July 2nd, 2008
06:38 PM ET

What General Sanchez says about the candidates

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/02/art.sanchez.jpg caption="Ricardo Sanchez gestures during a press conference in Baghdad, November 2003." width=292 height=320]
Leslie Sanchez
AC360° contributor and GOP Strategist

I had a chance to sit down yesterday with retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of U.S. troops in Iraq from 2003-2004. On tour to promote his new book, “Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story,” Sanchez, a critic of the Bush war plan, talked with me about a number of things, including Sen. John McCain’s upcoming trip to Latin America and Sen. Barack Obama’s forthcoming visit to Iraq.

Sanchez urged the need for seriousness in the debate, especially about Iraq, while acknowledging that “political theater” exists on both sides of the discussion. “It's something we need to be very cautious of since it establishes the wrong perception, the wrong expectation and it establishes conditions we may not be able to live by."

Of Obama’s trip to Iraq, and his call for a pullout of troops in 16 months, Sanchez said:

"It is way too early for us to be making an assessment of what conditions would be like in Iraq in literally a year. Without having the benefit of a complete understanding of the situation on the ground, this is a very dynamic battle. It is a little premature to establish any political position in terms of whether to stay or go or what timeline to use."

Of Sen. McCain's travel to Columbia and Mexico Sanchez said:

"It's absolutely critical to re-establish trust and confidence between the Western Hemisphere partners we neglected. It's a problem for America,” he said, noting the increase of Chinese investment and influence in the region.

"While there is no military desire, China's presence could exert tremendous economic and diplomatic influence. This could contribute to a trend toward regimes that are not as friendly to America as they have been in the past. It's always tenuous."

Filed under: Barack Obama • Iraq • Leslie Sanchez • Raw Politics
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Trasa, Tx

    What I understood from Obama position on allowing 16 months to bring a specified amount home was not to be right away. It sounded to me as though he was going to wait as to how the situation on the ground is and along with the advice of the generals and other aides that then they can proceed to start pulling out with that time frame in mind. But what Sanchez has to understand, we are going to have to pull out period because you have to keep funding war, so when the money runs out or so thin what are you going to do? I mean, if America gets to the point that we're not making money because afterall, that's who pays for everthing. No taxes, no funding and let's be honest, it is costing a lot and with oil being high it just became even more expensive so because they need oil to fuel vehicles, planes and whatever else. I mean, when Amercian wanted it's freedom, we had help like where helping the Iraqis but after the war was won, we did the rest ourselves. I do agree it won't be easy, but I do feel which ever comes first whether we can no longer fund it, or when the situation over in Iraq is better, we need to start pulling them out.

    July 6, 2008 at 2:03 am |
  2. Gilby

    Oh, I get it now. If you sit in grandma basement, in your PJs, you have the "PC-brain", you can tell everyone just what the result of Tribal wars in far away places influence our energy supply. What you might not be able to see Sheron is that Change was needed in Iraq. Change, sound familuar.

    July 5, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  3. Gregory Leftwich (Carlsbad, California)

    The world is ready for a new type of leadership from America; leadership that is capable of listening to others, showing humility and honor in its deliberations and yet remaining resolute when it decides to act.

    The tough talking, "cowboy" diplomacy of the past 7 years never was well recieved and has now become an huge liability for foriegn policy. We can not go-it-alone on every thing.

    On this front, Barack Obama, not John McCain, is best positioned to lead.

    July 5, 2008 at 5:05 pm |
  4. Noel

    Well military Elite will say anything to have a conflict going, to hone their war skills, even at the cost of good Americans, who wants to protect their country. Iraq war has failed to secure USA. Sen Obama is correct in saying that he will refine his policies.

    His main point of the argument was 1-2 bts out of Iraq a month. If you have ever taken a life decision you will know we make our decisions based on assumptions, and these assumptions have risk and mitigation plans. What Sen Obama stated was to mitigate any risk he will refine his plan ex. instead of 2 maybe 1 at first and increase to 2. If you are a born leader you will know each plan has risks and you have to have mitigation strategies. I dont understand how the media can label Sen. Obama's position as a change, he is merely following mitigation strategies which will keep USA and her troops safe. He is wise and a true leader.

    July 5, 2008 at 2:52 am |
  5. aliou

    Sanchez is part of the militaro-industrial complex. All he will say is what would perpetrate the industry's profit: Long term militarism in all parts of the world.

    No surprise.

    Obama is my choice because he would take us out o f the war .

    July 5, 2008 at 2:29 am |
  6. Rose

    To Maritza:
    I hate to burst your bubble but it was not a clueless Obama that got us into this mess but a clueless Bush. Bush obviously did not understand the complexities of Iraq, Iran, and the entire Middle East or he would not have started his war. His Dad fully understood the situation and stayed out of Iraq. It's a shame Dad didn't pass down his intelligence and knowledge to the son or maybe the son just wasn't paying attention. Whatever the reason, we are in Iraq now and it looks like it will take a "misguided liberal fool" to get us out.

    July 4, 2008 at 1:18 pm |
  7. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Let me get this straight when people say Obama has no clue about the complexities of Iraq. Bush didn't understand and still doesn't understand the complexities of Iraq that still exist which has resulted in failure. Bush had no plan going into Iraq and had no plan for exiting. So understanding complexities is not the answer, it's a lame excuse for failure but a good reason to exit.

    July 4, 2008 at 10:12 am |
  8. Mary

    The only ignorant person is that greedy, , unconventional man in the white house. He is clueless and has cause America to have virtually zero creditable. He has lie to the American people and the entire world. If we were to combine the experience of Bush and McCain which amounts to this chaotic state our Nation is in. This leadership consists of the blind leading the blind, with more lies to incite fear in order to win the white house. No one man can understand the complexities of Iraq especially unqualified Mr. Bush and too old, out of touch McCain. Yes we are in Iraq but the million dollar question is” why” because Sadaam tried to kill Mr. Bush daddy and let us not forget about “WMD” which equal OIL”. The blood of all those innocent American and Iraqi is going to be upon the hands of only God knows; we want an end to Bush’s war.

    July 4, 2008 at 5:14 am |
  9. sllick

    I remember right after 9/11 certain people said that Americans have
    short memories. Have we all forgotten that we had the worst attack on American soil. Yes, we have forgotten. Freedom has a cost. The terroists, whether they are in Iraq, Afganistan or Iran will continue to hate Americans and try to harm us. This is the most important issue we are facing. The ecomony is in a cycle and we will survive this with some sacrifices. I am fearful that people are buying into the Obama hype and he has so little experience to be President. I believe that he will say and do whatever it takes to win. With John McCain you get an honorable, experienced and humble person. He is not a showman but he spent his entire life devoted to this country.

    July 3, 2008 at 11:50 pm |
  10. Sheron-OH

    Wait a minute I thought the IraQ war was about WMD; I thought that Iraq was out to destroy us with WMD and that is why we had to attack. Now we have found no WMD, Sadaam is not in power with the WDM to attack the US. So someone please tell me what are we too win now.
    Oh I get it -it is the strageic ploy for the OIL. Yeah thats it–Our gas would not be $5. if we had total control and Iraq would just do what we want then we could WIN. If Iraq would stop trying to tell us to get out after all we have done for them.

    July 3, 2008 at 9:56 pm |
  11. Maritza

    Obama has no clue , not in the least about the complexities of Iraq/ and the entire Middle East for that matter, nor do the avarage liberal misguided liberal fools that voted for him , he's ignorant of current and constant changes on the ground that only commanders,and our brave men and women serving in this battle face every day, the grave and serious consequences from a premature withdrawl are far reaching not just to the innocent Iraqi people but also to the supply and control of the oil reserves,/supply, Iran will invade, work with Al-Quida, slaughter hundreds of thousands Iraqis, take over the entire region , America will have virtually zero leverage, then what? inexperienced, underqualified, "I'll say and lie about anything so you can vote me into full control Obama" will send troops back in again , how many other countries will join the fight against America , China? Russia? Syria.. the list goes on and on with dire consequences, concider the entire oil supply of the Middle East in the hands of a brutal regime Iran ,. like clamping down on the juggular vien of America , this is only a small part of what our country could face if this candidate fools his way into the White House.

    July 3, 2008 at 5:26 pm |
  12. JC- Los Angeles

    Dan, I have the utmost respect for our military but I believe that people like you deserve leaders that possess the ability to lead. I find it troubling that people like Sanchez, years after our first entry into Iraq, make statements like "it's premature to establish any political position on whether to saty or go or what timeline to go." Isn't it the job of our leaders to make those distictions? Doesn't someone like you deserve someone who has the capacity to make tough decisons? Shouldn' they be thinking of exit strategies long in advance? At this rate, we will clean up Iraq in twenty years but have a country here at home that has fallen apart. Lastly, what's most troubling is to hear that you will be deployed next year while people like Sanchez are out shilling a book; pathetic.

    July 3, 2008 at 4:43 pm |
  13. Dan Hoskins

    To JC from Las Angeles:
    Clearly you have no military background. Do you have any idea what kind of resources we have over there and how long it would take to mobilize it all? IMO you should re-think your position that you have taken about our presence in Iraq.
    I am scheduled to be deployed early next year. Where I do not particularly want to go, I think it is necessary if freedom is truly worth dying for. (Which I believe it is and hope that every American would agree.) If it is, then don’t the people of Iraq deserve freedom just as much as we do? Where I am sure everyone has different opinions on how we should go about helping the Iraqis, one thing is undeniable... We are there now, and if we leave without giving them means to support themselves, they will be, once again, overtaken by a tyrannous leader/ government. Perhaps I am bias as a humanist though on our need to help them.
    I think LTG Sanchez is spot on. I am tired of hearing hype about what this or that candidate is going to do about our presence in Iraq when I know, for the most part, they have no idea how tough their claims would be to execute. As an example, ask someone in the National Guard how long their mob-prep training is.

    July 3, 2008 at 2:49 am |
  14. GH-SanFrancisco

    Every General seems to think that this war isn't political... it is just a war we must win. No one seems able to articulate what victory even looks like in this situation. Didn't we choose to start this unprovoked war? I get fatigued hearing about how we need to stay the course. Even as some measure of improvment seems to be happening in Iraq, what does it mean to Americans? Our fuel prices are soring, our over spent dollar is worth half of what it was just a couple years ago. This was and is a total blunder, and the sooner we can get back to focusing on our own challenges the better. It's is clearly time for Iraqis to take care of their own country.

    July 2, 2008 at 11:50 pm |
  15. Aware


    I repeat: America is a plutocracy! Money wins!

    So far, Obama has figured out how to game the system. But, if he goes too far to the center, his funds could dry up!

    If McCain and the Republicans can match or beat the Obama money train, they will win!

    Issues don't rule the day – perceptions bought with bucks do! 🙁

    July 2, 2008 at 10:52 pm |
  16. Larry

    Guess no one asked him about Wes Clark's remarks.

    July 2, 2008 at 8:49 pm |
  17. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    I think both Obama and McCain have to listen to the Generals on the ground. Iraq is a reality. A reality, that a new President will be part of. The decisions that are made going forward, will be felt for generations. "Political theatre" from both sides will never be in the best interest of anyone. We are all Americans. Republicans, Democrats or Independents fighting each other, does nothing but keep us divided. That's the thing about reality, there's no going back for a redo. We can only work to solve the present and future.

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    July 2, 2008 at 8:13 pm |
  18. JC- Los Angeles

    Our candidates and military leaders can talk all they want but the United States should not be focused on nation building overseas while our nation completely falls apart here at home. Sanchez says it's "premature to establish any political position in terms of whether to stay or go or what timeline to use." Say what? We've been in Iraq years and still no one can man up and make a tough decision? The same goes for Central America. Take a position, make tough decisions and move on. In the future, there will always be new regimes or uprising that will need to be dealt with; if we can't address them now, we won't then. Our focus should be here at home; fix our shoddy executive and political leadership; fix corporate malfeasance; fix $5 gas; fix rising unemployment; fix the public schools; fix healthcare; fix the Federal Reserve; fix gang violence; fix the lax oversight of mortgage banks, underwriting and Wall Street; essentially, fix the United States of America.

    July 2, 2008 at 7:44 pm |