The Revolt of the Generals

Editor’s note: Justin Raimondo is traveling. His column will be back Friday.

The news that a group of retired generals have come out front and center against the war strategy of this administration ought to be – and is – music to the ears of the antiwar movement. The substance of their critique, however, is merely a refrain of a song we heard in the run-up to the Iraq war, given voice by a platoon of retired officers who feared the aftermath of our glorious “victory.” Echoes of that earlier criticism are now being sounded with renewed vigor, as the question of “Who lost Iraq?” is increasingly heard. One of the clearest and most critical voices belongs to Gen. Anthony Zinni, retired chief of Central Command:

“I saw the – what this town is known for, spin, cherry-picking facts, using metaphors to evoke certain emotional responses or shading the context. We know the mushroom clouds and the other things that were all described that the media has covered well. I saw on the ground a sort of walking away from 10 years’ worth of planning. You know, ever since the end of the first Gulf War, there’s been planning by serious officers and planners and others, and policies put in place – 10 years’ worth of planning were thrown away. Troop levels dismissed out of hand. Gen. Shinseki basically insulted for speaking the truth and giving an honest opinion. The lack of cohesive approach to how we deal with the aftermath, the political, economic, social reconstruction of a nation, which is no small task. A belief in these exiles that anyone in the region, anyone that had any knowledge, would tell you were not credible on the ground. And on and on and on, decisions to disband the army that were not in the initial plans. There’s a series of disastrous mistakes. We just heard the secretary of state say these were tactical mistakes. These were not tactical mistakes. These were strategic mistakes, mistakes of policies made back here. Don’t blame the troops. They’ve been magnificent. If anything saves us, it will be them.”

Zinni is clear on who lied us into war, and why, but he and his confreres are less explicit about what ought to be done now that we’ve been sucked into the Iraqi quagmire. That the war was a mistake from the beginning, however, is not in doubt. Writing in Time magazine, Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold says he’s sorry he “did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat – al-Qaeda.” Newbold chose retirement rather than roil the waters by confronting “those who had used the 9/11 tragedy to hijack our security policy.”

The focus of the dissenting generals’ ire has been Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, whose arrogance and stubbornness is widely resented by as much as 75 percent of the officers’ corps, as well as among congressional Democrats and longtime critics of the war. As Newbold put it, the decision to invade “was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions – or bury the results.”

Along with 2,300-plus dead, what this administration and its shrinking cheering section want to bury is the responsibility for this war – and their strategy is to simply move on to the next battlefield: Iran. That is why the call for more troops in Iraq – a demand that underlies much of the neoconservative opposition to Rumsfeld – is so dangerous. The Weekly Standard and such pro-war pundits as Andrew “I feel shame” Sullivan, have been way ahead of the curve in calling for Rummy’s head. The gruff SecDef has stuck to his guns in upholding his “light and mobile” quick-strike model of military operations: as applied to Iraq, this meant going in with a bare minimum number of troops and drawing them down quickly – perhaps in preparation for the next quick strike in Iran, Syria, or wherever. The result has been an unmitigated disaster: the insurgency has grown from being, in Rumsfeld’s phrase, a few “dead-enders” to a national upsurge of rebellion that is now spreading from the Sunni heartland to the Shi’ite majority. Civil war looms.

The “more boots on the ground” school, however, is equally batty, especially coming from those officers who questioned the wisdom of the invasion in the first place. The problem with our efforts to quell the insurgency is the U.S. military presence itself – and putting more troops in is only going to increase the problem.

We don’t need more troops, we need to get out of Iraq – now. What is percolating there is a looming confrontation with Iran, and – as I have been saying for quite some time now – we are a border incident away from war with Tehran. If and when it comes, it will be a conflict that will range from the long Iraq-Iran border to Beirut – and beyond. It will draw in the entire region and signal the beginning of the civilizational struggle between Islam and the West the War Partyand al-Qaeda – have been trying to ignite.

The instructional value of the generals’ revolt is that it leads us to ask whether we are going to trust the same gang of liars who lured us into invading Iraq. The War Party claims the Iranian mullahs are about to acquire nukes – and they said the same about Saddam Hussein. They say Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a Middle Eastern Hitler – and so, you’ll remember, was Saddam. They’re telling us that if we don’t act now, we’ll regret it later – but today our real regret is having listened to them in the first place.

As the real story of how we were lied into war comes out and we start taking names, ranks, and serial numbers, the question of why comes to the fore. Whose interests were served by this war? Who was behind the push for war – and who benefited? All of these questions have been asked – and, often, answered – on this very Web site. That similar queries – and identical answers – have now become widespread is less gratifying than it ought to be, however. We are paying an enormous price in lives – both American and Iraqi – and treasure for what many consider the criminal incompetence of this administration.

What has to be understood is that rectifying the mistakes of the past rests on our ability to challenge and reevaluate not only the strategy but the policy the policy of global intervention that posits the U.S. as the policeman of the world. Until that underlying premise is checked, and rejected, all the regrets in the world won’t guarantee that we’ll be spared from making the same mistakes in the future.

Get rid of Rumsfeld? By all means, yes – but we need to rid ourselves of a lot more than that blustering blowhard before we begin to breathe a little easier.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].