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Ex-Commander In Iraq Faults War Strategy

Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez told military reporters,
Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez told military reporters, "There has been a glaring unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership." (By Chip Somodevilla -- Getty Images)

He told reporters in response to questions that, when he assumed command in Iraq, he realized the situation had come unglued, in large part because there was high-level disregard for addressing what U.S. forces should do after the major combat operations conquered Baghdad. He said the U.S. presence has been an occupation.

Although he acknowledged that "mistakes were made" during his tenure in Iraq, he said his ability to make the war strategy work was limited by the administration's decision to restrict the military's authority over the postwar civil administration and reconstruction.

A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on Sanchez's remarks. NSC spokeswoman Kate Starr said: "We appreciate his service to the country. As General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker said, there's more work to be done but progress is being made in Iraq. And that's what we're focused on now."

Sanchez's former aides have described him as highly critical of decisions made by the leader of the U.S. occupation authority, L. Paul Bremer, who issued orders disbanding Iraq's army and banning many mid-level members of the former Baath Party from government jobs.

Sanchez opened by criticizing the U.S. news media, saying he was unfairly labeled "a liar" and "a torturer" because of the Abu Ghraib scandal, and he alleged that the media have lost their sense of ethics. He said that members of the media blow stories out of proportion and are unwilling to correct mistakes, and that the "media environment is doing a great disservice to the nation."

Staff writers Thomas E. Ricks in Washington and Peter Baker in Miami contributed to this report.


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