Monday, April 03, 2006

General Zinni 20 Bushco 0

Interview with Anthony Zinni
Category: Politics
Posted on: April 3, 2006 3:11 PM

Tim Russert interviewed General Anthony Zinni last night. In the early stages of the Iraq war, I wrote about Zinni a lot. He was the head of the US Central Command, the chief American military officer in the Middle East, until just before the war broke out. He was also one of the generals, along with Eric Shinseki, who spoke out publicly about the massive mistakes and ridiculously rosy scenarios being thrown out by the administration in the media. I said then that if we didn't listen to Zinni and Shinseki we were going to end up with a disaster on our hands in Iraq, and that has proven true.

Zinni was the man in charge of all the war planning in the middle east. He had worked for years on detailed contingency plans for what to do if the US had to go into Iraq. Those plans included detailed roadmaps to securing the country, stabilizing it and rapidly beginning the rebuilding process. Before he left his position, he was publicly proclaiming that all of that careful planning was being thrown aside by Rumsfeld and he was warning the nation of the inevitable outcome of such poor planning. Virtually everything he said then has proven true.

From the start, Rumsfeld was committed to the ridiculous notion that we could succeed with much lower troop levels than the contingency plans required. When Gen. Shinseki went before Congress in early 2003, he told them the war was the easy part, that we would quickly overtake the nation, but that the resulting occupation would be far harder. He said that it would require at least a quarter million troops and well over $100 billion.

The next day, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz called a press conference and declared that Shinseki was "wildly off the mark", and they promptly moved his replacement into place months before he was scheduled to retire and cut him out of the loop on the war planning. But if anything, Shinseki was underestimating things. The cost of the war is now well into the hundreds of billions and everyone in their right mind acknowledges that we needed more boots on the ground to secure and stabilize Iraq after the invasion.

Zinni has much more to say today about how the war is going and what can be done now. You can see the transcript of the interview here, starting about halfway down the page. I think he's absolutely right to say that we now have a responsibility to fix things in Iraq, and I completely reject the argument that we should just pull out and bring the troops home now. That would be ethically bankrupt and strategically foolish. I think he's also right when he says that the one thing that gives us some hope there is the diligence of the troops on the ground, who have been working tirelessly to do some good there, building schools and hospitals and such, but without any overall plan that could tie it all together. Had we listened to Zinni 3 years ago, we would not be in this much of a mess now.

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