MILITARY INNOCENT ABROAD: GENERAL SANCHEZ IN IRAQ
"WAR IS TOO SERIOUS A MATTER TO ENTRUST TO MILITARY MEN". George Clemenceau.
"THE SWORD IS THE AXIS OF THE WORLD AND ITS POWER IS ABSOLUTE" . Charles de Gaulle.
"WE FAILED AS AN ARMY TO DEAL WITH THE SITUATION IN IMMEDIATE, POST-WAR [CIRCA MAY 2003] IRAQ". General Ricardo Sanchez.
Tonight, General Ricardo Sanchez, C-in-C of coalition forces in Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004, spoke to the members of the Oxonian Society in the ornate and august ballroom of the 3 West Club in mid-town Manhattan. The now retired General is peddling his recently published book, "Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story" to the public. Treated to a warm and respectful applause both before and after his talk, General Sanchez, speaking with his native South Texas drawl, offered up a curious defence of his conduct as Allied Commander in chief in Iraq during the initial period of the insurgency, after the defeat of Saddam Hussein's conventional forces in March-April of 2003. Rather than pleading 'mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa', Sanchez in the time honored fashion of the American military hierarchy during the Vietnam War, choose to blame official Washington for the Iraq debacle. Among the more interesting if not very informative or original comments of Sanchez on his time in Baghdad were: American forces were, 'not trained for urban warfare', which they soon had to face; that there was both at his (Corp commander) level and higher in the military hierarchy, no real planning for the post-conventional phase of military operations in Iraq. As per Sanchez, in comments which have been endorsed elsewhere, by the time that he took over the command in Baghdad, all planning in Washington at the time was for withdrawing forces and just leaving a skelton force. However, Sanchez did not offer up any defence of his own (mis)-conduct in the summer of 2003 in not seriously revamping occupation forces so that they could tackle successfully the growing insurgency on the ground from the Sunni insurgents. Nor did he offer any but the weakest defence, in essence again blaming the Rumsfeld Department of Defence and the CIA, for the abuses that lead to the Abu Ghraib Scandal. Notwithstanding the fact that much of the subsequent research has shown that General Sanchez appears to have been singularly incompetent in not exercising the proper supervision of the military prison system in Iraq. In his other remarks, Sanchez blames the then American proconsul in Baghdad, Ambassador Jerry Bremer for the political mistakes (such as de-ba'athization), which helped to make the Iraqi insurgency ever more popular & powerful. He also blames official Washington for the start and stop military offensive in Fallejua in the early Spring of 2004. The General finished his remarks by arguing that Iraq and the Iraq War, was a 'vital national interest', both for 'moral and legal' reasons.
What is one to make of the above performance? One is tempted to recall Clemenceau's comments at the top of this posting, and add to them that soldier's, especially American soldiers should be prevented from thinking too hard...Certainly General Sanchez both at the time and listening to him tonight, appears to have been singularly over his head and out of his depth as C-in-C of American forces in Iraq. No doubt this was partly due to the fact that unlike say the British Army, with such recent commanders as Field-Marshal Lord Carver (Winchester), Sir Mike Jackson (Stamford), Sir Rupert Smith (Haileybury) and Sir Richard Dannatt (Felsted), all from the Upper or Upper-middle classes, the American officer corp is rife with individuals for whom the military is merely a ladder of social advancement and mobility. Consequently, the current C-in-C, General Petraeus notwithstanding, the level of intellectual and tactical sophistication and leadership, to be found in much of the American military hierarchy leaves a great deal to be desired. It is not surprising therefore that Sanchez himself did not go to West Point, nor did he graduate from the Army War College or the General Staff College. No doubt General Sanchez is on a personal level a most humble and agreeable chap. Probably the type of fellow that many of his fellow Americans would like to have a glass of beer with. Unfortunately, it is precisely this, 'hail fellow well met' category of military leadership which was singularly inappropriate in the crucial time that Sanchez was in command in Iraq. A time which in retrospect will never come again in terms of offering up the possibility of preventing the subsequent debacle that has become Iraq for the United States. Among others who we have to thank for this state of affairs is General Sanchez.