Retired General Anthony Zinni is one of the
most respected and outspoken military leaders
of the past two decades.
1997 to 2000, he was commander-in-chief of
the United States Central Command, in charge
of all American troops in the Middle East.
That was the same job held by Gen. Norman
Schwarzkopf before him, and Gen. Tommy Franks
his retirement from the Marine Corps, the
Bush administration thought so highly of Zinni
that it appointed him to one of its highest
diplomatic posts -- special envoy to the Middle
Zinni broke ranks with the administration
over the war in Iraq, and now, in his harshest
criticism yet, he says senior officials at
the Pentagon are guilty of dereliction of
duty -- and that the time has come for heads
to roll. Correspondent Steve Kroft reports.
has been poor strategic thinking in this,"
says Zinni. "There has been poor operational
planning and execution on the ground. And
to think that we are going to 'stay the course,'
the course is headed over Niagara Falls. I
think it's time to change course a little
bit, or at least hold somebody responsible
for putting you on this course. Because it's
been a failure."
spent more than 40 years serving his country
as a warrior and diplomat, rising from a young
lieutenant in Vietnam to four-star general
with a reputation for candor.
in a new book about his career, co-written
with Tom Clancy, called "Battle Ready," Zinni
has handed up a scathing indictment of the
Pentagon and its conduct of the war in Iraq.
the book, Zinni writes: "In the lead up to
the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw
at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence
and irresponsibility, at worse, lying, incompetence
think there was dereliction in insufficient
forces being put on the ground and fully understanding
the military dimensions of the plan. I think
there was dereliction in lack of planning,"
says Zinni. "The president is owed the finest
strategic thinking. He is owed the finest
operational planning. He is owed the finest
tactical execution on the ground. - He got
the latter. He didn't get the first two."
says Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time
- with the wrong strategy. And he was saying
it before the U.S. invasion. In the months
leading up to the war, while still Middle
East envoy, Zinni carried the message to Congress:
"This is, in my view, the worst time to take
this on. And I don't feel it needs to be done
he wasn't the only former military leader
with doubts about the invasion of Iraq. Former
General and National Security Advisor Brent
Scowcroft, former Centcom Commander Norman
Schwarzkopf, former NATO Commander Wesley
Clark, and former Army Chief of Staff Eric
Shinseki all voiced their reservations.
believes this was a war the generals didn't
want -- but it was a war the civilians wanted.
can't speak for all generals, certainly. But
I know we felt that this situation was contained.
Saddam was effectively contained. The no-fly,
no-drive zones. The sanctions that were imposed
on him," says Zinni.
at the same time, we had this war on terrorism.
We were fighting al Qaeda. We were engaged
in Afghanistan. We were looking at 'cells'
in 60 countries. We were looking at threats
that we were receiving information on and
intelligence on. And I think most of the generals
felt, let's deal with this one at a time.
Let's deal with this threat from terrorism,
from al Qaeda."
of Zinni's responsibilities while commander-in-chief
at Centcom was to develop a plan for the invasion
of Iraq. Like his predecessors, he subscribed
to the belief that you only enter battle with
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld thought
the job could be done with fewer troops and
many troops did Zinni's plan call for? "We
were much in line with Gen. Shinseki's view,"
says Zinni. "We were talking about, you know,
300,000, in that neighborhood."
difference would it have made if 300,000 troops
had been sent in, instead of 180,000?
think it's critical in the aftermath, if you're
gonna go to resolve a conflict through the
use of force, and then to rebuild the country,"
first requirement is to freeze the situation,
is to gain control of the security. To patrol
the streets. To prevent the looting. To prevent
the 'revenge' killings that might occur. To
prevent bands or gangs or militias that might
not have your best interests at heart from
growing or developing."
month, Secretary Rumsfeld acknowledged that
he hadn't anticipated the level of violence
that would continue in Iraq a year after the
war began. Should he have been surprised?
should not have been surprised. You know,
there were a number of people, before we even
engaged in this conflict, that felt strongly
we were underestimating the problems and the
scope of the problems we would have in there,"
says Zinni. "Not just generals, but others
-- diplomats, those in the international community
that understood the situation. Friends of
ours in the region that were cautioning us
to be careful out there. I think he should
have known that."
Zinni says the Pentagon relied on inflated
intelligence information about weapons of
mass destruction from Iraqi exiles, like Ahmed
Chalabi and others, whose credibility was
in doubt. Zinni claims there was no viable
plan or strategy in place for governing post-Saddam
best I could see, I saw a pickup team, very
small, insufficient in the Pentagon with no
detailed plans that walked onto the battlefield
after the major fighting stopped and tried
to work it out in the huddle -- in effect
to create a seat-of-the-pants operation on
reconstructing a country," says Zinni.
give all the credit in the world to Ambassador
Bremer as a great American who's serving his
country, I think, with all the kind of sacrifice
and spirit you could expect. But he has made
mistake after mistake after mistake."
the army," says Zinni. "De-Baathifying, down
to a level where we removed people that were
competent and didn't have blood on their hands
that you needed in the aftermath of reconstruction
alienating certain elements of that society."
says he blames the Pentagon for what happened.
"I blame the civilian leadership of the Pentagon
directly. Because if they were given the responsibility,
and if this was their war, and by everything
that I understand, they promoted it and pushed
it - certain elements in there certainly -
even to the point of creating their own intelligence
to match their needs, then they should bear
the responsibility," he says.
regardless of whose responsibility I think
it is, somebody has screwed up. And at this
level and at this stage, it should be evident
to everybody that they've screwed up. And
whose heads are rolling on this? That's what
bothers me most."
Zinni: "If you charge me with the responsibility
of taking this nation to war, if you charge
me with implementing that policy with creating
the strategy which convinces me to go to war,
and I fail you, then I ought to go."
specifically is he talking about?
it starts with at the top. If you're the secretary
of defense and you're responsible for that.
If you're responsible for that planning and
that execution on the ground. If you've assumed
responsibility for the other elements, non-military,
non-security, political, economic, social
and everything else, then you bear responsibility,"
says Zinni. "Certainly those in your ranks
that foisted this strategy on us that is flawed.
Certainly they ought to be gone and replaced."
is talking about a group of policymakers within
the administration known as "the neo-conservatives"
who saw the invasion of Iraq as a way to stabilize
American interests in the region and strengthen
the position of Israel. They include Deputy
Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Undersecretary
of Defense Douglas Feith; Former Defense Policy
Board member Richard Perle; National Security
Council member Eliot Abrams; and Vice President
Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
believes they are political ideologues who
have hijacked American policy in Iraq.
think it's the worst kept secret in Washington.
That everybody - everybody I talk to in Washington
has known and fully knows what their agenda
was and what they were trying to do," says
one article, because I mentioned the neo-conservatives
who describe themselves as neo-conservatives,
I was called anti-Semitic. I mean, you know,
unbelievable that that's the kind of personal
attacks that are run when you criticize a
strategy and those who propose it. I certainly
didn't criticize who they were. I certainly
don't know what their ethnic religious backgrounds
are. And I'm not interested."
Zinni: "I know what strategy they promoted.
And openly. And for a number of years. And
what they have convinced the president and
the secretary to do. And I don't believe there
is any serious political leader, military
leader, diplomat in Washington that doesn't
know where it came from."
said he believed their strategy was to change
the Middle East and bring it into the 21st
sounds very good, all very noble. The trouble
is the way they saw to go about this is unilateral
aggressive intervention by the United States
- the take down of Iraq as a priority," adds
Zinni. "And what we have become now in the
United States, how we're viewed in this region
is not an entity that's promising positive
change. We are now being viewed as the modern
crusaders, as the modern colonial power in
this part of the world."
all of those involved, including Rumsfeld
and Wolfowitz, resign?
believe that they should accept responsibility
for that," says Zinni. "If I were the commander
of a military organization that delivered
this kind of performance to the president,
I certainly would tender my resignation. I
certainly would expect to be gone."
say we need to change course -- that the current
course is taking us over Niagara Falls. What
course do you think ought to be set," Kroft
it's been evident from the beginning what
the course is. We should have gotten this
U.N. resolution from the beginning. What does
it take to sit down with the members of the
Security Council, the permanent members, and
find out what it takes," says Zinni.
is it they want to get this resolution? Do
they want a say in political reconstruction?
Do they want a piece of the pie economically?
If that's the cost, fine. What they're gonna
pay for up front is boots on the ground and
involvement in sharing the burden."
there enough troops in Iraq now?
I think there are other missions that should
be taken on which would cause the number of
troops to go up, not just U.S., but international
participants? Yes," says Zinni.
should be sealing off the borders, we should
be protecting the road networks. We're not
only asking for combat troops, we're looking
for trainers; we're looking for engineers.
We are looking for those who can provide services
has the time come to develop an exit strategy?
is a limit. I think it's important to understand
what the limit is. Now do I think we are there
yet? No, it is salvageable if you can convince
the Iraqis that what we're trying to do is
in their benefit in the long run," says Zinni.
we change our communication and demonstrate
a different image to the people on the street,
then we're gonna get to the point where we
are going to be looking for quick exits. I
don't believe we're there now. And I wouldn't
want to see us fail here."
who now teaches international relations at
the College of William and Mary, says he feels
a responsibility to speak out, just as former
Marine Corps Commandant David Shoup voiced
early concerns about the Vietnam war nearly
40 years ago.
is part of your duty. Look, there is one statement
that bothers me more than anything else. And
that's the idea that when the troops are in
combat, everybody has to shut up. Imagine
if we put troops in combat with a faulty rifle,
and that rifle was malfunctioning, and troops
were dying as a result," says Zinni.
can't think anyone would allow that to happen,
that would not speak up. Well, what's the
difference between a faulty plan and strategy
that's getting just as many troops killed?
It's leading down a path where we're not succeeding
and accomplishing the missions we've set out
Minutes asked Secretary Rumsfeld and his deputy
Wolfowitz to respond to Zinni's remarks. The
request for an interview was declined.
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