Considerable debate is taking place among Democrats over the suitability of General Ricardo Sanchez as a U.S. Senate candidate in the light of the abuses at Abu Ghraib that occurred during his watch. The following commentary appeared on a Houston Democratic web site.
As a young officer I took an oath to defend the constitution and obey the orders of the President of the United States-. Loyalty above everything else was how our table was set then as it is now. Everything followed the chain of command.
It was around 2002 that this country embarked on a downward slope when it disavowed the Geneva Accords. I did not hear a great uproar in opposition from any one on this – save the few who knew what can happen when you have no rules regards enemy combatants. We were at war in Afghanistan and our job was to close and kill the enemy. The people operating in Afghanistan were operating under different circumstances than they were in Iraq.
There was no great debate – the enemy was identified and we were going to use whatever means necessary – that was the policy of the United States government – as set by Secretary Rumsfield and supported by then President Bush – not the other way around. When General Franks ended his ground attacks in Iraq, and the war declared over, orders were issued to provide minimum assistance to General Jay Garner whose job it was to rebuild Iraq. We had destroyed the country, and there was to be minimal assistance in rebuilding (we had not planned for that eventuality ) and we had different segments of our government not operating in tandem. It was utter chaos.
Into this mess General Sanchez is appointed to be the Theater Commander in Iraq. You had three distinct groups that operated during the General’s time. One was the CIA – which reported to the CIA; The Special Operations Forces, which reported to Central Command, and the US Military forces that reported to Sanchez. Sanchez was not responsible nor were the other two agencies in his chain of command.
There were abuses and soldiers were court martialed under Sanchez’s Command – but there were abuses that had occured long before Sanchez was there – however I never heard of a CIA or a Special Operations Head being put on the the carpet regards these issues. Without the Geneva accords acting as a brake you create the possibility of abuses which did occur. However to place the blame on the shoulders of on a single officer who did his best when the National Government , Congress, CIA, NSA, State Department and the President of the United States looked the other way is preposterous and disturbing.
As a soldier I was trained to be warrior – and for that I make no apologies – but the ultimate demise of Viet Nam and the recurring problems in Iraq and Afghanistan can be set square in the lap of our civilian leadership or lack of leadership. Sanchez did his job and was wrongfully accused when those in charge refused to step up to the plate and take responsibility for the mess they created.
Democratic Veterans Association
Former Captain, United States Army
Viet Nam 71-72 101st Airborne
There is little that I can add to Captain Jones’ observations, except to point out the obvious: first, that General Sanchez will have to deal with the Abu Ghraib issue, and, second, that the events that transpired there, and the political context that surrounded them, is understood very differently by those who have served in combat and those who have not.