“A nightmare with no end in sight”

That’s how retired Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez described the war in Iraq in a speech on October 12, 2007 to luncheon of military reporters and editors.   It’s a veritable machine-gunning of American leadership and policy. 

Some of the more pity quotes:

"From a catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan to the administration’s latest "surge" strategy, this administration has failed to employ and synchronize its political, economic and military power. "

"The administration, Congress and the entire interagency, especially the Department of State, must shoulder the responsibility for this catastrophic failure and the American people must hold them accountable."

"America must understand that it will take the army at least a decade to fix the damage that has been done to its full spectrum readiness. "

"Who will demand accountability for the failure of our national political leaders involved in the management this war? They have unquestionably been derelict in the performance of their duty. In my profession, these type of leaders would immediately be relieved or courtmartialed. "

This would be all well and good– especially his points about the lack of political and economic strategy for rebuilding Iraq — but for two things.

First, this was the man on who’s watch the Abu Ghraib scandal occurred, though an investigation exonerated him from any wrong-doing.

Second, why didn’t he speak out earlier, when his words might have actually had operational impact and perhaps even saved the lives of some of the men and women under his command? 

Sanchez’s response is that as an active duty officer he had to respect the tradition of obedience to civilian authority. 

This is true, but only to a point.  I suppose we’ll never know what he said in private to his commanding officers and civilian leaders, if anything.  But according to the administration at least, the military never asked for more troops (until the surge that is).  So presumably Sanchez condoned the policy by his silence if nothing else. 

More importantly, if he felt so strongly why did he not resign in protest? 

That would have been the honorable thing to do. 

Clearly this guy is part of the problem outlined by Lt. Col. Paul Yingling in his article A failure in generalship.

Sanchez is not the first high-ranking military or political official to criticize the war effort he was part of.  As the Bush presidency runs down the clock you can bet more people who played a part in shaping and executing the Iraq war policy will attempt to scramble out of the gravity well of the Iraq War black hole in order to salvage something of their reputations for the history books. 

And lastly, what are we to make of someone who ends his speech with the traditional "God bless America" followed by this little gem:

"Praise be to the Lord my rock who trains my fingers for battle and my hands for war."

Very scary.

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