CBS News – 2004-05-24 09:09:31
(May 21, 2004) — Accusing top Pentagon officials of “dereliction of duty,” retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni says staying the course in Iraq isn’t a reasonable option.
“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,” he tells CBS News Correspondent Steve Kroft in an interview to be broadcast on 60 Minutes, Sunday, May 23, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
The current situation in Iraq was destined to happen, says Zinni, because planning for the war and its aftermath has been flawed all along.”There has been poor strategic thinking in this…poor operational planning and execution on the ground,” says Zinni, who served as commander-in-chief of the US Central Command from 1997 to 2000.
Zinni blames the poor planning on the civilian policymakers in the administration, known as neo-conservatives, who saw the invasion as a way to stabilize the region and support Israel. He believes these people, who include Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense, have hijacked US foreign policy.
“They promoted it and pushed [the war]… even to the point of creating their own intelligence to match their needs. Then they should bear the responsibility,” Zinni tells Kroft.
In his upcoming book, Battle Ready, written with Tom Clancy, Zinni writes of the poor planning in harsh terms. “In the lead-up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw, at minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility; at worst, lying, incompetence and corruption,” he writes.
Zinni explains to Kroft, “I think there was dereliction in insufficient forces being put on the ground and [in not] fully understanding the military dimensions of the plan.”
He still believes the situation is salvageable if the United States can communicate more effectively with the Iraqi people and demonstrate a better image to them.
The enlistment of the UN and other countries to participate in the mission is also crucial, he says. Without these things, says Zinni, “We are going to be looking for quick exits. I don’t believe we’re there now, and I wouldn’t want to see us fail here.”
Also central to success in Iraq is more troops, from the United States and especially other countries, to control violence and patrol borders, he says.
Zinni feels that undertaking the war with the minimum of troops paved the way for the security problems the U.S. faces there now, the violence Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently admitted he hadn’t anticipated.”He should not have been surprised,” says Zinni. “There were a number of people who before we even engaged in this conflict felt strongly that we underestimated…the scope of the problems we would have in [Iraq].”
The fact that no one in the administration has paid for the blunder irks Zinni. “But regardless of whose responsibility [it is]…it should be evident to everybody that they’ve screwed up, and whose heads are rolling on this?”
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