By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers
Fri May 16, 2008
WASHINGTON — To hear retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez explain it, the mistakes of the Iraq war that happened while he was in command there weren't his fault. Not Abu Ghraib, not the birth of the insurgency, not the decision to let rebel cleric Muqtada al Sadr survive.
Sanchez argues that crafting a strategy wasn't his responsibility, even as the top commander in Iraq . That fell to the civilian leaders, such as the secretary of defense and the president.
Being flippant: Ok... so, who's in charge?
Former top general in Iraq says he was just following orders of civilian leadership.
W claims he takes advice of generals on the ground regarding strategy.
My notion of an American value: accountability.
End of flippancy.
To some extent, I agree with Sanchez: Defining strategic objectives is the job of civilian leadership. Once strategic objectives have been defined, it falls upon the military leadership - say, for example, the commanding general in the field - to develop a strategy to achieve those strategic objectives. With no clearly articulated strategic objectives, the military is pretty much at a loss - and under such circumstance, yes - possibly the best the commanding general can do is offer advice & follow orders. Pathetic!
As the commanding general in Iraq, Sanchez had the obligation to demand of his civilian leaders, "What are our strategic objectives?" How else could he hope to develop a winning strategy?
A flippant aside: "Following orders" is not a particularly compelling defense! The Nuremberg trials established more-or-less firm legal precedent that "following orders" is not a sufficient defense against charges of war crimes. As I've mentioned before, as a basic trainee in the 1975 all-volunteer Army, I was lectured on the obligation of the soldier to disobey an illegal order.
Our current general, Petraeus, seems happy to follow in Sanchez's footsteps. In his two highly publicized Congressional appearances, he has not once mentioned the strategic objectives he is pursuing.
Back to the main point: accountability.
Rumsfeld has been cited as saying that he gave his generals what they said they needed for the invasion... tho' I seem to recall a good deal of commentary suggesting that Rummy had an ideologically-based idee fixe that 100,000 troops would be sufficient, and pretty much made that number the boundary condition within which pre-war planning took place. [Sorry - I've not the energy or inclination to seek references for this not-so-vague memory. I'm sufficiently certain of its truth to trust that my readers can find the the appropriate citations with a little bit of time on "the Google".]
W's Iraq disaster is just that - W's! Not America's. Not the military's. Not the generals'. Only W is to blame.
On the bright side: McCain seems more than willing to assume responsibility for W's mess! To McCain's credit, in a recent speech in Columbus, OH, he does in fact, present a desired end-state in Iraq:
Remarks By John McCain in Columbus, OhioRecall,
May 15, 2008
By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom. The Iraq War has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy, although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension. Violence still occurs, but it is spasmodic and much reduced. Civil war has been prevented; militias disbanded; the Iraqi Security Force is professional and competent; al Qaeda in Iraq has been defeated; and the Government of Iraq is capable of imposing its authority in every province of Iraq and defending the integrity of its borders. The United States maintains a military presence there, but a much smaller one, and it does not play a direct combat role.
"It could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."McCain's vision takes us to TEN YEARS. This is not the war we were sold. It is not the war we bought.
[SecDef Rumsfeld, 7 Feb 2003]
Again: if you like where YOUR country is today, if you like the direction it's headed... by all means, vote Republican!
Stop the madness!