Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 3, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

SANCHEZ SPEAKS....As we all know, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez has a few bones to pick. Originally in charge of the 1st Armored Division of V Corps during the invasion of Iraq, he was later given a third star and full command of V Corps in June 2003. Along with that — a bit unexpectedly — came command of all coalition ground forces in Iraq when it turned out that the regional commanders and their staffs were all scrambling for the exits. A year later, after the Abu Ghraib scandal, Sanchez was essentially relieved of command and denied a previously promised promotion to four-star general. He retired in 2006.

But he wasn't happy about it. In a speech last year, he lambasted pretty much everyone except himself for their conduct of the Iraq war, including (a) the Bush administration, (b) the Pentagon, (c) Congress, (d) the National Security Council, (e) the "inter-agency process," (f) the State Department, and (g) the media. Despite all that, however, the Washington Post reported that "He declined to say whether he thinks he was scapegoated by the Army and refused to name senior leaders he believes failed at developing war strategy, saying several times: 'More to follow later.'"

Apparently "later" has now arrived. Sanchez is hawking his new book, Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story, and Time magazine has an excerpt:

I walked into Rumsfeld's office at 1:25 p.m. on April 19, 2006. He had just returned from a meeting at the White House, and the only other person present in the room was his new Chief of Staff, John Rangel.

....Secretary Rumsfeld then pulled out a two-page memo and handed it to me. "I wrote this after a promotion interview about two weeks ago," he explained. "The officer told me that one of the biggest mistakes we made after the war was to allow CENTCOM and CFLCC [coalition land forces] to leave the Iraq theater immediately after the fighting stopped — and that left you and V Corps with the entire mission."

....He went on to write that neither he nor anyone higher in the Administration knew these orders had been issued, and that he was dumbfounded when he learned that Gen. McKiernan was out of the country and in Kuwait, and that the forces would be drawn down to a level of about 30,000 by September. "I did not know that Sanchez was in charge," he wrote.

I stopped reading after I read that last statement, because I knew it was total BS....Starting to get a little worked up, I paused a moment, and then looked Rumsfeld straight in the eye. "Sir, I cannot believe that you didn't know I was being left in charge in Iraq."

"No! No!" he replied. "I was never told that the plan was for V Corps to assume the entire mission. I have to issue orders and approve force deployments into the theater, and they moved all these troops around without any orders or notification from me."

....After the meeting ended, I remember walking out of the Pentagon shaking my head and wondering how in the world Rumsfeld could have expected me to believe him. Everybody knew that CENTCOM had issued orders to drawdown the forces. The Department of Defense had printed public affairs guidance for how the military should answer press queries about the redeployment. There were victory parades being planned. And in mid-May 2003, Rumsfeld himself had sent out some of his famous "snowflake" memorandums to Gen. Franks asking how the general was going to redeploy all the forces in Kuwait. The Secretary knew. Everybody knew.

Rumsfeld commissioned an investigation into the drawdown plans, and Sanchez says he later asked a member of the team if they had ever finished it:

"Oh, yes sir. We sure did," came the reply. "And let me tell you, it was ugly."

"Ugly?" I asked.

"Yes, sir. Our report validated everything you told us — that Franks issued the orders to discard the original twelve-to-eighteen-month occupation deployment, that the forces were drawing down, that we were walking away from the mission, and that everybody knew about it. And let me tell you, the Secretary did not like that one bit. After we went in to brief him, he just shut us down. 'This is not going anywhere,' he said. 'Oh, and by the way, leave all the copies right here and don't talk to anybody about it.'"

....When I was on the ground in Iraq and saw what was going on, I assumed they had done zero Phase IV planning. Now, three years later, I was learning for the first time that my assumption was not completely accurate. In fact, CENTCOM had originally called for twelve to eighteen months of Phase IV activity with active troop deployments. But then CENTCOM had completely walked away by simply stating that the war was over and Phase IV was not their job.

That decision set up the United States for a failed first year in Iraq. There is no question about it. And I was supposed to believe that neither the Secretary of Defense nor anybody above him knew anything about it? Impossible! Rumsfeld knew about it. Everybody on the NSC knew about it, including Condoleezza Rice, George Tenet, and Colin Powell. Vice President Cheney knew about it. And President Bush knew about it.

Sanchez obviously has his own axes to grind here, just like everyone else involved in the Iraq fiasco. But the Wolfowitz/Feith/Rumsfeld plan to immediately draw down to 30,000 troops and essentially abandon Iraq is pretty well known, though never officially acknowledged by the Bush administration to the best of my knowledge. Which means it would sure be interesting to see a copy of the investigation that upset Rumsfeld so much, wouldn't it?

Kevin Drum 2:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (45)

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Comments

I wish all this hindsight had been applied to the forethought phase.

Posted by: jen flowers on May 3, 2008 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

This book looks like it might be worth reading.

P.S. There's a filly in the Derby today.

Posted by: Mazurka on May 3, 2008 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

A few years from now it will be found that Iran instigated undercover efforts that lured the US into this fiasco which totally exonerates Bush and his people. Once this has been fully "vetted" by the press and pundits we will invade Iran.

Posted by: CarlP on May 3, 2008 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

How does falling into an Iranian trap exonerate those dumb enough to fall for it?

Posted by: richard on May 3, 2008 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

The more you know, the worse it gets.

I'll be checking in to see what the trolls have to say. This should be a challenge to their creativity.

Posted by: John Emerson on May 3, 2008 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Let's hope a copy survived.

Posted by: cmac on May 3, 2008 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Sanchez is obviously a discontented guy, who may have played his part in malfeasance but is disappointed because he got dishonored and stepped out of the saddle, and everyone else seemed to basically get away scot-free.

I'm sure his story is interesting, and I bet a lot of it is grounded in truth, but I expect there is a lot more to the puzzle than whatever he has to tell us. It would have been a logical move for the chief bad guys to try to appeal to him behind the scenes and to get him to come over to their side- why?- to get a chance to shape his exposee, to get him to leave things out, and to make key details ambiguous, so that his implicit indictments don't seem quite so damning, and even seem to cast a shadow in the opposite direction, towards innocent parties he hadn't originally intended to criticize. Squelching the whole book would have looked weird and been unbelievable if a lot of people were expecting it to some out; having him put it out, but getting a chance to selectively blunt it, is possibly a better option for them.

Long-story, short: don't assume this guy is a purely-moivated whistle-blower, and don't expect that you're getting his entire story, unchanged, from this book.

Posted by: Swan on May 3, 2008 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not saying Rumsfeld is innocent or anything like that- I'm speculating that Bush or Cheney or someone may have arranged for this guy to put more heat on Rumsfeld than on other people they're more interested in protecting, or if it's Rumsfeld's reputation they're interested in protecting, they may have arranged for his account to look like Rumsfeld's guilt is less clear (i.e., in the real encounter, maybe Rumsfeld just totally tripped up and made himself look guilty, but in the book, Rumsfeld gets off a lie that at least some readers (and certainly mainstream media personalities talking about the book on TV) will be more ready to credit than what Sanchez claims to have thought went on.

Posted by: Swan on May 3, 2008 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

If Sanchez, Rumsfeld, Franks, Bush, Cheney, Feith, Bremer, Hadley, Perl, Wolfowitz, Condi, Powell and Chalabi were in a fight-to-the-death match in the colosseum, who would be the last man standing?

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) on May 3, 2008 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

PS - Isn't it time for another Pentagon Papers? Come on Pentagon researchers and analysts! Get it on.

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) on May 3, 2008 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

When the only choices are to own up to being either a criminal or an idiot, it appears Rumsfeld et al will go for the latter.

Posted by: jrw on May 3, 2008 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

IMPEACHMENT OF BUSH AND CHENEY, would implicate Rumsfeld et. al. and bring forth enough evidence for ARREST AND TRIAL. Call Nan @1-202-225-0100 and DEMAND IMPEACHMENT.

Posted by: Mike Meyer on May 3, 2008 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

> It would have been a logical move for the
> chief bad guys to try to appeal to him behind the
> scenes and to get him to come over to their side-
> why?-

By "bad guys" you mean people who disagree with the Cheney/Rumsfeld/Feith view of the world? Democrats? Libruls? Anyone who isn't a hard member of the Radical Right?

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on May 3, 2008 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

Cranky, in that comment I meant architects of the Iraq war- conservatives in the admin (perhaps as good a guess as any to who really got the ball rolling). You're grossly misreading my comments if you think I'm a conservative.

Posted by: Swan on May 3, 2008 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

To anybody else who might have been confused by my comments, I know it may have sounded a little like the type of thing a conservative troll would write about a liberal- but notice I didn't at all try to blunt the veracity of Sanchez' attributing blame for anything to any conservatives.

My motivation is just that, Sanchez may be a low guy on the totem poll, and relatively good compared to others, but if he's being used as a tool by them, that stuff is no reason not to look at what he's doing critically, and trying to neutralize any shady stuff it ends up being discovered he's doing. This dude is some soldier, he's not Green Peace. Up until recently, his principal ambition in life was probably doing well in a large organization the purpose of which is to organize large expeditions to kill people. There's no reason at all for me to romanticize this guy, despite contemporary myths to the contrary.

Posted by: Swan on May 3, 2008 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Give it a rest Mikey.

Posted by: Pat on May 3, 2008 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

excerpt of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld Interviews with Mr. Bob Woodward -- July 6 and 7, 2006

MR. WOODWARD: The beginning is this question of what was the model for Iraq, because I think it was Bill Luti who was giving briefings here about kind of an occupation -- not necessarily MacArthur style, but it looked like that. And then other people were talking about a quick handover in one of these meetings. You say --

SEC. RUMSFELD: I tilted to the latter, to the quicker handover, and the president did. . .

MR. WOODWARD: In '03, though, if I go through the record, talk to people like Garner and go through records, talk to people in the White House, it seemed --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Garner had that model, too.

MR. WOODWARD: Pardon?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Jay Garner --

MR. WOODWARD: Yes, yes --

SEC. RUMSFELD: -- had that model, too.

MR. WOODWARD: Yes, exactly. Exactly. He was let's set up an interim governing council, let's, you know -- I mean, he briefed the president on we're going to use 200,000 to 300,000 Iraqi troops for border patrol and security and so forth.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Is that right? Well, I don't know that.

MR. WOODWARD: And --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Do you want me every time you say something that I don't know to tell you?

MR. WOODWARD: Absolutely.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Okay. I don't know that.

MR. WOODWARD: My question really is -- what did you envision in the spring of '03 happening? Because, of course, Bremer comes in with a very different model.

SEC. RUMSFELD: He did? I was more in the Jay Garner mode. And Jerry Bremer, of course, is a presidential envoy and, as such, he reported to the president and to Condi at the NSC staff.

MR. WOODWARD: I see, but did you -- because you were in charge, you -- particularly Garner was reporting to you in this? And Bremer actually reported ot you initially?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Bremer actually was --

MR. WOODWARD: Reported to you initially --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Technically, but not really. He didn't call home much. In other words, he was out there in a tough environment, making a lot of decisions, calling audibles, and it's a difficult job.
http://www.defenselink.mil/Transcripts/Transcript.aspx?TranscriptID=3744

Posted by: Don Bacon on May 3, 2008 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

The honor and respect Americans give to the military leadership is unearned.

Posted by: Brojo on May 3, 2008 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

I get it, they thought this would just be a trillion dollar venture.

Posted by: Matt on May 3, 2008 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

Again, Chalabi was supposed to be Iraq's Pinochet. We were supposed to help Chalabi put his dictatorship in place and then leave. When Chalabi decided he didn't want to be a dictator, that's when everything got screwed up. As they say, Plan A failed, and there was no Plan B.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on May 3, 2008 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

Karzai has been the model.

Posted by: Don Bacon on May 3, 2008 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

Sanchez‘s command in Iraq was a disaster. Granted he got little support and lots of pressure from Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld and the neocons were convinced if they could just capture Saddam the insurgency would collapse. The result was untrained GI’s knocking down doors and walking over people while shouting the F word. Mass arrest of mostly innocent Iraq’s were not the way to win hearts and minds. Petraeus‘s counterinsurgency campaign is too little too late, but if implemented from the start it just might of stood a chance.

Posted by: fafner1 on May 3, 2008 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

Which means it would sure be interesting to see a copy of the investigation that upset Rumsfeld so much, wouldn't it?

The timing might provide a clue. Why did Rumsfeld feel the need to write a memo and initiate the investigation in Apr-May '06 for what happened in Apr-May '03? Undoubtedly there was some CYA involved, but "SECDEF Ignorant While Generals Run Wild" wouldn't have been very useful to Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld was more likely looking for someone to lay the blame on, and dirt to use as leverage (against who? Abizad?), and it backfired.

Posted by: has407 on May 3, 2008 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

How ironic, that the Administration itself wanted to "cut and run" early in the game - then they used that, and still do, against their critics, at a time when things have gotten to be a boondoggle. Wankers.
Now let's see if Drudge has the balls to put this up. We can at least stimulate him accordingly.

Posted by: NB on May 3, 2008 at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on May 3, 2008 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

mhr: Osama bin Laden ... has vowed to ... drive the Americans from Iraq and the entire Middle East. With the aid and comfort of the hate-America crowd of the US left, he just may accomplish his goal.

Actually, he vowed to drive the Americans from the Holy Lands of Saudi Arabia. With the aid and comfort of the hate-America crowd now running this country, he has already accomplished his goal.

Posted by: thersites on May 3, 2008 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

I have to, respectfully, disagree with CarlP. PNAC had been wanting to go into Iraq since 1998. Wolfowitz wanted to go into Baghdad during the first Gulf war and was upset when Bush Sr and Scowcroft decided it would be unmanageable and destabilise the middle east, Cheney even agreed at that time. This was an occupation of choice,lets not forget the pre-emptive doctrine either.

Posted by: Jet on May 3, 2008 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

Pat; What? Do YOU want to see them get away with it? The LIES, MURDER, TORTURE, THE ROBBING OF YOUR TREASURY, THE BLOOD OF YOUR FELLOW AMERICANS??? Or maybe YOU just like to say "WE can't", "WE aren't good enough", " WE are NOT smart enough to IMPEACH", "there's just no use in trying". Is THAT what YOU are trying to say?

Posted by: Mike Meyer on May 3, 2008 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

Mike, IT ain't gonna HAPPEN! Maybe IT should HAPPEN, but IT WON'T. We're talking about CONGRESS. BUSH AND CHENEY will be out of office before ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT could be DRAWN UP.

. . . so give it a rest

Posted by: DevilDog on May 3, 2008 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, before you invest too much in Sanchez, you might read Michael Yon's book. His quote "General Sanchez could turn wine into vinegar with a single glance."

Posted by: Mike K on May 3, 2008 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

"Kevin, before you invest too much in Sanchez, you might read Michael Yon's book."

Why? Kevin has already acknowledged that "Sanchez obviously has his own axes to grind..." That has nothing to do with the particular topic under discussion. As for Rumsfeld, his incompetence has been well documented. Sanchez' account can hardly make him look any worse.

Posted by: PaulB on May 4, 2008 at 1:45 AM | PERMALINK

Aaah, the heady days of mid-summer 2003. Mission accomplished. Victory parades being planned.

However, not just one big victory parade (ala Lindbergh) as proposed by Bloomberg in New York City, but victory parades planned around the country, in large cities and small, coordinated by a White House special office, packed with Republican political operatives out to milk every last drop from Bush's "Mission Accomplished" declaration, no doubt victory celebrations planned nationwide with local and state Republicans being asked to lead the festivities, as part of a Karl Rovian politics-all-the-time political plot.

I did a Google search "victory parades +2003" and the fourth one down is a NY Times article from May 4, 2003, just days after Bush's "Mission Accomplished" aircraft carrier stunt.

This article, when read in the context of what Gen. Sanchez is saying, explains a whole lot about the Republican Party's political timetable for the Iraq War. It explains the "Mission Accomplished" photo-op stunt, and why it happened when it did. It explains the next stage that Republican strategists had planned...the nationwide victory parades...as a lead into the 2004 election season and the re-election campaign of Bush.

Except, much to the chagrin of the Republican political strategists with their Power Point presentations...as well as much to the tragedy of our armed forces, this Republican Party three-stage campaign plan spanning 2003 and 2004 (a rapidly concluded war with Iraq, then politicized victory parades, leading to the successful re-election of Bush in 2004 with a whole lot of Republicans riding his "war president" shirttails) didn't exactly follow the script...except for the criminal Bush getting re-elected, that is.

Anyway, just thought I'd pass along that info about the NY Times May 4th, 2003 article. I'm certain if I'd looked further down the Google list I would have found even more articles from 2003 about planned Republican victory parades.

Posted by: The Oracle on May 4, 2008 at 5:17 AM | PERMALINK

Dang! We have a new set of Pentagon Papers to look forward to!
Rumsfeld is a delusional fool, and should be roasted, basted and spitflame twisted above the fire - under oath, before Congress.

Posted by: on May 4, 2008 at 7:18 AM | PERMALINK

DevilDog: Can't afford a phonecall? Or just don't have a minute of YOUR time to spare?

Posted by: Mike Meyer on May 4, 2008 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps YOU are worried that YOU will be spied upon for calling. Reasonable fears, to be sure, but may I remind YOU that "they" are spying on all of US already.

Posted by: Mike Meyer on May 4, 2008 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

So many recriminating and backstabbing books about the war...so little time.

Posted by: Sean Scallon on May 4, 2008 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

I think Sanchez had two jobs: find Saddam, and find the WMD that were the justification of the war.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on May 4, 2008 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Historians hundreds of years from now are going to be asking why the Democrats didn't impeach this reptile Bush, VP Cheney and the entire Bush Cabinet. How shameful that the Democrats let these criminals serve out their terms with no accountability whatsoever....

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on May 4, 2008 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

No, historians are going to date the irrelevance of the old Democratic Party to the year they tried to elect an uncut boy named Obama as president. Andrew Jackson would have laughed.

Posted by: Mike K on May 4, 2008 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

"abandon Iraq"?

Wow, that would be bad. Let's not do that, now.

Posted by: a on May 4, 2008 at 9:40 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K: Andrew Jackson would have laughed.

In case you haven't noticed, Jackson's been dead for quite a long time. Any opinions he might have had are as dead and irrelevant as yours.

Posted by: has407 on May 4, 2008 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

I use to work directly for Gen Sanchez, I have to honestly say that he is very honest and truthful to a fault. I enjoyed working for him, he was all about getting the job done and not wasting time. I worked for him for 2 years and never saw any of the BS that has been written by quote some experts.

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