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Profile: Anthony Zinni
Positions that Anthony Zinni has held:
- Four-star general, Marine Corps
August 23, 2002
“It’s pretty interesting that all the generals see it the same way and all the others who have never fired a shot and are hot to go to war see it another way”
[Tampa Tribune, 8/24/2002]
October 10, 2002
“If we think there is a fast solution to changing the governance of Iraq, then we don’t understand history, the nature of the country, the divisions, or the underneath-suppressed passions that could rise up. God help us if we think this transition will occur easily.”
Anthony Zinni was a participant or observer in the following events:
Ahmed Chalabi creates a militia army of about 1,000 fighters in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq and bribes tribal leaders in the city of Mosul to support a planned rebellion against Saddam Hussein (see November 1993). He is also hosting members of Iranian intelligence who promise that when the operation is launched, Iran will simultaneously hit Iraq from the south. But the CIA learns that Baathist officials have caught wind of the plot and the CIA instructs agent Robert Baer to tell Chalabi that “any decision to proceed will be on your own.” Chalabi, who has no military experience, decides to go through with the plot anyway. But the operation quickly flounders when over 100 INC fighters are killed by Iraqi forces, many more of Chalabi’s fighters desert, the bribed Iraqi tribal leaders stay home, and the Iranians do nothing. The CIA is furious that it funded the operation, which becomes known within the agency as the “Bay of Goats.” [CounterPunch, 5/20/2004; New Yorker, 6/7/2004; Unger, 2007, pp. 126] CENTCOM commander General Anthony Zinni has similar feelings. “It got me pretty angry,” he recalls. “They were saying if you put a thousand troops on the ground, Saddam’s regime will collapse, they won’t fight. I said, ‘I fly over them every day, and they shoot at us. We hit them, and they shoot at us again. No way a thousand forces would end it.’ The exile group was giving them inaccurate information. Their scheme was ridiculous.” Zinni had warned Congress that Chalabi’s invasion plan was “pie in the sky, a fairy tale,” but was ignored. [Unger, 2007, pp. 160-161]
[Source: PBS]By December 1997, Prudence Bushnell, the US Ambassador to Kenya, is aware that her embassy could be in danger. She has been told of an August 1997 warning that proved there was an al-Qaeda cell in Nairobi (see Late 1994), a precise (and ultimately accurate) November 1997 warning detailing a plot to attack the embassy (see November 1997), and other recent warnings, including information indicating that she is an assassination target. She sends two cables to State Department headquarters in Washington, claiming that the embassy’s location makes it “extremely vulnerable to a terrorist attack,” and asks for security improvements to be made. The State Department turns down her requests and begins to see Bushnell as a nuisance. In early 1998, General Anthony Zinni, the commander of US forces in the region, visits the Nairobi embassy and decides it is vulnerable to terrorist attacks. He offers to send a security team to inspect the situation, but his offer is turned down. The State Department sends its own team instead and in March 1998 determines that about $500,000 worth of easily implemented improvements should make the embassy secure. But the money is not quickly allocated. Bushnell then sends “an emotional letter to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright begging for the Secretary’s personal help.” She says she has been fighting for months for a more secure embassy as threats increase, and that the State Department’s refusal to grant her requests for funding is “endangering the lives of embassy personnel.” Albright takes no action. The embassy will be bombed in August (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). [New York Times, 1/9/1999]
A number of neoconservatives, led by retired General Wayne Downing (see 1990-1991) and retired CIA officer Duane “Dewey” Clarridge (see December 25, 1992), use the recently passed Iraqi Liberation Act (ILA—see October 31, 1998) to revive the failed “End Game” coup plans against Saddam Hussein (see November 1993 and March 1995). Both Downing and Clarridge are “military consultants” to Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, who attempted to carry out the coup in 1995 with dismal results. Downing and Clarridge produce an updated version of the INC’s “End Game” scenario, calling it “The Downing Plan.” The Downing scenario varies very little from the original plan. Their plan stipulates that a “crack force” of 5,000 INC fighters, backed up by a detachment of US Special Forces soldiers, could bring down the Iraqi Army. Clarridge later tells reporters: “The idea from the beginning was to encourage defections of Iraqi units. You need to create a nucleus, something for people to defect to. If they could take Basra, it would be all over.” Former Defense Intelligence Agency official Patrick Lang will later write, “It is difficult to understand how a retired four-star Army general [Downing] could believe this to be true.” General Anthony Zinni, commander of CENTCOM, which has operational control of US combat forces in the Middle East, is provided with a copy of Chalabi’s military plan to overthrow Saddam Hussein. “It got me pretty angry,” he later recalls. He warns Congress that Chalabi’s plan is a “pie in the sky, a fairy tale,” and predicts that executing such a poorly envisioned assault would result in a “Bay of Goats.” Chalabi’s INC is nothing more than “some silk-suited, Rolex-wearing guys in London;” neither the INC nor any of the other 91 or so Iraqi opposition groups have anywhere near “the viability to overthrow Saddam.” He tells the New Yorker: “They were saying if you put a thousand troops on the ground Saddam’s regime will collapse, they won’t fight. I said, ‘I fly over them every day, and they shoot at us. We hit them, and they shoot at us again. No way a thousand forces would end it.’ The exile group was giving them inaccurate intelligence. Their scheme was ridiculous.” Zinni earns the enmity of the neoconservative developers of the plan for his stance. [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004; New Yorker, 6/7/2004]
The governor’s mansion in Kandahar, Afghanistan. [Source: CBC]On December 18, 2000, CIA receives a tip that bin Laden will be staying overnight on December 20 at the governor’s mansion in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Missile strikes are readied against him. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 130-131] Gary Schroen, head of the CIA’s Pakistan office, e-mails CIA headquarters with the message, “Hit him tonight—we may not get another chance.” However, principal advisers to President Clinton agree not to recommend a strike because of doubts about the intelligence and worries about collateral damage. The military estimates the attacks will kill about 200 people, presumably most of them innocent bystanders. Schroen will later recall, “It struck me as rather insane, frankly. They decided not to attack bin Laden because he was in a building in fairly close proximity to a mosque. And they were afraid that some of the shrapnel was going to hit the mosque and somehow offend the Muslim world, and so they decided not to shoot on that occasion. That’s the kind of reason for not shooting that the policy maker, anyway, came up with endlessly.” [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; CBC, 9/12/2006] Later intelligence appears to show that bin Laden left before the strike could be readied, but some aware of the intelligence felt it was a chance that should have been taken anyway. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 130-131] In the wake of this incident, officials attempt to find alternatives to cruise missiles, such a precision strike aircraft. However, US Central Command Chief General Anthony Zinni is apparently opposed to deployment of these aircraft near Afghanistan, and they are not deployed. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004]
An AC-130. [Source: US Air Force]In the immediate aftermath of a decision not to attack bin Laden with cruise missiles for fear of collateral damage (see December 18-20, 1998), the US military looks for other options than the inaccurate cruise missiles. On this day, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Henry Shelton formally directs Generals Anthony Zinni and Peter J. Schoomaker to develop plans for an AC-130 gunship attack against al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan. The AC-130 is an aircraft designed specifically for special forces missions. It can fly in fast or from a high altitude, undetected by radar. It is capable of rapidly firing precision-guided projectiles that are much less likely to cause collateral damage. The two generals do submit such a plan on January 12, 1999, but the plan will never be developed beyond this initial document. One reason is that Zinni is against the idea. Another obstacle is that due to technical reasons the AC-130s would need to be based in a nearby country (most likely Uzbekistan, which is the most supportive of US efforts to get bin Laden at this time (see 1998 and After)). Political agreements allowing for basing and overflight rights would have to be arranged, but there is never any attempt to do so. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 135, 486]
Henry Shelton. [Source: US Military]National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright repeatedly seek consideration of a “boots on the ground” option to kill bin Laden, using the elite Delta Force. Clinton also supports the idea, telling Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Henry Shelton, “You know, it would scare the sh_t out of al-Qaeda if suddenly a bunch of black ninjas rappelled out of helicopters into the middle of their camp.” However, Shelton says he wants “nothing to do” with such an idea. He calls it naive, and ridicules it as “going Hollywood.” He says he would need a large force, not just a small team. [Washington Post, 12/19/2001] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke similiarly recalls Clinton saying to Shelton “in my earshot, ‘I think we ought to have US commandos go into Afghanistan, US military units, black ninjas jumping out of helicopters, and go after al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.’ And Shelton said: ‘Whoa! I don’t think we can do that. I’ll talk to Central Command.’ And of course Central Command came back and said, ‘Oh no, that’s too difficult.’” [PBS Frontline, 6/20/2006] US Central Command chief General Anthony Zinni is considered the chief opponent to the “boots on the ground” idea. [Washington Post, 10/2/2002] Clinton orders “formal planning for a mission to capture the al-Qaeda leadership.” Reports are contradictory, but some claim Clinton was told such plans were drawn up when in fact they were not. [Time, 8/12/2002; Washington Post, 10/2/2002] In any event, no such plans are implemented.
Photo of the cover of the Desert Crossing after-action briefing. [Source: National Security Archives]The US Central Command, or CENTCOM (see October 1, 1986), conducts a series of war games called “Desert Crossing” centered on the scenario of Saddam Hussein being ousted as Iraq’s dictator. CENTCOM commander General Anthony Zinni will later say of the scenario, “I thought we ought to look at political reconstruction, economic reconstruction, security reconstruction, humanitarian need, services, and infrastructure development.” The game concludes that unless measures are taken, “fragmentation and chaos” will ensue after his overthrow. The after-action report finds that regime change may cause instability throughout the Middle East by giving impetus to “rival forces bidding for power” which, in turn, could cause societal “fragmentation along religious and/or ethnic lines” and antagonize “aggressive neighbors.” Securing borders and civil order may not be enough to restabilize Iraq, the report speculates, if the new government is perceived as either weak, subservient to outside governments, or out of touch with other Middle Eastern governments. The report finds that an exit strategy would be complicated by differing ideas for how a post-Saddam Iraq should be. Any US-supported transitional government will find it difficult to restrain various factions from pursuing their own tribal and sectarian vendettas against one another, the report finds. The game is quickly forgotten; years later, when the Bush administration will begin planning for its invasion of Iraq, the retired Zinni will recommend that his successors “dust off Desert Crossing,” and they will respond: “What’s that? Never heard of it.” [John Prados, 11/4/2006; Roberts, 2008, pp. 125, 233]
Gen. Anthony Zinni [Source: US Marine Corps.]Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Henry Shelton prepares a paper with 13 options for using force against bin Laden. Several of the options describe Special Forces raids to capture or kill bin Laden. But counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will later say that when military operations on al-Qaeda were discussed, “the overwhelming message to the White House from the uniformed military leadership was, ‘We don’t want to do this.’” Shelton’s chief of operations will later describe the paper as a tool to “educate” National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, Clarke, and others about the “extraordinary complexity” of going ahead with any of the options. The military repeatedly complains that the CIA’s intelligence about bin Laden isn’t good enough while the CIA complains that the military’s intelligence requirements are too demanding. One CIA document notes that there is “lots of desire” for a military strike against bin Laden amongst lower-level US military officials, but “reluctance at the political level.” [Los Angeles Times, 7/25/2003; Coll, 2004, pp. 533] One reason for such reluctance is the close ties between the US military and Pakistan. Author Steve Coll will later note, “The Pentagon, especially General Anthony Zinni at Centcom, who remained close to [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf personally, emphasized the benefits of engagement with Pakistan’s generals.” [Coll, 2004, pp. 490]
Current and former top US military brass dispute White House claims that Iraq poses an immediate threat to the US and that it must be dealt with militarily. In late July 2002, Washington Post reports that “top generals and admirals in the military establishment, including members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff” believe that Saddam Hussein’s regime “poses no immediate threat and that the United States should continue its policy of containment rather than invade Iraq to force a change of leadership in Baghdad.” The report says that the military officials’ positions are based “in part on intelligence assessments of the state of Hussein’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and his missile delivery capabilities.” The newspaper says that there are several reasons why these dissident officers disagree with their civilian bosses. They worry that if Saddam Hussein is removed, Iraq could “split up,… potentially leading to chaos and the creation of new anti-American regimes and terrorist sanctuaries in the region.” It is also possible, they say, that an invasion of Iraq could provoke Saddam Hussein into using whatever weapons of mass destruction he may have. And even if the invasion is successful, the aftermath could see “mass instability, requiring tens of thousands of US troops to maintain peace, prop up a post-Saddam government, and prevent the fragmentation of Iraq,” the military brass warns. Their position is that the US should continue its policy of containment, specifically sanctions and the enforcement of the US- and British-imposed “no-fly” zones. [Washington Post, 7/28/2002]
Perle: Generals Not Competent to Judge - Responding to the dissenting opinions of these military officials, Richard Perle, current chairman of the Defense Policy Board, says that the decision of whether or not to attack Iraq is “a political judgment that these guys aren’t competent to make.” [Washington Post, 7/28/2002]
'Unusual Alliance' Between State, Pentagon Generals - A few days later, Washington Post publishes another story along similar lines, reporting, “Much of the senior uniformed military, with the notable exception of some top Air Force and Marine generals, opposes going to war anytime soon, a stance that is provoking frustration among civilian officials in the Pentagon and in the White House.” Notably the division has created “an unusual alliance between the State Department and the uniformed side of the Pentagon, elements of the government that more often seem to oppose each other in foreign policy debates.” [Washington Post, 8/1/2002] The extent of the generals’ disagreement is quite significant, reports the Post, which quotes one proponent of invading Iraq expressing his/her concern that the brass’ opinion could ultimately dissuade Bush from taking military action. “You can’t force things onto people who don’t want to do it, and the three- and four-star Army generals don’t want to do it. I think this will go back and forth, and back and forth, until it’s time for Bush to run for reelection,” the source says. [Washington Post, 8/1/2002] During the next several months, several former military officials speak out against the Bush administration’s military plans, including Wesley Clark, Joseph P. Hoar, John M. Shalikashvili, Tony McPeak, Gen James L Jones, Norman Schwarzkopf, Anthony Zinni, Henry H. Shelton and Thomas G. McInerney. In mid-January 2003, Time magazine reports that according to its sources, “as many as 1 in 3 senior officers questions the wisdom of a preemptive war with Iraq.” They complain that “the US military is already stretched across the globe, the war against Osama bin Laden is unfinished, and… a long postwar occupation looks inevitable.” [Time, 1/19/2003]
Entity Tags: Tony McPeak, Thomas G. McInerney, Richard Perle, Kim Holmes, Joseph Hoar, Anthony Zinni, Norman Schwarzkopf, Henry Hugh Shelton, John M. Shalikashvili, James L. Jones, Wesley Clark
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
In a speech to the Economic Club of Florida in Tallahassee, retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, who recently served as the president’s special envoy to the Middle East, argues that there are more pressing issues than Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. Specifically, he points to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, instability in Afghanistan, the continuing existence of the al-Qaeda network, and the theocracy in Iran. He adds that the proposed war with Iraq would be expensive and would put considerable strain on the military’s resources, which already are “stretched too tight all over the world.” Furthermore, notes the general, invading Iraq would further antagonize America’s allies in the Middle East. “We need to quit making enemies that we don’t need to make enemies out of,” he says. He also notes, “It’s pretty interesting that all the generals see it the same way and all the others who have never fired a shot and are hot to go to war see it another way.” [Tampa Tribune, 8/24/2002]
In a speech during the Middle East Institute’s annual conference, retired Marine General Anthony Zinni presents an extensive argument against the Bush administration’s plans for invading Iraq. He makes several salient points. [Zinni, 10/10/2002]
In order for the planned military operation against Iraq to be successful it must have international support. [Zinni, 10/10/2002]
In order to ensure a quick war, the US must use overwhelming force. [Zinni, 10/10/2002]
Civilian casualties, collateral damage, and destruction of the infrastructure must be kept to a minimum. [Zinni, 10/10/2002]
Israeli involvement would create massive instability. [Zinni, 10/10/2002]
The invasion must not provoke a reaction from the Arab world. [Zinni, 10/10/2002]
The transition to a post-Saddam Iraq will not be easy. He explains: “If we think there is a fast solution to changing the governance of Iraq, then we don’t understand history, the nature of the country, the divisions, or the underneath-suppressed passions that could rise up. God help us if we think this transition will occur easily.” [Zinni, 10/10/2002]
The burden of the war and post-war reconstruction must be shared. [Zinni, 10/10/2002]
It will not be possible to simply impose a democracy on Iraq. [Zinni, 10/10/2002]
Anti-American militant groups cannot be defeated by military means alone. He asks several questions that are rarely asked in public: “Why are young people flocking to these causes? Could the issues be political, economic and social? Could disenfranchisement or oppression be what drives them rather than the religious fanaticism that may be the core element to only a few? How do we cooperate to fix these problems? How do we help a part of the world that’s trying to come to grips with modernity?” [Zinni, 10/10/2002]
He questions whether an invasion is even necessary, instead suggesting that there are numerous other issues to deal with of higher priority. [Zinni, 10/10/2002]
Finally, he says that violence and war are not the solution. “Like those generals who were far greater than I am, I don’t think that violence and war is the solution. There are times when you reluctantly, as a last resort, have to go to war. But as a general that has seen war,… I will tell you that in my time, I never saw anything come out of fighting that was worth the fight.” [Zinni, 10/10/2002]
Former Central Command (CENTCOM) commander General Anthony Zinni, a critic of the push for war with Iraq (see October 10, 2002), says that he “bristle[s] against ideas of small forces” in any possible invasion of Iraq, directly contradicting Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s constant exhortation to “do it smaller.” The US will need to maintain order in Iraq during a lengthy and fractious period of transition to self-rule, Zinni warns, and to do that properly will require a large number of troops. [Roberts, 2008, pp. 141] Zinni publicly spoke out against the invasion earlier in the month (see October 10, 2002).
The governments of Israel and the United States are in almost-perfect accord on most issues, according to a Washington Post analysis. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has talked repeatedly of the “special closeness” he has to the Bush administration, and of the “deep understanding” that President Bush and his officials have for Israel’s security and foreign policy needs. He has thanked Bush for providing what he calls “the required leeway in our ongoing war on terrorism” and lauded the Bush administration’s efforts to promote a peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinian people. Thomas Neumann, who heads the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), agrees. “This is the best administration for Israel since Harry Truman,” says Neumann, equating Bush with the first American president to recognize the independent state of Israel. A senior official in the first Bush administration says that Sharon used the 9/11 attacks to cement the bond between his government and the Bush administration. One senior administration official says: “Sharon played the president like a violin: ‘I’m fighting your war, terrorism is terrorism,’ and so on. Sharon did a masterful job.”
Accord with Likud - But the US is not just in accord with Israel; it is in accord with Likud, the hardline conservative political party currently in charge of the Israeli government. The Post writes: “For the first time, a US administration and a Likud government in Israel are pursuing nearly identical policies. Earlier US administrations, from Jimmy Carter’s through Bill Clinton’s, held Likud and Sharon at arm’s length, distancing the United States from Likud’s traditionally tough approach to the Palestinians. But today, as Neumann noted, Israel and the United States share a common view on terrorism, peace with the Palestinians, war with Iraq and more. Neumann and others said this change was made possible by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and their aftermath.” Bush supporters, particularly evangelical Christians, are “delight[ed]” with the administration’s overt support of Likud policies.
Abandoning Peace Talks between Israel and Palestinians - The downside, the Post notes, is that diplomacy with Israel’s Arab neighbors has come to a virtual standstill, and the Middle East “peace process” praised by Sharon is considered by many past and current US officials as a failure. Clinton administration National Security Adviser Sandy Berger says: “Every president since at least Nixon has seen the Arab-Israeli conflict as the central strategic issue in the Middle East. But this administration sees Iraq as the central challenge, and… has disengaged from any serious effort to confront the Arab-Israeli problem.” Retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, the administration’s special envoy to the region, calls the peace process “quiescent,” and adds, “I’ve kind of gone dormant.”
'Likudniks Really in Charge Now' - Bush has appointed neoconservative Elliott Abrams, a vociferous critic of any peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, the head of Mideast affairs for the National Security Council, signaling his administration’s near-total alignment with Israel in the process. Abrams’s hardline views are supported by, among others, Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle, Abrams’s mentor, who in 1996 recommended to Israel’s then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he abandon the Oslo peace accords and refuse to accede to Palestinian demands of “land for peace” (see September 13, 1993). A senior administration official says wryly, “The Likudniks are really in charge now,” using a Yiddish term for supporters of Sharon’s political party. “It’s a strong lineup,” says Neumann. Fellow neoconservative Meyrav Wurmser of the Hudson Institute says of Abrams: “Elliott’s appointment is a signal that the hard-liners in the administration are playing a more central role in shaping policy.… [T]he hard-liners are a very unique group. The hawks in the administration are in fact people who are the biggest advocates of democracy and freedom in the Middle East.” The Post explains that in Abrams’s and Wurmser’s view, promoting democracy in the Middle East is the best way to assure Israel’s security. Like other neoconservatives, they see the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the establishment of a “democratic Palestine” as necessary for peace in the region. Others who disagree with the neoconservatives call them a “cabal.” The Post writes, “Members of the group do not hide their friendships and connections, or their loyalty to strong positions in support of Israel and Likud.” [Washington Post, 2/9/2003]
Entity Tags: Elliott Abrams, Donald Rumsfeld, Bush administration (43), Benjamin Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon, Anthony Zinni, Thomas Neumann, Sandy Berger, Likud, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, Harry S. Truman, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Richard Perle, Meyrav Wurmser, National Security Council
Timeline Tags: US International Relations
Retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, formerly head of the US Central Command, criticizes the Bush administration’s occupation strategy for Iraq, saying that the administration has never put together a coherent strategy, never created a plan for achieving its goals, and has not allocated the resources needed to achieve those goals. “There is no strategy or mechanism for putting the pieces together,” he says, and so “we’re in danger of failing.” Speaking to several hundred Marine and Navy officers and others, Zinni, who was badly wounded in Vietnam, says: “My contemporaries, our feelings and sensitivities were forged on the battlefields of Vietnam, where we heard the garbage and the lies, and we saw the sacrifice. I ask you, is it happening again?… We can’t go on breaking our military and doing things like we’re doing now.” A focus of his criticism is the choice by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to have the Defense Department, and not the State Department, oversee postwar efforts in Iraq. “Why the hell would the Department of Defense be the organization in our government that deals with the reconstruction of Iraq?” he asks. “Doesn’t make sense.” Another area of criticism is the Bush administration’s cavalier treatment of the United Nations, particularly in failing to secure a UN resolution that several nations said was a prerequisite for their contributing to the peacekeeping force (see October 21, 2002, October 27, 2002, November 8, 2002, December 31, 2002, February 5, 2003, and March 25, 2003). “We certainly blew past the UN,” he says. “Why, I don’t know. Now we’re going back hat in hand.” Zinni is given a warm reception by his audience, some of whom buy recordings of his remarks to share with friends and fellow soldiers. [Washington Post, 9/5/2003]
In a talk given at UCLA’s Center for International Relations, retired General Anthony Zinni, the former commander of the US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM - see April 17, 2003 and After and January 2003), discusses his early planning for the overthrow of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and the inevitable chaos that would ensue, in plans called “Desert Crossing” (see April-July 1999). Zinni began working on the plans shortly after 1998’s “Desert Fox” bombing campaign (see December 16-19, 1998).
Plans to Overthrow, No Plans to Reconstruct - He recalls: “[I]t struck me then that we had a plan to defeat Saddam’s army, but we didn’t have a plan to rebuild Iraq. And so I asked the different agencies of government to come together to talk about reconstruction planning for Iraq.… I thought we ought to look at political reconstruction, economic reconstruction, security reconstruction, humanitarian need, services, and infrastructure development. We met in Washington, DC. We called the plan, and we gamed it out in the scenario, Desert Crossing.”
Many of Subsequent Problems Envisioned - Zinni says that he and his team envisioned many of the problems encountered after the March 2003 invasion and subsequent toppling of the Iraqi government: “The first meeting surfaced all the problems that have exactly happened now. This was 1999. And when I took it back and looked at it, I said, we need a plan. Not all of this is a military responsibility. I went back to State Department, to the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, Department of Commerce, and others and said, all right, how about you guys taking part of the plan. We need a plan in addition to the war plan for the reconstruction. Not interested. Would not look at it.” Zinni, he recalls, decided to have the plans created himself, “because I was convinced nobody in Washington was going to plan for it, and we, the military, would get stuck with it.”
Zinni Plans Ignored by Bush Planners - Before the invasion, he recalls, he recommended that the military planners go back and look at his plans: “When it looked like we were going in [to Iraq], I called back down to CENTCOM and said, ‘You need to dust off Desert Crossing.’ They said, ‘What’s that? Never heard of it.’ So in a matter of just a few years it was gone. The corporate memory. And in addition I was told, ‘We’ve been told not to do any of the planning. It would all be done in the Pentagon.’” Zinni’s original plans called for a civilian occupation authority with offices in all 18 Iraqi provinces; the current Coalition Provisional Authority only has one set of offices, in Baghdad’s Green Zone. And Zinni’s plans called for around 400,000 troops, instead of the 160,000 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved. [John Prados, 11/4/2006]
CBS graphic illustrating interview with General Anthony Zinni. [Source: CBS News]Retired Marine General Anthony Zinni was the chief of the US Central Command until 2000, and, until just before the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration’s special envoy to the Middle East. Now he has become an outspoken critic of the administration’s war efforts in Iraq. Zinni gives an interview to CBS’s 60 Minutes, in part to promote his new biography, Battle Ready, co-authored by famed war novelist Tom Clancy.
'Dereliction of Duty' among Senior Pentagon Officials - Zinni says that senior officials at the Pentagon, from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on down, are guilty of what he calls dereliction of duty, and he believes it is time for “heads to roll.” Zinni tells correspondent Steve Kroft: “There has been poor strategic thinking in this. 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.” In his 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, and corruption.… I 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.”
'The Wrong War at the Wrong Time' - Zinni calls Iraq “the wrong war at the wrong time,” and with the wrong strategy. Before the invasion, Zinni told Congress (see October 31, 2002): “This is, in my view, the worst time to take this on. And I don’t feel it needs to be done now.” The generals never wanted this war, Zinni says, but the civilians in the Pentagon and the White House did. “I can’t speak for all generals, certainly,” he says. “But I know we felt that this situation was contained (see Summer 2002-2003). Saddam was effectively contained.… 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.”
Much Larger Force Required - Zinni was heavily involved in planning for any invasion of Iraq, going back to at least 1999 (see April-July 1999). Zinni always envisioned any such invasion as being implemented with enough ground forces to get the job done quickly and cleanly. Rumsfeld had different ideas—the invasion could be carried off with fewer troops and more high-tech weaponry. Zinni wanted around 300,000 troops: “We were much in line with General Shinseki’s view. We were talking about, you know, 300,000, in that neighborhood.” Would a larger force have made a difference? Kroft asks. Zinni replies, “I 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.” Rumsfeld should have anticipated the level and ferocity of violence that erupted in the aftermath of the toppling of the Hussein government, but, Zinni says, he did not, and worse, he ignored or belittled those such as Shinseki and a number of foreign allies who warned him of the possible consequences. Instead, Zinni notes, Rumsfeld relied on, among other sources, fabricated intelligence from Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress (see September 19-20, 2001).
'Seat of the Pants Operation' - The entire reconstruction effort was, in Zinni’s mind, a seat-of-the-pants affair. “As 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,” he says, “in effect to create a seat-of-the-pants operation on reconstructing a country.” Coalition Provisional Authority head L. Paul Bremer is “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.” Bremer’s mistakes include “Disbanding the army (see May 23, 2003). De-Baathifying (see May 16, 2003), 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.” Zinni reserves most of the blame for the Pentagon: “I blame the civilian leadership of the Pentagon directly.”
Heads Should Roll, Beginning with Rumsfeld's - Zinni continues: “But 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.” The first one to go, Zinni says, is Rumsfeld: “Well, it starts with at the top. If you’re the secretary of defense and you’re responsible for that.”
Neoconservatives at Fault - Next up are Rumsfeld’s advisers, whom Kroft identifies as the cadre of neoconservatives “who saw the invasion of Iraq as a way to stabilize American interests in the region and strengthen the position of Israel.” Zinni says: “Certainly those in your ranks that foisted this strategy on us that is flawed. Certainly they ought to be gone and replaced.” Kroft identifies that group as including Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith; former Defense Policy Board member Richard Perle; National Security Council member Elliott Abrams; and Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Zinni calls them political ideologues who have hijacked US policy in Iraq: “I 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.” Like so many others who criticized them, Zinni recalls, he was targeted for personal counterattacks. After publishing one article, he says: “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.”
Fundamental Conceptual Flaws - Zinni says the neoconservatives believed they could remake the Middle East through the use of American military might, beginning with Iraq. Instead, the US is viewed in the region as “the modern crusaders, as the modern colonial power in this part of the world.”
Changing Course - Zinni has a number of recommendations. He advises President Bush and his senior officials to reach out much more strongly to the United Nations, and to US allies, and secure the UN’s backing. Do these other countries “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.” Many more troops are needed on the ground, and not just American troops, he says, enough to seal off the borders, protect the road networks.
Exit Strategy - Zinni says that planning for an exit is necessary because it is inevitable that the US will want to withdraw, and that time will come sooner rather than later. “There is a limit,” he says. “I think it’s important to understand what the limit is. Now do I think we are there yet?”
Speaking Out - He is speaking out, he says, because it is his duty to do so: “It 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. I 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?” [CBS News, 5/21/2004]
Entity Tags: Iraqi National Congress, Douglas Feith, Donald Rumsfeld, CBS News, Bush administration (43), Anthony Zinni, Eric Shinseki, Ahmed Chalabi, Al-Qaeda, US Department of the Army, Steve Kroft, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Richard Perle, Elliott Abrams, Tom Clancy, US Department of Defense, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, US Central Command, Joint Chiefs of Staff, L. Paul Bremer
Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation
In his book The Greatest Story Ever Sold, author and New York Times media critic Frank Rich writes that President Bush never entered Iraq with any idea of “nation-building.” Bush “never talked about building a democracy in Iraq” during the planning and marketing of the invasion, Rich writes. “The reason he didn’t talk about it was not that he was consciously trying to keep a hidden, hard-to-sell motive secret. The record shows that, for once, Bush’s private convictions actually did match his public stance. Neither he nor the administration had any intention of doing any nation-building. The war plan was an easy exercise in regime change, a swift surgical procedure, after which the Iraqis would be left to build their own democracy by spontaneous civic combustion, like Eastern Europeans after the fall of the Soviet Union. The Americans would hang around in small numbers, perhaps, to protect the oil ministry—the only institution they did protect after routing Saddam. Every single administration action of the time confirms that nation-building was not in the cards. That’s why General Jay Garner was picked as the top American official after the fall of Baghdad (see January 2003): The White House wanted a short-term military emissary rather than a full-dress occupation administrator because the job description required only that he manage a quick turnaround of power to the Iraqis and an immediate exit for American troops. That’s why [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld and the war cabinet bought a Tommy Franks plan to draw down those troops from 130,000 to 30,000 by the fall of 2003. It’s also why the only serious prewar plan for rebuilding Iraq, the State Department’s ‘Future of Iraq’ project, was shelved by the White House (see April 2002-March 2003). General Anthony Zinni’s ‘Desert Crossing’ plan for Iraq occupation, which he bequeathed to Franks, his successor, was also shunted aside (see April-July 1999). Any such bothersome little details were entrusted instead to the Defense Department’s Douglas Feith, whose only (non) qualification was that he had been a loyal provider of cherry-picked Iraq intelligence to [Vice President Dick] Cheney and [Cheney’s then-chief of staff Lewis ‘Scooter’] Libby before the war.… Had nation-building been in the White House’s plan, surely someone would have bothered to investigate what nation was being rebuilt.” Even after Garner’s replacement by Coalition Provisional Authority chief Paul Bremer (see May 11, 2003), nation-building wasn’t on the agenda. The two heads of “private-sector development” in Iraq were, in Rich’s words, “a former Bush campaign finance chair in Connecticut and a venture capitalist who just happened to be [then-press secretary] Ari Fleischer’s brother.” The CPA was staffed by “twentysomethings with no foreign service experience or knowledge of Arabic simply because they had posted their resumes at the Heritage Foundation (see June 25, 2004).… The ‘nation-building’ that America finally did undertake was an improvised initiative, heavier on PR than on achievement, to justify the mission retroactively. Only then did the war’s diehard defenders disingenuously grandfather it in as a noble calling contemplated by the Bush White House from the start.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 213-214]
Entity Tags: Heritage Foundation, Donald Rumsfeld, Ari Fleischer, Anthony Zinni, Douglas Feith, George W. Bush, L. Paul Bremer, Thomas Franks, Jay Garner, Frank Rich, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby
Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation
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