"Lying, incompetence and corruption"

By Geraldine Sealey

Published May 24, 2004 10:09PM (EDT)

Gen. Anthony Zinni (Ret.), former head of U.S. Central Command, is a 39-year Marine veteran, was the Bush administration's Middle East special envoy, directed strikes against Iraq and al-Qaida, and led U.S. troops in Somalia and Vietnam. And he is a strong critic  and a knowledgeable one  of the Bush administration's disastrous conduct in Iraq. Zinni, whose book "Battle Ready" with Tom Clancy, has been released, belongs to a growing list of former administration insiders -- Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke, Joe Wilson, Larry Lindsey, to name a few -- fired, threatened, or otherwise intimidated for speaking out against administration policy. Zinni was not reappointed to his post as Middle East envoy last year after saying publicly that Bush had far more pressing foreign policy priorities than Iraq and suggesting the aftermath of the Iraq war would be prolonged and complicated. The White House line on Zinni now that his book is out -- he's just a retired general. Bush listens to active commanders.

Retired or not, Zinni's impressive military and diplomatic resume can't be denied, try as the White House might to belittle him. Here's a powerful paragraph from Zinni's new book:

"In the lead-up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw, at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence, and irresponsibility; at worst, lying, incompetence and corruption. False rationales as a justification; a flawed strategy; lack of planning; the unnecessary alienation of our allies; the underestimation of the task; the unnecessary distraction from real threats; and the unbearable strain dumped on our overstretched military, all of these caused me to speak out. I did it before the war as a caution, and as an attempt to voice concern over situations I knew would be dangers, where the outcomes would likely mean real harm to our nation's interests. I was called a traitor and turncoat by Pentagon officials. The personal attacks are painful  but the photos of the casualties I see every day in the papers and on TV convince me not to shrink from the obligation to speak the truth."

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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