Lost in the coverage of the Democratic presidential race and the scathing memoir by Scotty McClellen is the autobiography just published by a former commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (Ret.)
In "Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story," Gen. Sanchez goes into detail about various military blunders that led to where we are today.
In one excerpt, published by TIME, Sanchez explains why there were inadequate troop levels in Iraq for a time:
"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.
"There’s not a doubt in my mind that they all embraced this decision to some degree. And if it had not been for the moral courage of Gen. John Abizaid to stand up to them all and reverse Franks’s troop drawdown order, there’s no telling how much more damage would have been done.
"In the meantime, hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars were unnecessarily spent, and worse yet, too many of our most precious military resource, our American soldiers, were unnecessarily wounded, maimed, and killed as a result. In my mind, this action by the Bush administration amounts to gross incompetence and dereliction of duty."
In an excerpt published on NPR’s website, Sanchez writes
"In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I watched helplessly as the Bush administration led America into a strategic blunder of historic proportions. It became painfully obvious that the executive branch of our government did not trust its military. It relied instead on a neoconservative ideology developed by men and women with little, if any, military experience. Some senior military leaders did not challenge civilian decision makers at the appropriate times, and the courageous few who did take a stand were subsequently forced out of the service…I saw the cynical use of war for political gains by elected officials and acquiescent military leaders. I learned how the pressure of a round-the-clock news cycle could drive crucial decisions. I witnessed those resulting political decisions override military requirements and judgments and, in turn, create conditions that caused unnecessary harm to our soldiers on the ground…"
"Over the fourteen months of my command in Iraq, I witnessed a blatant disregard for the lives of our young soldiers in uniform. It is an issue that constantly eats away at me.
There’s an odd anecdote recounted in today’s Washington Post of a videoconference with President Bush held after four contractors were killed in Fallujah in 2004. Bush, Sanchez writes, began a "confused" pep talk:
"Kick ass!" Bush said, according to Sanchez. "If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can’t send that message. It’s an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal. There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!"
And regarding Abu Ghraib, Sanchez writes — according to Eli Lake of the New York Sun — that the U.S. was torturing prisoners.
A remarkable admission.
"During the last few months of 2002, while the highest levels of the U.S. government were sparring with Saddam Hussein and setting up the case for an invasion of Iraq, there is irrefutable evidence that America was torturing and killing prisoners in Afghanistan…In retrospect, the Bush administration’s new policy triggered a sequence of events that led to the use of harsh interrogation tactics against not only al Qaeda prisoners, but also eventually prisoners in Iraq—in spite of our best efforts to restrain such unlawful conduct."
Probably the book won’t merit as much media attention as McClellen’s book, but it sounds like it should.