda.

"I've been called a traitor and a turncoat for mentioning these things," said Zinni, 60. The problems in Iraq are being caused, he said, by poor planning and shortsightedness, such as disbanding the Iraqi army and being unable to provide security.

Several things have to happen to get Iraq back on course, whether the U.N. decides to step in or not, Zinni said.

Improving security for American forces and the Iraqi people is at the top of the list followed closely by helping the working class with economic projects.

But it's not the lack of a comprehensive American plan for Iraq nor the surging violence that has cost allied troops their lives – including about 30 Camp Pendleton Marines – that most concerns Zinni.

"In the end, the Iraqis themselves have to want to rebuild their country more than we do," Zinni said. "But I don't see that right now. I see us doing everything.

"I spent two years in Vietnam, and I've seen this movie before," he said. "They have to be willing to do more or else it is never going to work."

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link