Understanding General Zinni


It’s a little hard right now. Brit Hume reported on Special Report yesterday that Gen. Zinni’s recent criticisms of Donald Rumsfeld on Iraq are quite different from what he said in 2000 when he worked under President Clinton: http://wizbangblog.com/cgi-bin/mt.cgi?__mode=view&_type=entry&id=11186&blog_id=1#

Former Clinton CENTCOM commander, Anthony Zinni — the most prominent of the retired generals attacking Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld — now says that, in the run-up to the war in Iraq, “What bothered me … [was that] I was hearing a depiction of the intelligence that didn’t fit what I knew. There was no solid proof, that I ever saw, that Saddam had WMD.”

But in early 2000, Zinni told Congress “Iraq remains the most significant near-term threat to U.S. interests in the Arabian Gulf region,” adding, “Iraq probably is continuing clandestine nuclear research, [and] retains stocks of chemical and biological munitions … Even if Baghdad reversed its course and surrendered all WMD capabilities, it retains scientific, technical, and industrial infrastructure to replace agents and munitions within weeks or months.”

Expose the Left has the video.

So what’s going on with all the recent criticism? Tony Blankley has an interesting yet disturbing piece in which he sheds some light on the recent criticism:

Consider two hypothetical situations. In the first, a United States Army general officer in a theater of war decides by himself that he strongly disagrees with the orders of the secretary of defense. He resigns his commission, returns to private life and speaks out vigorously against both the policy and the secretary of defense.

In example two, the top 100 generals in the Army military chain of command secretly agree amongst themselves to retire and speak out — each one day after the other.

In example one, above, unambiguously, the general has behaved lawfully. In example two, an arguable case could be made that something in the nature of a mutinous sedition has occurred in violation of Article 94 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice procedure. When does an expanded version of the simple honesty and legality of the first example cross over into grounds for a court martial?

More specifically, can a series of lawful resignations turn into a mutiny? And if they are agreed upon in advance, have the agreeing generals formed a felonious conspiracy to make a mutiny?

And where does Blankley come up with this theory? From Richard Holbrooke’s recent article in the Washington Post:

In this article he predicts that there will be increasing numbers of retired generals speaking out against Sec. Rumsfeld. Then, shockingly, he writes the following words: “If more angry generals emerge — and they will — if some of them are on active duty, as seems probable . . . then this storm will continue until finally it consumes not only Donald Rumsfeld.”


He takes that model one step further later in his article when he compares the current campaign against Rumsfeld with the MacArthur event and with Gen. George McClellan vs. Lincoln and Gen. John Singlaub against Carter, writing: “But such challenges are rare enough to be memorable, and none of these solo rebellions metastasized into a group, a movement that can fairly be described as a revolt.”

A “revolt” of several American generals against the secretary of defense (and by implication against the president)? Admittedly, if each general first retires and then speaks out, there would appear to be no violation of law.

But if active generals in a theater of war are planning such a series of events, they may be illegally conspiring together to do that which would be legal if done without agreement. And Ambassador Holbrooke’s article is — if it is not a fiction (which I doubt it is) — strong evidence of such an agreement. Of course, a conspiracy is merely an agreement against public policy.

Blankley then proceeds to explain how these generals’ actions may violate three articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Mixing the military with politics is not only inappropriate, but it’s also unbelievably dangerous for the security of our country. When generals and other military personnel start placing allegiance to their political party over allegiance to America, our military becomes severely compromised. This is what could be happening here: generals suddenly resigning because they want to undermine President Bush for political gain.

Update: Melvin Laird and Robert Pursley have an editorial in today’s Washington Post in which they ask an important question: why are these generals speaking up now?

The retired general officers who have recently called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld want to convince the public that civilian control has silenced military wisdom regarding the war in Iraq. They have chafed at Rumsfeld’s authoritarian style and they may even have legitimate differences of opinion with his decisions. But, while their advice and the weight of their experience should be taken into account, the important time for them to weigh in was while they were on active duty.

The two of us have experienced many of the circumstances confronting Rumsfeld. Our experience and connections at the Defense Department tell us that these generals probably had numerous opportunities to advise and object while on active duty. For them to now imply otherwise is disingenuous and quite possibly harmful for our prospects in Iraq. And it misrepresents the healthy give-and-take that we are confident is widespread between the civilian leadership at the Pentagon and the capable military hierarchy. A general officer is expected to follow orders, but he is also entitled to advise if he thinks those orders are flawed.

Judith Apter Klinghoffer weighs in with this:

On This Week Joe Klein, whom no one can accuse of being a Bush fan, said that Bush repeatedly asked the generals in Iraq if they had everything they needed and they repeatedly assured him they did. But when Jerry Bremer asked them what they would do with an additional division, they said, we’d clear Baghdad. Excuse me? The American army in Iraq does not have a single general with enough guts to respond to the president’s question with “depends on what you want us to do?”

Sorry, guys, civil control of the military is not our problem. Gutless military leadership is.

Instapundit also comments:

If things were so bad before, they should have resigned in protest instead of complaining publicly once they were safely in retirement and, in some cases, had books to promote.

I’d like to know the names of the generals who are hoping to make a quick buck.

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