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."

 

Frustration grows over Huthi occupation of Yemen capital

Kurd troops launch offensive on IS on three fronts

Indian PM warns US to repeat Iraq 'mistake' in Afghanistan

Erakat likens Netanyahu to leader of ‘Islamic State’

Syrian refugees try their luck in Latin America

Israel settlers forcefully occupy 25 homes in East Jerusalem

Gunmen wound Saudi policeman in Shiite village in Eastern Province

Voters to choose among 27 candidates in Tunisia presidential race

Iran offers military equipment to Lebanon army

Iran extends compulsory military service to 2 years

US-led air strikes pound ‘Islamic State’ near Syria border town

Britain plans action against extremism ‘in all its forms’

Vigilante groups terrorise Syria refugees in Lebanon

Balkans clamp down on jihadist recruitment

Israel PM warns Iran poses gravest threat to world

Kuwait strips 18 nationals of citizenship

Ahead of Tunisia elections, Ghannouchi appeals for US support

Israel deploys extra forces as two faiths mark major holy days

Egypt, Libya plunge in good governance rating

Saudi Arabia breaks silence on Huthi occupation of Yemen capital

Air strikes fail to halt advance of IS jihadists in Syria

Rival Libya factions meet for reconciliation talks

Iran-P5+1 nuclear talks ‘to resume’ by mid-October

HRW criticises human rights rollback under Erdogan

Syria's Nusra Front chief warns to transfer battle to West

Obama admits to making serious mistake: We underestimated ‘Islamic State’

Germany begins training Kurdish fighters from northern Iraq

Jordan takes ‘precautionary measures’ to secure borders

Egypt acquits 112 on charges of violating protest law

Shiite dissident dies in gun battle with Saudi security forces

Iraq forces repel IS attack on strategic town west of Baghdad

Russia raises suspicions about US ‘military interference’ in Syria

Yemen capital reels under control of Huthi rebels

Dubai Ruler: Victory over ‘Islamic State’ requires three bigger ingredients

Nusra Front threatens retaliation against coalition nations

Nusra Front urges Lebanon to negotiate for captive soldiers

Iran warns ‘Islamic State’: If you advance, we will attack!

Huthis settle score with Yemen national security apparatus

Egypt postpones verdict in murder case against Mubarak

US-led coalition expands campaign against ‘Islamic State’ in Syria

Yemen Shiite rebels urged to pull out of capital

Time for Iraq's Christians to put up fight against jihadists

Arrests prompt clashes in Arab east Jerusalem

Britain nabs more Islamist suspects

How much is cost of US air war on IS?