Retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, who commanded U.S. forces during the first year of Operation Iraqi Freedom, said in May 2007, in "his first interview since his career ended" in 2006, that "the war in Iraq is lost, and the best outcome America can hope for is to 'stave off defeat.'" Sanchez is "the highest-ranking former military leader yet to suggest the Bush administration fell short in Iraq."
On October 12, 2007, Sanchez told a convention of military journalists "There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight."
Heading MNF-Iraq and handing over power to Iraqis
Having only recently been announced as the head of the new Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-Iraq), Sanchez departed Iraq on July 1, 2004, when the United States was to "[hand] over power to" the Iraqi Interim Government.
Sanchez replaced / Abu Ghraib
Terence Hunt, writing in the May 25, 2004, online edition of the Army Times, said that Sanchez was being replaced "as part of a command restructuring that has been in the works for several months. ... The Pentagon also suspended Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski from her command. Both have become symbols of lax supervision at the Abu Ghraib prison where U.S. soldiers allegedly abused Iraqi inmates."
Although Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker at the New York Times wrote on May 25, 2004, that Sanchez will be replaced by Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., "the Army's second-ranking general," Larry Di Rita, chief spokesman for then Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, said, "'There has been no final decision' on who will replace Sanchez."
Schmitt and Shanker reported that Pentagon officials said that this "in no way reflected on General Sanchez's handling of the widening prisoner-abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison, outside of Baghdad, which was under his authority."
Sanchez's "intended new assignment," Schmitt and Shanker wrote, "which was to lead the US Southern Command in Miami, may now have been given to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's senior military assistant, Lt. Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, leaving it unclear where General Sanchez will be assigned, one defense official said. Other officials said, however, that General Sanchez might not yet have lost that prize.
"Some lawmakers have criticized General Sanchez, among other top officers, for failing to give Congress an early warning about politically explosive photographs of American military police officers abusing Iraqi prisoners that were turned over to military investigators in January .
"A spokesman for General Sanchez said the general 'stands by his testimony before Congressional committees' that he did not learn of the abuses until January, months after they began. ... Pentagon officials noted that General Sanchez had spent more than a year in command in Iraq, and it was natural for him to leave sometime soon after the transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi government on June 30," Schmitt and Shanker wrote.
"For several weeks," Schmitt and Shanker said, "senior military and Pentagon officials said, a leading plan was to promote General Sanchez to four-star rank, making him the Army's senior-ranking Hispanic officer and rewarding his work in Iraq by giving him the Southern Command, which has responsibility for most of Latin America.
"Under that plan, officials said, General Craddock would have been awarded a fourth star, and taken General Sanchez's place in Baghdad as head of the new Multinational Force Iraq, after June 30.
"But something happened in the past few days to derail that plan. Even as the military's top worldwide commanders met in Washington for a two-day conference, defense officials would not say Monday night what caused the plan to change.
"Under a new plan, General Craddock would move to the Southern Command, opening the spot for General Casey in Iraq, one defense official said.
"'Casey is a more forceful type than Craddock,' said the defense official, who suggested that the last-minute changes may have been a result of Mr. Rumsfeld and his top advisers deciding they needed 'a different personality.'
"'More importantly,' said the official, 'where is Sanchez going, because Craddock is going to Southcom instead, leaves no seats when the music stops'," Schmitt and Shanker wrote.
MSNBC/NBC News reported on May 25, 2004, that "officials said Sanchez would still be nominated for a fourth star and would be transferred to a different command, but they said the prisoner abuse scandal could complicate that process, too, to the point that they would consider withholding his nomination."
New command structure
The MNF, reportedly, "already has been working the strategic issues, and the new command structure will enable [Sanchez] to focus more of his time and energy in that direction," according to a May 14, 2004, new conference by Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, "Coalition military spokesman."
Multi-National Force-Iraq and Multi-National Corps-Iraq "will replace Combined Joint Task Force 7." Kimmitt "said the change addresses a concern that a combined joint task force headquarters was not sufficient to handle the military workload in Iraq efficiently."
"Multi-National Corps-Iraq will focus on the tactical fight -- the day-to-day military operations and the maneuvering of the six multinational divisions on the ground. Army Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz will command the corps."
Prior to the change, Sanchez was the commander of U.S. ground forces, the Combined Forces Land Component Command, in Iraq.
According to his biography  from Combined Joint Task Force 7 (CJTF7), Commanding General "Ricardo S. Sanchez is a native of Rio Grande City, Texas. As a Distinguished Military Graduate of Texas A&I University, Kingsville, Texas, he was commissioned a second lieutenant of armor in the Regular Army in 1973. His initial assignment was to the 4th Battalion (Light Airborne), 68th Armor, 82nd Airborne Division, where he served as platoon leader, company executive officer, and assistant logistics officer and operations officer. He later served as aide-de-camp to the assistant division commander (support), 82nd Airborne Division. In June 1977, he returned to Company C, 4th Battalion, 68th Armor. He was then assigned as an action control officer in the office of the Secretary of the Joint Staff, U.S. Forces Korea/Eighth U.S. Army.
"Lt. Gen. Sanchez attended the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California and was subsequently assigned to the U.S. Army Armor Center at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he served as the chief of the analysis branch for the Future Armored Combat System Task Force, the Special Group Study, Armor, and the Armor Investment Strategy Study Group. He was also a special projects officer in the Directorate of Combat Developments at the Armor Center. At his next assignment, Lt. Gen. Sanchez served as operations officer and executive officer for the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry, 3rd Armored Division, Gelnhausen, Germany and as deputy operations officer for the 3rd Armored Division, Frankfurt, Germany.
"Upon returning to the U.S., Lt. Gen. Sanchez commanded the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor, 197th (Separate) Infantry Brigade (later 3rd Brigade, 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized)), Fort Benning, Georgia. After relinquishing command, he served as an investigator in the office of the U.S. Army Inspector General Agency, Washington, D.C. and then as commander of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized), (later 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division), Fort Riley, Kansas. Following that tour, he served as deputy chief of staff of the US Southern Command in Miami, Florida, and later as that command's director of operations. Lt. Gen. Sanchez later served as the assistant division commander for support for the 1st Infantry Division, followed by assignment as the deputy chief of staff, operations at Headquarters, United States Army Europe (USAEUR) in Heidelberg, Germany.
"On July 10, 2001, Lt. Gen. Sanchez became commanding general of V Corps' 1st Armored Division. He held that position for nearly two years before assuming command of the corps on June 14, 2003.
"Lt. Gen. Sanchez's professional education includes the Armor Officer basic and advanced courses, the Command and General Staff College, and the U.S. Army War College. He holds a bachelor's Degree in mathematics and history from Texas A&I University and a master's degree in operations research and systems analysis engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School.
"The general's awards and badges include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal with 'V' device and oak leaf cluster, the Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Southwest Asia Campaign Medal, the Liberation of Kuwait Medals (Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) and the Master Parachutist Badge."
Related SourceWatch articles
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- Sig Christenson, "Retired general talks about Iraq war," San Antonio Express-News, May 25, 2007.
- Jeff Schogol, "Sanchez, former U.S. commander in Iraq, calls war 'a nightmare with no end in sight'," Stars and Stripes, October 13, 2007.
- "Top general in Iraq being replaced. Bush praises Sanchez, to be replaced July 1," NBC News/MSNBC, May 25, 2004.
- Terence Hunt, Army Times, May 25, 2004. The link is no longer active.
- Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, "The Struggle for Iraq: Army Shifts; No. 2 Army General to Move In As Top U.S. Commander in Iraq" (abstract), New York Times, May 25, 2004.
- John D. Banusiewicz, "New Commands in Iraq to Replace Combined Joint Task Force," American Forces Press Service, May 14, 2004.
- No archived source links are active.
- CJTF7/VCorps.army.mil biography no longer active.
- Photo: Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez responds to a reporter's question during a press conference with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld on Sept. 6, 2003, in Baghdad, Iraq. DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Andy Dunaway, U.S. Air Force, DefenseLINK. (Released)
- "U.S. vows to kill or capture al-Sadr," CBC News (Canada), April 12, 2004.
- Amanda Terkel, "Former U.S. Commander In Iraq: War Is Lost," Think Progress, June 4, 2007.
- Nick Langewis and Mike Aivaz, "Former Iraq commander indicts Bush Administration and Iraq war: 'A nightmare with no end in sight'," The Raw Story, October 12, 2007.