Retired Generals Criticize Bush’s Plan for Iraq

By JOHN HOLUSHA

New York Times

January 19, 2007

A panel of retired generals told a United States Senate committee today that sending 21,500 additional troops to Iraq will do little to solve the underlying political problems in the country.

“Too little and too late,” is the way Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, a former chief of the Central Command, described the effort to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The additional troops are intended to help pacify Baghdad and a restive province, but General Hoar said American leaders had failed to understand the political forces at work in the country. “The solution is political, not military,” he said.

“A fool’s errand,” was the judgment of Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, who commanded troops in the first Gulf War. He said other countries had concluded that the effort in Iraq was not succeeding, noting that “our allies are leaving us and will be gone by summer.”

Describing the situation in Iraq as “desperate but not terminal,” he said Iraqis had to try to make political deals domestically and negotiate for stability with neighboring nations, particularly Syria and Iran.

The American effort in Iraq has gone badly because the United States did not understand the consequences of deposing Saddam Hussein, said Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, a former director of the National Security Agency. He said the principal beneficiary of the war was Iran and Al Qaeda, not the United States.

“There is no way to win a war that is not in your interests,” he said.

In statements and in questioning, senators were skeptical about the increased commitment of troops and the likely outcome of the deployment. Senator Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana, noted that he had raised questions about the effort in Iraq as long ago as 2003, and said, “Today, I don’t have an understanding about how it will work militarily.”

One general warned that even a plan to start withdrawing American forces from the country carried the risk that the armed Iraqi population will step up the level of attacks. “We will be shot at as we are going out.” said Gen. Jack Keane, a former vice chief of staff of the Army.