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Sep 5, 2003, 11:39 AM
Ex-Envoy Criticizes Bush's Postwar Policy

By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 5, 2003; Page A16

A former U.S. commander for the Middle East who still consults for the State Department yesterday blasted the Bush administration's handling of postwar Iraq, saying it lacked a coherent strategy, a serious plan and sufficient resources.

"There is no strategy or mechanism for putting the pieces together," said retired Marine Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, and so, he said, "we're in danger of failing."

In an impassioned speech to several hundred Marine and Navy officers and others, Zinni invoked the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War in the 1960s and '70s. "My contemporaries, our feelings and sensitivities were forged on the battlefields of Vietnam, where we heard the garbage and the lies, and we saw the sacrifice," said Zinni, who was severely wounded while serving as an infantry officer in that conflict. "I ask you, is it happening again?"

Zinni's comments were especially striking because he endorsed President Bush in the 2000 campaign, shortly after retiring from active duty, and serves as an adviser to the State Department on anti-terror initiatives in Indonesia and the Philippines. He preceded Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks as chief of the U.S. Central Command, the headquarters for U.S. military operations in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.

This was not the first time he has broken with the administration. He was publicly skeptical last winter of the decision to attack Iraq.

Underscoring how much his views have changed since 2000, he implied that the Bush administration is now damaging the U.S. military in the way that Bush and Vice President Cheney during that campaign charged that the Clinton administration had done. "We can't go on breaking our military and doing things like we're doing now," he said.

He also questioned the Bush administration's decision in January to have the Pentagon oversee postwar efforts in Iraq. "Why the hell would the Department of Defense be the organization in our government that deals with the reconstruction of Iraq?" he asked. "Doesn't make sense."

In addition, he criticized the administration for not working earlier and harder to win a U.N. resolution that several nations have indicated is a prerequisite to their contributing peacekeeping troops to help in Iraq. "We certainly blew past the U.N.," he said. "Why, I don't know. Now we're going back hat in hand."

Zinni's comments to the joint meeting in Arlington of the U.S. Naval Institute and the Marine Corps Association, two professional groups for officers, were greeted warmly by his audience, with prolonged applause at the end. Some officers bought tapes and compact discs of the speech to give to others.

link (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A27846-2003Sep4.html)