In his weekly radio address, President Bush gave thanks for American servicemen "who
risk their own lives to keep us safe."
Democrats chose retired Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez to deliver a rebuttal.
"I saw firsthand the consequences of the administration's failure to devise a
strategy for victory in Iraq that employed, in a coordinated manner, the political,
economic, diplomatic and military power of the United States. That failure
continues today," he said.
LtGen. Sanchez endorsed the Democratic measure pending in Congress to condition
continued funding for the war on a timetable for troop withdrawal.
"Although we cannot withdraw precipitously from Iraq, we must move rapidly to
minimize our force presence," he said.
Martin Peretz of the New Republic suspects Democrats want to withdraw troops from
Iraq quickly because they don't want to win there.
"I suspect that so many Democrats are so deeply hostile to a forward foreign policy
and their minds so deeply embedded in the notion that you can negotiate successfully
with fanatics and tyrants that they wouldn't mind a prophylactic victory for the
enemy," he wrote Monday.
If you want to lose a war, who better to deliver that message than a loser?
Mr. Sanchez, who commanded U.S. troops in Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004, is a
retired three star general instead of a serving four star general chiefly because
the Abu Ghraib prison scandal happened on his watch. But that may have been the
least of his failings. The year he was in charge was the year the insurgency took
"Fairly or unfairly, Gen. Ricardo Sanchez always will be remembered as America's
incompetent field commander in Iraq," wrote counterinsurgency expert "Abu Muqawama"
on his blog. ("Abu Muqawama" is Arabic for "father of resistance.")
I think much of the criticism of Gen. Sanchez ought to be directed at the more
senior leaders in the Army at the time, because the poor man was virtually set up
for failure. Not only was he just a three star in what should have been a four star
billet, he was a newly minted three star. He had less experience in and knowledge
of Iraq than any other general officer who served during the war. It is no
reflection on his personal qualities to say that he was an appallingly bad choice.
But though Ricardo Sanchez had lots of help in becoming a failure, and lots of
company, the fact is that he was a failure, and that most of the responsibility for
being a failure rests on the shoulders of...Ricardo Sanchez.
Sanchez implies "that somehow he was a blameless bystander and not the one entrusted
with day-to-day operations during the critical year following regime change in
Iraq," noted the Small Wars Journal. "It appears that Sanchez did not have a
problem with U.S. strategy at that time. Moreover, as the senior commander he had
the authority to take measures that could have lessened the impact of a failed or
nonexistent strategy had he so desired."
It does seem odd that Democrats would excoriate Gen. David Petraeus, architect of
the strategy that has turned things around in Iraq, and embrace Gen. Sanchez,
especially since it was Democrats in Congress who led the criticism of him during
the Abu Ghraib affair.
But then, Democrats have a history of preferring losers to winners. In 1864, they
were sharply critical of Generals Grant and Sherman, who were leading the Union to
victory, and nominated as their presidential candidate Gen. George B. McClellan, who
Robert E. Lee had beaten like a drum on numerous occasions.
Historian Victor Davis Hanson likens Gen. Sanchez to other "whistleblowers" such as
former CIA officer Michael Scheuer and former National Security Council staffer
Richard Clarke who were failures at their jobs.
"In all these cases there is a dismal pattern: a mediocre functionary keeps quiet
about the mess around him, muddles through, senses that things aren't going right,
finds himself on the losing end of political infighting, is ofrced out or quits,
seethes that his genius wasn't recognized, takes no responsibility for his own
failures, worries that he might be scape-goated, and at last senses that either a
New York publisher or the anti-war Left, or both, will be willing to offer him cash
or notoriety but only if he serves their needs by trashing his former colleagues
in a manner he never would while on the job," Mr. Hanson said.