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Former US Commander Criticizes Bush on Iraq

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The former U.S. commander of multi-national troops in Iraq says President Bush's strategy there is failing because it relies too much on military force and not enough on political reconciliation. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, President Bush says Iraqi leaders are making political progress.

As commander of multi-national forces in Iraq shortly after the fall of Baghdad, retired Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez says he saw first hand the consequences of what he calls the Bush administration's failure to properly coordinate American political, economic, diplomatic, and military power.

"That failure continues today," he said. "At its base is the mistaken belief, despite years of evidence to the contrary, that victory can be achieved through the application of military power alone."

Sanchez says he gave the Democratic Party's Saturday radio address not as a representative of the opposition party but as a retired military officer.

This is not the first time Sanchez has spoken out against the president's policies in Iraq. Asked about his previous criticism, White House officials said simply that they appreciate Sanchez's service.

The former commander is backing congressional Democrats who want $50 billion in additional war funding linked to the goal of withdrawing U.S. combat troops by the end of next year.

That legislation was blocked by Senate Republicans who want $70 billion for the war without conditions. Democrats voted down that measure, and no additional funds were approved before Congress left for its Thanksgiving break.

President Bush opposes a timetable for troop withdrawal because he says those decisions should be made by military commanders in the field, not politicians in Washington. He says some troops are coming home, and more will follow next year, because of improved security that the president says is partly the result of his decision to send reinforcements to Iraq earlier this year.

Those troops were meant to give Iraqi leaders time to reach compromises on sharing oil revenue and allowing members of Saddam Hussein's former political party to join the government. The measures have not passed parliament.

In an interview with ABC News earlier this week, President Bush was asked about the pace of reconciliation and comments by an American army captain who said coalition troops cannot themselves reconcile Iraqi politicians.

"Sunni sheiks are stepping up and beginning to take the lead at the local level," he said. "The captain's remarks are true in this sense: the Iraqis are going to have to obviously take the lead politically, which they are beginning to do."

Sanchez disagrees with the president.

"The keys to securing the future of Iraq are aggressive regional diplomacy, political reconciliation, and economic hope," said Sanchez. "Yet, as our current commanders in Iraq have recently noted, the improvements in security produced by the courage and blood of our troops have not been matched by a willingness on the part of Iraqi leaders to make the hard choices necessary to bring peace to their country."

Sanchez says there is no evidence that Iraqi leaders will make those hard choices in the near future.

In the president's weekly radio address, Mr. Bush again marked this past Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday, saying Americans are grateful for U.S. servicemen and women whose sacrifices protect and strengthen the nation.

 

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