First Published: 2007-06-03

 
Sanchez: US can forget about winning in Iraq
 

Top retired US general says absolutely convinced America has crisis in leadership at this time.

 

Middle East Online

By Sig Christenson - SAN ANTONIO, Texas

Sanchez: ‘I'm not sure America really knows what victory is’

The man who led coalition forces in Iraq during the first year of the occupation says the United States can forget about winning the war.

"I think if we do the right things politically and economically with the right Iraqi leadership we could still salvage at least a stalemate, if you will -- not a stalemate but at least stave off defeat," retired Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez said in an interview.

Sanchez, in his first interview since he retired last year, is the highest-ranking former military leader yet to suggest the Bush administration fell short in Iraq.

"I am absolutely convinced that America has a crisis in leadership at this time," Sanchez said after a recent speech in San Antonio, Texas.

"We've got to do whatever we can to help the next generation of leaders do better than we have done over the past five years, better than what this cohort of political and military leaders have done," adding that he was "referring to our national political leadership in its entirety" - not just President George W. Bush.

Sanchez called the situation in Iraq bleak and blamed it on "the abysmal performance in the early stages and the transition of sovereignty."

He included himself among those who erred in Iraq's crucial first year after Saddam.

Sanchez took command in the summer of 2003 and oversaw the occupation force amid an insurgency that has sparked a low-grade civil war in Iraq.

He was in the middle of some of the most momentous events of the war, among them the dissolution of the Iraqi army and barring millions of Baath Party members from government jobs: two actions seen as triggering the rebellion among Sunni Moslems, who fell from power with Saddam Hussein.

Sanchez is also most closely identified with the Abu Ghraib scandal, which occurred on his watch.

Though he was cleared of wrongdoing by an Army probe, Abu Ghraib's searing images of naked prisoners humiliated by a rogue torture squad cost Sanchez an almost certain fourth star in the Senate, which approves general officer promotions.

Sanchez, 56, declined to talk about Abu Ghraib or other key events of the war, or say who was to blame for what went wrong.

"That's something I am still struggling with and it's not about blame because there's nobody out there that is intentionally trying to screw things up for our country," he said. "They were all working to do the best damn job they can to get things right."

Despite those good intentions, Americans will be forced to "answer the question what is victory, and at this point I'm not sure America really knows what victory is," said Sanchez, who is thinking of writing a tell-all book about his year in Baghdad.

Sanchez said a large troop commitment would be needed for years to come but conceded it is "very questionable" if Americans would support it.

Still, he said, "the coalition cannot afford to precipitously withdraw and leave the Iraqis to their own devices."

 

Brexit vote lays bare depth of division across Britain

US-backed Syria fighters edge further into ISIS border hub

Tunisia flaunts seaside security to bring back tourists

Car bomb kills four civilians in Libya's Benghazi

Iran cracks down on ‘Western culture’ of canine ownership

Young Britons vent anger at grey Brexit vote

Russia planes pound Aleppo as Syria regime forces closes in

Britain and EU: A fraught divorce

Libya govt. forces repel ISIS counterattack in Sirte

Oil slides on British referendum result

Crashed EgyptAir black boxes to go to France for repairs

5,000 migrants rescued from rubber dinghies in Mediterranean

Britain votes to break away from EU, PM resigns

Turkey acquits British academic over 'terror propaganda' charges

24 jailed in Bahrain for forming IS cell

Iraq commander says forces control over 80% of Fallujah

Israel sentences 4 Palestinians to life

Turkey in new quest to patch up with regional foes

Defiant Bahrain moves to dissolve opposition bloc

Kurdish-Arab forces push into IS Syria bastion of Manbij

Yemen govt says rebels must withdraw before any transition

Turkey confirms new accession talks with EU

Saudi suspect found dead after gunfight in Shiite town

Suspended Kuwait sues IOC for damages

Erdogan lashes out at EU treatment of Turkey

UN Chief, Saudi prince discuss situation in Yemen

Turkey blocks visit of German delegation to Incirlik air base

Trump goes on blistering offensive against Clinton

EU negotiators endorse new border force proposal

Head of EU parliament hopes to arrange meeting of Israeli, Palestinian leaders

Turkish prosecutors demand 14 years for activists

Final push for votes as EU leaders warn over Brexit

Egypt government appeals court block on islands’ transfer to Saudis

Heat, long fasting days take their toll on Cairo residents

Assad names Imad Khamis as new Prime Minister

Turkey wants Britain to stay in EU 'under any circumstances'

EU to open new membership talks with Turkey

Turkey arrests 3 IS suspects over 'LGBT rally plot'

Yemen rebels say consensus president crucial for peace deal

Fallujah 'almost cleared' of ISIS jihadists

Dawn prayers stoke fears for Turkey's Hagia Sophia

Turkish FM says normalisation deal depends on Israel

25 civilians killed in air raids on Syria’s Raqa

UN urges international community to aid civilians who fled Fallujah

UN envoy proposes roadmap for Yemen peace