beginning with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, who was
virtually dismissed the day he honestly gave his views to Congress.
Retired generals, former intelligence officers and former Pentagon
officials and aides, all of whom remain close to their active-duty
friends and protégés. These well-informed seniors tell me that
whatever the original US objective was in Iraq, our understrength
forces and flawed strategy have failed, and that we cannot repair
this failure by remaining there indefinitely. Fundamental changes
are needed, and senior officers are prepared to make them. According
to my sources, some active-duty officers are working behind the
scenes to end the war and are preparing for the inevitable US
withdrawal. "The only question is whether a war serves the national
interest," declares a retired three-star general. "Iraq does not."
The well-read retired Marine Lieut. Gen. Gregory Newbold wrote in a
Time magazine essay: "I retired from the military four months before
the March 2003 invasion, in part because of my opposition to those
who had used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy." Newbold
calls the Iraq War "unnecessary" and says the civilians who launched
the war acted with "a casualness and swagger" that are "the special
province" of those who have never smelled death on a battlefield.
The severely understrength US forces have never been able to provide
adequate security. Once Iraqi civilians lost their trust and
confidence in America's protection, the war was lost politically. As
General Newbold says: "Our opposition to Rumsfeld is all about his
accountability for getting Iraq wrong from day one."
"We're not the French generals in Algeria," says Army Maj. Gen.
Paul Eaton, now retired. "But we damned well know that the Iraq War
we've won militarily is being lost politically.
Today, a retired major general privately asserts: "For our
generation, Iraq will be Vietnam with the volume turned way up.
Three decades ago, the retired generals who are now speaking out
against the Iraq War were junior officers in Vietnam. The seniors
who trained and mentored us, and who became generals but who kept
silent, did not speak out after retirement against Vietnam."
Retired Lieut. Gen. William Odom calls the Iraq War "the worst
strategic mistake in the history of the United States" and draws a
grim parallel with the Vietnam War. He says that US strategy in
Iraq, as in Vietnam, has served almost exclusively the interests of
Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack Jr., who commanded the 82nd Airborne
Division, and Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who led the First Infantry
Division (the "Big Red One"). These men recently sacrificed their
careers by retiring and joining the public protest.
"When we disbanded the Iraqi Army, we created a significant part of
the Iraqi insurgency," explains Col. Paul Hughes, whose advice to
retain the army was rejected. Before he retired he told
Ricks, "Unless we ensure that we have coherency in our policy, we
will lose strategically.
Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a hero in the 1991 Gulf War who visited Iraq
and Kuwait this past spring, writes in an unpublished report: "We
need to better equip the Iraqi Army with a capability to deter
foreign attack and to have a leveraged advantage over the Shia
militias and the insurgents they must continue to confront.
A key argument in the ex-generals' indictment is this undeniable
fact: Our armed forces are too small to police and reorder the world
and intervene almost blindly, as we have in Iraq.
In the inevitable post-Iraq War tsunami of US political
recrimination, such Israelis foresee Christian Zionist evangelicals,
whose lobbying muscle in Congress was decisive in the run-up to the
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