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Events Leading Up to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq

The 'Generals' Revolt'

Project: Events Leading Up to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq
Open-Content project managed by Derek, KJF, mtuck

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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

Category Tags: Internal Opposition, Predictions, The 'Generals' Revolt'

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]
bullet In order for the planned military operation against Iraq to be successful it must have international support. [Zinni, 10/10/2002]
bullet In order to ensure a quick war, the US must use overwhelming force. [Zinni, 10/10/2002]
bullet Civilian casualties, collateral damage, and destruction of the infrastructure must be kept to a minimum. [Zinni, 10/10/2002]
bullet Israeli involvement would create massive instability. [Zinni, 10/10/2002]
bullet The invasion must not provoke a reaction from the Arab world. [Zinni, 10/10/2002]
bullet 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]
bullet The burden of the war and post-war reconstruction must be shared. [Zinni, 10/10/2002]
bullet It will not be possible to simply impose a democracy on Iraq. [Zinni, 10/10/2002]
bullet 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]
bullet 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]
bullet 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]

Entity Tags: Anthony Zinni, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Internal Opposition, The 'Generals' Revolt'

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).

Entity Tags: US Central Command, Donald Rumsfeld, Anthony Zinni

Category Tags: Pre-war Planning, Predictions, The 'Generals' Revolt'

General Shinseki testifying before the Senate, February 2003.General Shinseki testifying before the Senate, February 2003. [Source: Representational Pictures]General Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, tells the Senate Armed Services Committee that “something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” will be needed to secure post-invasion Iraq. “We’re talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that’s fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems. And so it takes a significant ground-force presence to maintain a safe and secure environment, to ensure that people are fed, that water is distributed, all the normal responsibilities that go along with administering a situation like this.” [Associated Press, 3/25/2003; New York Times, 1/12/2007] For his estimate, Shinseki will be publicly derided by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz (see February 27, 2003). [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]

Entity Tags: Paul Wolfowitz, Eric Shinseki, Donald Rumsfeld

Category Tags: Predictions, The 'Generals' Revolt'

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