Senate Democrats

Our Military Leaders Agree: There Is No End In Sight to the Bush Administration’s Flawed Iraq Strategy; It is Time to Change Course

Recently, Retired Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez joined the growing ranks of former military generals who have spoken out publicly against the Bush Administration’s flawed strategy in Iraq.  In a speech on October 12, the former top U.S. commander in Iraq sharply criticized the Administration’s management of the war and its current strategy, warning that “America is living a nightmare with no end in sight.” 

Citing “a glaring and unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders,” General Sanchez blamed Bush Administration officials for a “catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan.”  He lamented that, “[a]fter more than fours years of fighting, America continues its desperate struggle in Iraq without any concerted effort to devise a strategy that will achieve victory in that war-torn country or in the greater conflict against extremism” and warned that “[c]ontinued manipulations and adjustments to our military strategy will not achieve victory.  The best we can do with this flawed approach is stave off defeat.” (New York Times, 10/13/07)

Lt. Gen. Sanchez adds to a chorus of more than twenty retired generals who have called for a new strategy in Iraq.  This unprecedented wave of criticism from former military officials who were deeply involved in Iraq highlights how critical it is that we change the direction of U.S. military operations and strategy in Iraq.

While the Bush Administration continues to cling to a failed policy in Iraq, Democrats understand the urgency of changing course.  We have a comprehensive strategy for Iraq that will stabilize the country, help restore the readiness of our military, more effectively counter global terrorist threats, and better serve U.S. national security interests at home and abroad.  

The following statements made by former military officials who oppose the Bush Administration’s policies in Iraq, spotlights the White House’s growing isolation and the need to change course now.

Major General John Batiste (Ret.):  “We went to war with a flawed plan that didn’t account for the hard work to build the peace after we took down the regime.  We also served under a secretary of defense who didn’t understand leadership, who was abusive, who was arrogant, who didn’t build a strong team.” (CBS Early Show, 4/14/06)

“[The President’s] stubborn commitment to a failed strategy in Iraq is incomprehensible.  He committed our great military to a failed strategy in violation of basic principles of war.  His failure to mobilize the nation to defeat world wide Islamic extremism is tragic.  We deserve more from our commander-in-chief and his administration.” (National Security Network, 5/1/07)

“Our military and our treasury are not unlimited resources.  The war in Iraq is breaking our fine Army and Marine Corps, and we are perilously close to doing damage that will take more than a decade to fix.  Our brigades and divisions in Iraq today are at near full strength because the rest of the force has been gutted.  We cannot place America in a position of weakness as it just begins its long war against world-wide Islamic extremism.” (Think Progress, 8/22/07)

General Wesley Clark (Ret.), former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe:  “The problem now is, first and foremost, the U.S. national strategy in the region.  So here is my alternative.  I would like to see a different U.S. national strategy first.  Why?  Because General Petraeus, before him General Casey, before him General Abizaid, and everyone of us who have had any military experience, have said you cannot win this war with military power alone. Military is a necessary, but not sufficient, ingredient for the solution.  …Until we go to the heart of that strategy, all the political gimmicks we try and all the military tactics we enhance are only marginal to a solution.”

“…I do think Iraq has weakened us around the world.  I think we have wonderful people in the United States Army and wonderful leadership, and I think they are over-stretched, and I think you can see the institution beginning to fray now.  It has several different problems.  One set of problems is simply fatigue. The families are fatigued and stressed.  They have borne an unfair burden of this conflict.  A second problem has to do with relationships in the ranks, and the trust and mistrust between lower and higher authorities in uniform…  I think that you can see the fraying of the recruiting effort now, as well as the problem with the equipment…  I am quite worried about it.  I don’t think we have the response capability we need.  I would also tell you that more important than the military is the distraction that the Iraq commitment is doing to our national leadership.  We are not focusing on the other issues that need to be addressed – our economic competitiveness in the world, our larger issues in the Middle East…” (Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, 7/12/07)

General Wayne Downing (Ret.), former Commander in Chief of the United States Special Operations Command:  “[T] here’s not a military victory [in Iraq].  That is not in the cards…The politicians are going to solve this thing.  The diplomatic, the economic, the social ramifications of a counterinsurgency campaign are what drives it.  You have to have security, and that’s going to be important, but this security that is so important is going to have to be derived from the Iraqis.” (Meet the Press, 11/25/06)

Major General Paul Eaton, (Ret.): “This war can no longer be won by the military alone.  We must bring to bear the entire array of national power – military, diplomatic and economic.  The situation demands a surge in diplomacy, and pressure on the Iraqi government to fix its internal affairs.  Further, the Army and Marine Corps are on the verge of breaking – or have been broken already – by the length and intensity of this war.  This tempo is not sustainable – and you have failed to grow the ground forces to meet national security needs.  We must begin the process of bringing troops home, and repairing and growing our military, if we are ever to have a combat-ready force for the long war on terror ahead of us.” (Letter to President Bush, 5/1/07)

Lieutenant General Robert Gard (Ret.) and Brigadier General John Johns(Ret.):  “…continued engagement in Iraq’s civil war distracts the United States from our more urgent missions in Afghanistan and enhanced homeland security, stretches the U.S. military to the breaking point, inflicts psychological scars on returning veterans and breaks up their families, causes mounting American casualties, increases the drain on the U.S. treasury, and erodes our stature in the world…  The United States must begin leaving Iraq to force both the Iraqis and the international community to step up to the plate.” (Council for a Livable World, 9/12/07)

General Joseph P. Hoar (Ret.), former Commander in Chief of United States Central Command: “[T]he new strategy, a deeply flawed solution to our current situation, reflects the chronic inability of the administration to get it right.  The courageous men and women of our armed forces have been superb.  They have met all the challenges of this difficult war.  Unfortunately, they have not been well served by the civilian leadership.  …The addition of 21,000 troops is too little and too late.  This is still not enough to quell the violence, and without major changes in the command and control of forces within Baghdad, the current set-up for shared control is unsatisfactory.” (Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, 1/18/07)

General James L. Jones (Ret.), former NATO Commander and Marine Commandant:  “[I]t is time to look at our footprint, it is time to look at the number of bases we have, our disposition, the number of forces, to make sure that we have the right number of personnel there, but not an excessive number, and that we’re sensitive to the perceptions that, rather than being an expeditionary force, which is temporary, we might inadvertently be giving the impression that we are, in fact, an occupying force.” (Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, 9/6/07)

General Jack Keane (Ret.), former Army Vice Chief of Staff:  “I need to emphasize the importance of the economic package to the success of this operation and also to the use of the other elements of national power.  The military leaders’ frustration, when you hear them speak about it – and many of you who have visited the region know this.  They have believed that their activities, while central in Iraq, in terms of military operation, they realize that, but it’s disproportionate, in terms of effectiveness, from the other elements of national power, in terms of the political, economic and diplomatic.  The inter-agency effort in Iraq has been a failure, and that’s the truth of it.  We’ve got to be honest about it.” (Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 1/18/07)

General Barry R. McCaffrey (Ret.):  General McCaffrey testified that the Bush Administration’s surge strategy “is a fool’s errand.” Further, he stated, “Your Army, somewhat the Marine Corps, are broken.  Our equipment is broken.  Hundreds of our armored vehicles are lined up at depots.  It has been grossly under-resourced.  We are in a position of strategic peril.  In my judgment, our manpower is inadequate.  I’ve been saying 80,000 troops short in the Army, 25,000 in the Marine Corps.  Our recruiting is faltering.  There is unquestionably, on the bottom end, a decrease in the quality of the kids coming into the United States Army now.  We’re encountering all sorts of problems we didn’t see some years ago.  You must fix the Army and the Marine Corps or we will be incapable of responding to the next crisis.” (Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 1/18/07)

“The denial of the evidence in front of their eyes has been preposterous – the broken Army equipment, the country is currently in strategic peril.  This is the first time since World War II that we are strategically, as a ground combat force, in such as vulnerable position.  If the other shoe drops, Castro dies, a half million Cuban refuges, miscalculation on the Korean Peninsula, a whole series of potential vulnerabilities, a major strike on the homeland, with millions of refugees in flight, we have left the U.S. Armed Forces, the U.S. National Guard, the central load-bearing institution of domestic security ill-equipped to move forward.  So we’ve got to drawdown the force.” (Testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, 7/31/07)

General Tony McPeak (Ret.), former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force:  “We who have some experience – who have seen war close up and sent troops to battle – know that victory is not won by single combat.  War is not like that.  War is a team sport.  We built the team that won World War II.  We put together the great team that won the Cold War.  That’s why what has happened over the last three years is such a tragedy, such a national disaster.  Rebuilding the team won’t be easy.” (CNN, 7/31/04)

General Montgomery Meigs (Ret.):  “I think we are breaking even [in Iraq], which is not where you want to be… In the QDR process, the secretary of defense agreed with the Army argument, says you need five units rotating and keep one in the field all the time.  That was out of our Bosnia experience.  The 3rd Infantry Division is going back online after about 15 or 16 months home.  That is less than a 3:1 ratio, and 40 percent of those soldiers in that division were in the last tour in combat.  That is telling you that in order to maintain the types of commitments we have in this world today, the Army and the Marine Corps are just too small.  Now, if you can’t maintain the rotation of the type that Barry [McCaffrey] is talking about, even if it went down to two and a half divisions, clearly you have got a problem with force structure.  The reason the people in OSD don’t want to have a larger Army and Marine Corps, it comes right off the top of your budget out of your discretionary spending.  But that’s a price we’re going to have to pay if we’re going to have this kind of a foreign policy.” (Meet the Press, 12/12/04)

Major General William L. Nash (Ret.):  In an interview with The Observer, General Nash stated that “[t]he window of opportunity which occurred with the fall of Saddam was not seized in terms of establishing stability.”  He said that “[i]t is an endeavor which was not understood by the administration to begin with” and, as a result, “we are now seeing the re-emergence of a reasonably organized military opposition – small scale, but it could escalate.” (The Observer, 6/22/03)

Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, (Ret.)former Director for Operations, the Joint Staff:  “I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat – al-Qaeda.  I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11’s tragedy to hijack our security policy…What we are living with now is the consequences of successive policy failures…My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions – or bury the results. (Time, “Why Iraq Was a Mistake,” 4/9/06)

“The first thing we need is a cohered and sophisticated strategy, and so far we have not had one. …We’ve been playing checkers while our enemy’s been playing chess, and it’s time to change that.  …[W]e have gone four and a half years without a viable political solution in Iraq, and I think that’s tragic.” (House Armed Services Committee, 1/31/07)

General William E. Odom (Ret.),formerDirector of the National Security Agency:  “We created the civil war when we invaded; we can’t prevent a civil war by staying.  For those who really worry about destabilizing the region, the sensible policy is not to stay the course in Iraq.” (Neiman Watchdog, “What’s Wrong With Cutting and Running?” 10/3/07)

“[The Bush Administration’s] war aims don’t serve U.S. interests…  The interests that are primarily being served by our invasion are, first, Iran’s… The other party whose interest is being served is Al Qaida’s.  …Therefore, withdrawal is not the road to defeat, it’s the precondition for reframing your strategy for interests that you are in – for a campaign that is in your interests.  I want to say that you overcome the political, strategic and military and diplomatic paralysis by beginning to get out.  As long as we’re in we’re frozen.” (Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 1/18/07) 

General Colin Powell (Ret.), former Secretary of State:  “It’s grave and deteriorating. And as Secretary-designate of Defense Bob Gates said at his confirmation hearing, we’re not winning. So if it’s grave and deteriorating, and we’re not winning, we are losing.”

“…the active Army is about broken.  General Schoomaker is absolutely right, and all of my contacts within the Army suggest that the Army has a serious problem in the active force, and it’s a problem that will spread into the Guard and Reserves: Backlog of equipment that is not being repaired, soldiers – especially officers and noncommissioned officers – going on repetitive tours.  So if you surge now, you’re going to keep troops who’ve already been kept there long even longer, and you’re going to be bringing in troops from the United States who were going to be coming anyway, but perhaps a little bit later.  And so that’s how you surge.  And that surge cannot be sustained.  The current active Army is not large enough, and the Marine Corps is not large enough, for the kinds of missions they’re being asked to perform.  …we are a little less safe in the sense that we don’t have the same force structure available for other problems.  I think we have been somewhat constrained in our ability to influence events elsewhere.” (CBS, Face the Nation, 12/17/06)

Major General John Riggs (Ret.):  In an interview with NPR, Retired General Riggs stated that Donald Rumsfeld created an atmosphere of “arrogance” among the Pentagon’s top civilian leadership.  “They only need the military advice when it satisfies their agenda.  I think that’s a mistake, and that’s why I think he should resign.” (NPR, All Things Considered, 4/13/07) 

General Norman Schwarzkopf (Ret.), former Commander in Chief, United States Central Command:  “I think that you have to put the blame [for our Iraq strategy] there [on the Defense Department civilians] to begin with, and they obviously they were driving the train as far as intelligence apparatus and the information we were getting and that sort of thing.”

“…[Our military forces] they deserve every bit of protection that we can give them.  Absolutely.  And I was very, very disappointed – let me put it stronger, I was angry about the words of the secretary of defense when he laid it all on the Army.  I mean, as if he as the secretary of defense didn’t have anything to do with the Army, if the Army was over there doing it themselves screwing up.” (Hardball, MSNBC, 12/14/04)

Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft (Ret.):  “I believe in the use of force.  But there has to be a good reason for using force.  And you have to know when to stop using force.”  …I thought we ought to make it our duty to help make the world friendlier for the growth of liberal regimes.  You encourage democracy over time, with assistance, and aid, the traditional way.  Not how the neocons do it.  …How do the neocons bring democracy to Iraq?  You invade, you threaten and pressure, you evangelize…  This was said to be part of the war on terror, but Iraq feeds terrorism.” (New Yorker, 10/31/05)

General John Shalikashvili (Ret.) former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:  As part of the panel of experts on the National Security Advisory Group, General Shalikashvili reported in January 2006 that “two thirds of the Army’s operating force, active and reserve, is now reporting as unready…”   Further, the report stated that “our ground forces are under enormous strain.  This strain, if not soon relieved, will have highly corrosive and potentially long-term effects on our force.  We believe that the Bush Administration has broken faith with the American soldier and Marine: by failing to plan adequately for post-conflict operations in Iraq; by failing to send in enough forces to accomplish that mission at an acceptable level of risk; and by failing to adequately equip and protect the young Americans they sent into harm’s way.  These failures have created a real risk of ‘breaking the force'” (The U.S. Military: Under Strain and At Risk, 1/06)

General Gordon Sullivan (Ret.),former U.S. Army Chief of Staff:  “I don’t think the total Army is ready to do that [to fight another war should one break out in Korea or any number of other places], given that your regular Army, your active Army, is deeply involved in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I think the only trained manpower you could get to would be in the Guard and Reserve.  This is going to be a less than desirable solution.  I think the Marines are in the same boat…  I think there’s a danger of fracturing the Army during this protracted conflict.  The men and women who are serving are remarkably resilient.  They’re tough and they’re dedicated.  I don’t know how long we can say that.  I don’t think anybody knows.” (Morning Edition, NPR, 12/7/06)

Major General Charles H. Swannack, Jr. (Ret.):  “I really believe that we need a new secretary of defense because Secretary Rumsfeld carries way too much baggage with him…  I think we need senior military leaders who understand the principles of war and apply them ruthlessly, and when the time comes, they need to call it like it is…  I feel he has micromanaged the generals who are leading our forces there…  And I believe he has culpability associated with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and, so, rather than admitting these mistakes, he continually justifies them to the press … and that really disallows him from moving our strategy forward.” (Interview with CNN, 4/13/06)

General Anthony C. Zinni (Ret.): “[Ten] years’ worth of planning were thrown away.  Troop levels dismissed out of hand.  Gen. Shinseki basically insulted for speaking the truth and giving an honest opinion.  The lack of cohesive approach to how we deal with the aftermath, the political, economic, social reconstruction of a nation, which is no small task.  A belief in these exiles that anyone in the region, anyone that had any knowledge, would tell you were not credible on the ground.  And on and on and on, decisions to disband the army that were not in the initial plans.  There’s a series of disastrous mistakes.  We just heard the Secretary of State say these were tactical mistakes.  These were not tactical mistakes.  These were strategic mistakes, mistakes of policies made back here.  Don’t blame the troops.  They’ve been magnificent.  If anything saves us, it will be them.”

RUSSERT:  Should someone resign?

ZINNI:  Absolutely.


ZINNI:  Secretary of Defense to begin with.

(Meet the Press, 4/2/06)