Dissing General Zinni

By Caitlin Taylor

Feb 6, 2009 9:23am

Over at Foreign Policy, a fascinating look at how the Obama White House has treated Gen. Anthony Zinni (Ret.), according to Gen. Zinni.

According to Zinni, he was offered the job of U.S. ambassador to Iraq before diplomat Christopher Hill was announced for the post. He says that his friend of three decades, National Security Advisor James Jones "called me before the inauguration and asked if I would be willing to serve as ambassador to Iraq or in one of the envoy jobs, on the Middle East peace process. I said yes. Then two weeks ago, Jones called, and said, ‘We talked to the secretary of state, and everybody would like to offer you the Iraq job.’ I said yes. The vice president called and congratulated me."

Zinni, a decorated Vietnam veteran, is a retired four-star Marine Corps General and former Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command.

Zinni met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Williams Burns.

"She thanks me, asked me my views on Iraq," Zinni told the magazine’s Laura Rozen. "She said to Burns and Steinberg, ‘We’ve got to move quickly, Crocker is leaving, we’ve got to get someone in there and get the paperwork done and hearings… Lots to do to get ready to go."

Zinni rushed to put his personal things in order to get ready to go, though suddenly everyone stopped returned his calls.

"Finally, nobody was telling me anything.I called Jones Monday several times. I finally got through late in evening. I asked Jones, ‘What’s going on?’ And Jones said, ‘We decided on Chris Hill.’ I said, ‘Really.’ That was news to me."

Jones inquired as to whether Zinni would want to be ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

"I said, ‘You can stick that with whatever other offers,’" Zinni said.

A senior administration official’s response to the grim tale: "We have spoken to a number of extraordinarily talented individuals about serving in this important role, and have made no announcement about who will be the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.  Obviously, the President has enormous respect for General Zinni and believes he would be on anybody’s short list for a number of critical national security roles."

– jpt

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