Sanchez Speaks

SANCHEZ SPEAKS….As we all know, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez has a few bones to pick. Originally in charge of the 1st Armored Division of V Corps during the invasion of Iraq, he was later given a third star and full command of V Corps in June 2003. Along with that — a bit unexpectedly — came command of all coalition ground forces in Iraq when it turned out that the regional commanders and their staffs were all scrambling for the exits. A year later, after the Abu Ghraib scandal, Sanchez was essentially relieved of command and denied a previously promised promotion to four-star general. He retired in 2006.

But he wasn’t happy about it. In a speech last year, he lambasted pretty much everyone except himself for their conduct of the Iraq war, including (a) the Bush administration, (b) the Pentagon, (c) Congress, (d) the National Security Council, (e) the “inter-agency process,” (f) the State Department, and (g) the media. Despite all that, however, the Washington Post reported that “He declined to say whether he thinks he was scapegoated by the Army and refused to name senior leaders he believes failed at developing war strategy, saying several times: ‘More to follow later.'”

Apparently “later” has now arrived. Sanchez is hawking his new book, Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story, and Time magazine has an excerpt:

I walked into Rumsfeld’s office at 1:25 p.m. on April 19, 2006. He had just returned from a meeting at the White House, and the only other person present in the room was his new Chief of Staff, John Rangel.

….Secretary Rumsfeld then pulled out a two-page memo and handed it to me. “I wrote this after a promotion interview about two weeks ago,” he explained. “The officer told me that one of the biggest mistakes we made after the war was to allow CENTCOM and CFLCC [coalition land forces] to leave the Iraq theater immediately after the fighting stopped — and that left you and V Corps with the entire mission.”

….He went on to write that neither he nor anyone higher in the Administration knew these orders had been issued, and that he was dumbfounded when he learned that Gen. McKiernan was out of the country and in Kuwait, and that the forces would be drawn down to a level of about 30,000 by September. “I did not know that Sanchez was in charge,” he wrote.

I stopped reading after I read that last statement, because I knew it was total BS….Starting to get a little worked up, I paused a moment, and then looked Rumsfeld straight in the eye. “Sir, I cannot believe that you didn’t know I was being left in charge in Iraq.”

“No! No!” he replied. “I was never told that the plan was for V Corps to assume the entire mission. I have to issue orders and approve force deployments into the theater, and they moved all these troops around without any orders or notification from me.”

….After the meeting ended, I remember walking out of the Pentagon shaking my head and wondering how in the world Rumsfeld could have expected me to believe him. Everybody knew that CENTCOM had issued orders to drawdown the forces. The Department of Defense had printed public affairs guidance for how the military should answer press queries about the redeployment. There were victory parades being planned. And in mid-May 2003, Rumsfeld himself had sent out some of his famous “snowflake” memorandums to Gen. Franks asking how the general was going to redeploy all the forces in Kuwait. The Secretary knew. Everybody knew.

Rumsfeld commissioned an investigation into the drawdown plans, and Sanchez says he later asked a member of the team if they had ever finished it:

“Oh, yes sir. We sure did,” came the reply. “And let me tell you, it was ugly.”

“Ugly?” I asked.

“Yes, sir. Our report validated everything you told us — that Franks issued the orders to discard the original twelve-to-eighteen-month occupation deployment, that the forces were drawing down, that we were walking away from the mission, and that everybody knew about it. And let me tell you, the Secretary did not like that one bit. After we went in to brief him, he just shut us down. ‘This is not going anywhere,’ he said. ‘Oh, and by the way, leave all the copies right here and don’t talk to anybody about it.'”

….When I was on the ground in Iraq and saw what was going on, I assumed they had done zero Phase IV planning. Now, three years later, I was learning for the first time that my assumption was not completely accurate. In fact, CENTCOM had originally called for twelve to eighteen months of Phase IV activity with active troop deployments. But then CENTCOM had completely walked away by simply stating that the war was over and Phase IV was not their job.

That decision set up the United States for a failed first year in Iraq. There is no question about it. And I was supposed to believe that neither the Secretary of Defense nor anybody above him knew anything about it? Impossible! Rumsfeld knew about it. Everybody on the NSC knew about it, including Condoleezza Rice, George Tenet, and Colin Powell. Vice President Cheney knew about it. And President Bush knew about it.

Sanchez obviously has his own axes to grind here, just like everyone else involved in the Iraq fiasco. But the Wolfowitz/Feith/Rumsfeld plan to immediately draw down to 30,000 troops and essentially abandon Iraq is pretty well known, though never officially acknowledged by the Bush administration to the best of my knowledge. Which means it would sure be interesting to see a copy of the investigation that upset Rumsfeld so much, wouldn’t it?