“I knew the intelligence right up until the day of the war and I knew it wasn’t there, the threat. “
I was a little bit out of the loop this weekend, but not so out of it that I didn’t read this Q & A with Anthony Zinni, Former Commander in chief of U.S. Central command, in the local paper. Here are some of the most important quotes:
Do you think Saddam had any stocks of banned weapons?
I believe there probably might have been some laying around that he wasn’t aware of. They would have been obsolete, even dangerous to move around. There might have been some that were destroyed, there just wasn’t proper accounting. But he wasn’t even focused on that; they (the U.N. arms inspectors) were. So my belief of what was there was the possible, the potential that you had to plan for, of old stocks, artillery shells, rocket rounds. There was probably about two dozen Scuds (ballistic missiles) that were unaccounted for at the outside that could have possibly been weaponized. But as time went on, these things would have been much more difficult to move, much more difficult to upload. If he possessed those tactical weapons, these things would have had maybe marginal tactical effect on the battlefield in the short term. But certainly nothing of a great threat to the United States. So I really did not think this was a major or imminent or grave and gathering or potential threat.
What should we have done, then, in your view?
Continue to contain them. Containment worked. The president has said containment didn’t work. I disagree. First of all, containment worked with the Soviet Union, the Cubans, the North Koreans, thus far. Containment was done at very low cost. In Centcom, in my time there when we had the dual containment policy, there were less troops on a day-to-day basis in the entire theater than than report to work at the Pentagon every day in the entire theater.
You said all of the generals were against this war and the civilians were for it. What were the Chiefs of Staff doing? Weren’t they doing the planning? How come that stuff that you’re recommending wasn’t done?
Look, when I was the commander in chief of Central Command, Gen. Hugh Shelton was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He required all the service chiefs and all the CINCS, to read “Dereliction of Duty,” written by H.R. McMaster, a young Army major now colonel. It talked about the negligence of the joint chiefs during Vietnam who all knew what was being done was wrong in many aspects. Not only the strategy and policy in Vietnam, but also the way we were fighting the war, decisions like individual rotations rather than unit rotation. And we not only were forced to read the book and told to read it, we had a meeting in Washington where he brought in young McMasters, who addressed us about that negligence. So you ask why? It’s a good question. There’s going to be another dereliction of duty written in the future.
So you’re suggesting the administration came in and said this is what we’re going to do, shut up and do it?
The worst-kept secret in Washington is that as soon as this administration came in there was talk about taking down Iraq from day one. It’s the worst-kept secret in Washington. There were Cabinet meetings where the deputy secretary of defense and others were pushing this. And certainly after 9/11 it was even more intense.