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"Wrong War, Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Gen. Zinni: Heads Should Roll

by SAM HAMOD

In a slashing criticism of the Bush White House and Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon leadership, General Zinni, former Commander of Central Command of U.S. Military, and Special Envoy to the Middle East in the Bush Administration until he resigned in disgust, said "Heads should roll at the Pentagon–Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith and those who foisted the Iraq war on the U.S. despite my objectioins and those of most U.S. Generals including, Schwartkopf, Skowcroft, Clark, Shinseki and others."

Speaking on 60 MINUTES,May 23, Zinni said, "The plan was wrong, it was the wrong war, the wrong place and the wrong time–with little or no planning." He stated that there were serious "derelections of duty," "criminal negligence," and poor planning that put U.S. forces in harm’s way and left Iraq in chaos after the invasion. Further, he added that the Pentagon’s man on the ground, Paul Bremer, had made "mistake after mistake after mistake."

General Zinni, a man respected for his candor, his intelligence and his ethics, now holds a professorship of International Relations at the College of William and Mary. His new book, BATTLE READY, written with Tom Clancy, puts forth more details of his criticism of the Pentagon and the military strategies or lack of professional strategies as developed by Rumsfeld, General Franks, Wolfowitz, Feith and Perle. He also questioned why the Pentagon set up its own "intelligence unit", bypassing other intelligence agencies. This internally controlled agency finally gave the Pentagon, the State Department and even the White House, false and misleading information about Iraq, WMD’s and the threat level from Saddam Hussein.

Because of his criticism, some in the Pentagon have labeled him, "anti-semitic." As he pointed out on 60 MINUTES, "I don’t know their ethnic background; I am talking about military and foreign policy,not anyone’s ethnicity." "This shows how low these people will stoop to cover up their incompetence and guilt, to call me anti-semitic," said Zinni.

Zinni’s forthright, position was also attacked by some politicos in the White House and elsewhere who said he should be "loyal" and not criticise the government during war time. Zinni retorted, "Suppose you went to war with a rifle that malfunctioned and got your soldiers killed, would you just keep your mouth shut and let your men be killed or would you speak up?" He went on to say, "We have a policy in this war that is worse than a malfunctioning rifle, and it is our American duty to speak up", just as General Shinseki has spoken up and as have others who worked in the CIA, Military Intelligence, Inspection of Iraq group and others.

As Zinni pointed out, all the generals who knew the situation in the Middle East had testified to the Congress and to the White House that "Saddam was contained with the no-fly, no-drive zones and by the embargoes; he was under control and was not a threat to anyone." He went on to say that we had a major problem after 9/11 with Al Qaeda and Afghanistan, then suddenly our focus was taken from that and diverted to Iraq. By attacking Iraq we lost our focus on terrorism. In addition, instead of our standing and assistance growing in the Middle East, it went kaput and is getting worse every day.

Though he did not mention it, at this time, over 80% of Iraqis want the U.S. out of their country and have lost trust in us and our rhetoric of "freedom and democracy." As many put it, "You are another Saddam."

Zinni made clear that unless heads roll, then these absurd and dangerous policies will continue, and America will suffer the consequences on a global scale; things will get worse, until such time that we will have to beat a hasty retreat from Iraq.

General Zinni’s comments come at a time when there are scandals in the military for torture, poor training, incompetent command and constant lying to evade responsibility. Even the lies by General Kimmit in the last 48 hours denying that an Iraqi wedding party was attacked by US planes and helicopters have been shredded by evidence found by the Associated Press and others who have documentation with film and other evidence that a wedding was indeed taking place.

Add to this, and the destruction of mosques in Najaf which has infuriated Shi’a all over the world, and the shortages of supplies for American troops–all of these things, these failures, fly in the face of President Bush’s comments that the war in Iraq is under control. Sadly, it now appears that major officers within the military and the Pentagon were complitous in the torture of prisoners at various prison camps in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the disaster is compounded. Then to top this off, the military is now trying to punish or demote those who came forth with the information detailing these torture and killing crimes in prisons under our control. Thus, it appears as if the outrage in the military and the Pentagon is not that American soldiers perpetrated the torture and other crimes, but that the material came out for the whole world to see.

The outrage at our behavior in Iraq has been condemned throughout the world. It even became so bad that senior commentator and conscience of America, Andy Rooney, speaking on the same 60 MINUTES program last night, said, "These men in the photos and whoever was in charge of them, and who allowed this to happen should be kicked out of America. A one year jail term is not enough for this type of crime–we all know that." Mr. Rooney’s thoughts echo those of many of us who are aghast at the minor penalty given; we are also upset that the military is trying to punish a few minor players, when we all are aware by this time that Rumsfeld, John Yoo, Albert Gonzales, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Franks, Sanchez and Abizaid are the ones who really perpetrated these vile policies that have led us to this terrible impasse.

Zinni’s comments and those of Andy Rooney at this time are most welcome; let us hope that other military and civilian leaders come forth with this same courage. We also hope that Senators Hatch, Congressman Duncan Hunter and others who want to cover up these disasters will refrain from their unpatriotic behavior, lest they, the White House, and the Pentagon find a way to sweep this under the carpet and allow America to lose more soldiers, kill more Iraqis and lose more prestige and what is left of America’s moral standing in the world.

SAM HAMOD writes regularly on the Middle East,Islam and world affairs; he is the former Editor of 3rd World News (Wash, DC); taught at Princeton, Michigan, Iowa and Howard;he may be reached at shamod@cox.net

c SAM HAMOD, may 24, 2004