Retired General Richard Sanchez was top military leader in Iraq between June 2003 and June 2004. The invasion of Iraq began on 20 March, 2003. The Sanchez period was marked by considerable tension between L. Paul Bremer and Sanchez. Sanchez was the highest ranking Hispanic in the US Army. His career came unstitched in the context of the Abu Ghraib chaos. Thus it is easy to see his outburst in that context.
Sanchez, giving a speech to military reporters and editors, launched into a blistering attack on the dishonesty and tattered ‘ethics’ of the leftist fossil media. [I report his full speech below.] He then followed this by some rather muddled complaints regarding the political establishment, in their handling of the removal of Saddam’s socialist dictatorship and the subsequent struggles to build a democratic society.
However, much more interesting is the dishonest reporting
of this outburst by the leftist media. For an example, see this
from the Washington Post. From the reports you might not notice that at no point did Sanchez refer to George Bush, but only to political and military leaders in general. I do note that in his paragraph [highlighted], he did not suggest that he should be courtmartialed with regard to Abu Ghraib.
For those of you in a hurry, I have marked four of the short paragraphs in the Sanchez speech which are less likely to appear prominently in dishonest media ‘reports’.
[Military reporters and editors luncheon address Washington D.C.
LtG (ret) Ricardo S. Sanchez
12 October 2007]
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen
Some of you may not believe this but I am glad to be here. When Sig
asked me if I would consider addressing you there was no doubt that
I should come into the lion's den. This was important because I have
firmly believed since desert shield that it is necessary for the strength
of our democracy that the military and the press corps maintain a strong,
mutually respectful and enabling relationship. This continues to be
problematic for our country, especially during times of war. One of
the greatest military correspondents of our time, Joe Galloway, made
me a believer when he joined the 24th infantry division during desert
Today, I will attempt to do two things - first I will give you my assessment
of the military and press relationship and then I will provide you some
thoughts on the current state of our war effort. As all of you know
I have a wide range of relationships and experiences with our nations
military writers and editors. There are some in your ranks who I consider
to be the epitome of journalistic professionalism - Joe Galloway, Thom
Shanker, Sig Christensen, and John Burns immediately come to mind. They
exemplify what America should demand of our journalists - tough reporting
that relies upon integrity, objectivity and fairness to give accurate
and thorough accounts that strengthen our freedom of the press and in
turn our democracy. on the other hand, unfortunately, I have issued
ultimatums to some of you for unscrupulous reporting that was solely
focused on supporting your agenda and preconcieved notions of what our
military had done. I also refused to talk to the European stars and
stripes for the last two years of my command in Germany for their extreme
bias and single minded focus on Abu Gharaib.
Let me review some of the descriptive phrases that have been used by
some of you that have made my personal interfaces with the press corps
"dictatorial and somewhat dense",
"not a strategic thought",
"does not get it" and
the most inexperienced LtG.
In some cases I have never even met you, yet you feel qualified to
make character judgments that are communicated to the world. My experience
is not unique and we can find other examples such as the treatment of
Secretary Brown during Katrina. This is the worst display of journalism
imaginable by those of us that are bound by a strict value system of
selfless service, honor and integrity. Almost invariably, my perception
is that the sensationalistic value of these assessments is what provided
the edge that you seek for self agrandizement or to advance your individual
quest for getting on the front page with your stories! As I understand
it, your measure of worth is how many front page stories you have written
and unfortunately some of you will compromise your integrity and display
questionable ethics as you seek to keep America informed. This is much
like the intelligence analysts whose effectiveness was measured by the
number of intelligence reports he produced. For some, it seems that
as long as you get a front page story there is little or no regard for
the "collateral damage" you will cause. Personal reputations
have no value and you report with total impunity and are rarely held
accountable for unethical conduct.
Given the near instantaneous ability to report actions on the ground,
the responsibility to accurately and truthfully report takes on an unprecedented
importance. The speculative and often uninformed initial reporting that
characterizes our media appears to be rapidly becoming the standard
of the industry. An Arab proverb states - "four things come not
back: the spoken word, the spent arrow, the past, the neglected opportunity."
Once reported, your assessments become conventional wisdom and nearly
impossible to change. Other major challenges are your willingness to
be manipulated by "high level officials" who leak stories
and by lawyers who use hyperbole to strengthen their arguments. Your
unwillingness to accurately and prominently correct your mistakes and
your agenda driven biases contribute to this corrosive environment.
All of these challenges combined create a media environment that does
a tremendous disservice to America. Over the course of this war tactically
insignificant events have become strategic defeats for America because
of the tremendous power and impact of the media and by extension you
the journalist. In many cases the media has unjustly destroyed the individual
reputations and careers of those involved. We realize that because of
the near real time reporting environment that you face it is difficult
to report accurately. In my business one of our fundamental truths is
that "the first report is always wrong." Unfortunately, in
your business "the first report" gives Americans who rely
on the snippets of CNN, if you will, their "truths" and perspectives
on an issue. As a corollary to this deadline driven need to publish
"initial impressions or observations" versus objective facts
there is an additional challenge for us who are the subject of your
reporting. When you assume that you are correct and on the moral high
ground on a story because we have not respond to questions you provided
is the ultimate arrogance and distortion of ethics. One of your highly
respected fellow journalists once told me that there are some amongst
you who "feed from a pig's trough." If that is who I am dealing
with then I will never respond otherwise we will both get dirty and
the pig will love it. This does not mean that your story is accurate.
I do not believe that this is what our forefathers intended. The code
of ethics for the society of professional journalists states:
...public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation
of democracy. the duty of the journalist is to further those ends by
seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events
and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties
strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional
integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility
The basic ethics of a journalist that calls for:
1. Seeking truth,
2. Providing fair and comprehensive account of events and issues
3. Thoroughness and honesty
All are victims of the massive agenda driven competition for economic
or political supremacy. The death knell of your ethics has been enabled
by your parent organizations who have chosen to align themselves with
political agendas. What is clear to me is that you are perpetuating
the corrosive partisan politics that is destroying our country and killing
our service members who are at war.
My assessment is that your profession, to some extent, has strayed
from these ethical standards and allowed external agendas to manipulate
what the American public sees on TV, what they read in our newspapers
and what they see on the web. For some of you, just like some of our
politicians, the truth is of little to no value if it does not fit your
own preconceived notions, biases and agendas.
It is astounding to me when I hear the vehement disagreement with the
military's forays into information operations that seek to disseminate
the truth and inform the Iraqi people in order to counter our enemy's
blatant propaganda. As I assess various media entities, some are unquestionably
engaged in political propaganda that is uncontrolled. There is no question
in my mind that the strength our democracy and our freedoms remain linked
to your ability to exercise freedom of the press - I adamantly support
this basic foundation of our democracy and completely supported the
embedding of media into our formations up until my last day in uniform.
The issue is one of maintaining professional ethics and standards from
within your institution. Military leaders must accept that these injustices
will happen and whether they like what you print or not they must deal
with you and enable you, if you are an ethical journalist.
Finally, I will leave this subject with a question that we must ask
ourselves--who is responsible for maintaining the ethical standards
of the profession in order to ensure that our democracy does not continue
to be threatened by this dangerous shift away from your sacred duty
of public enlightenment?
Let me now transition to our current national security condition.
As we all know war is an extension of politics and when a nation goes
to war it must bring to bear all elements of power in order to win.
Warfighting is not solely the responsibility of the military commander
unless he has been given the responsibility and resources to synchronize
the political, economic and informational power of the nation. So who
is responsible for developing the grand strategy that will allow America
to emerge victorious from this generational struggle against extremism?
After more than four years of fighting, America continues its desperate
struggle in Iraq without any concerted effort to devise a strategy that
will achieve "victory" in that war torn country or in the
greater conflict against extremism. From a catastrophically flawed,
unrealistically optimistic war plan to the administration's latest "surge"
strategy, this administration has failed to employ and synchronize its
political, economic and military power. The latest "revised strategy"
is a desperate attempt by an administration that has not accepted the
political and economic realities of this war and they have definitely
not communicated that reality to the American people. An even worse
and more disturbing assessment is that America cannot achieve the political
consensus necessary to devise a grand strategy that will synchronize
and commit our national power to achieve victory in Iraq. Some of you
have heard me talk about our nations crisis in leadership. Let me elaborate.
While the politicians espouse their rhetoric designed to preserve their
reputations and their political power -our soldiers die! Our national
leadership ignored the lessons of WWII as we entered into this war and
to this day continue to believe that victory can be achieved through
the application of military power alone. Our forefathers understood
that tremendous economic and political capacity had to be mobilized,
synchronized and applied if we were to achieve victory in a global war.
That has been and continues to be the key to victory in Iraq. Continued
manipulations and adjustments to our military strategy will not achieve
victory. The best we can do with this flawed approach is stave off defeat.
The administration, Congress and the entire interagency, especially
the department of state, must shoulder the responsibility for this catastrophic
failure and the American people must hold them accountable.
There has been a glaring, unfortunate, display of incompetent strategic
leadership within our national leaders. As a Japanese proverb says,
"action without vision is a nightmare." There is no question
that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight.
Since 2003, the politics of war have been characterized by partisanship
as the Republican and Democratic Parties struggled for power in Washington.
National efforts to date have been corrupted by partisan politics that
have prevented us from devising effective, executable, supportable solutions.
At times, these partisan struggles have led to political decisions that
endangered the lives of our sons and daughters on the battlefield. The
unmistakable message was that political power had greater priority than
our national security objectives. Overcoming this strategic failure
is the first step toward achieving victory in Iraq - without bipartisan
cooperation we are doomed to fail. There is nothing going on today in
Washington that would give us hope.
If we succeed in crafting a bipartisan strategy for victory, then America
must hold all national agencies accountable for developing and executing
the political and economic initiatives that will bring about stability,
security, political and economic hope for all Iraqis. That has not been
successful to date.
Congress must shoulder a significant responsibility for this failure
since there has been no focused oversight of the nations political and
economic initiatives in this war. Exhortations, encouragements, investigations,
studies and discussions will not produce success -this appears to be
the nation's only alternative since the transfer of sovereignty. Our
continued neglect will only extend the conflict. America’s dilemma
is that we no longer control the ability to directly influence the Iraqi
institutions. The sovereign Iraqi government must be cooperative in
these long term efforts. That is not likely at the levels necessary
in the near term.
Our commanders on the ground will continue to make progress and provide
time for the development of a grand strategy. That will be wasted effort
as we have seen repeatedly since 2003. In the mean time our soldiers,
sailors, airmen and marines will continue to die.
Since the start of this war, America’s leadership has known that
our military alone could not achieve victory in Iraq. Starting in July
2003, the message repeatedly communicated to Washington by military
commanders on the ground was that the military alone could never achieve
"victory" in Iraq. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines
were destined to endure decades of fighting and killing people without
the focused, synchronized application of all elements of national power.
This was a necessary condition to stabilize Iraq. Any sequential solutions
would lead to a prolonged conflict and increased resistance.
By neglect and incompetence at the National Security Council level,
that is the path our political leaders chose and now America, more precisely
the American military, finds itself in an intractable situation. Clearly,
mistakes have been made by the American military in its application
of power but even its greatest failures in this war can be linked to
America’s lack of commitment, priority and moral courage in this
war effort. Without the sacrifices of our magnificent young men and
women in uniform, Iraq would be chaotic well beyond anything experienced
What America must accept as a reality at this point in the war is that
our army and marine corps are struggling with the deployment schedules.
What is clear is that the deployment cycles of our formations has been
totally disrupted, the resourcing and training challenges are significant
and America’s ability to sustain a force level of 150,000(+) is
nonexistent without drastic measures that have been politically unacceptable
to date. The drawdown of the surge to pre-surge levels was never a question.
America must understand that it will take the army at least a decade
to fix the damage that has been done to its full spectrum readiness.
The President's recent statement to America that he will listen to military
commanders is a matter of political expediency.
Our army and marine corps will execute as directed, perform magnificently
and never complain-that is the ethic of our warriors and that is what
America expects of them. They will not disappoint us. But America must
know the pressures that are being placed on our military institutions
as we fight this war. All Americans must demand that these deploying
formations are properly resourced, properly trained and we must never
allow America’s support for the soldier to falter. A critical,
objective assessment of our nation's ability to execute our national
security strategy must be conducted. If we are objective and honest,
the results will be surprising to all Americans. There is unacceptable
America has no choice but to continue our efforts in Iraq. A precipitous
withdrawal will unquestionably lead to chaos that would endanger the
stability of the greater Middle East. If this occurs it would have significant
adverse effects on the international community. Coalition and American
Force presence will be required at some level for the foreseeable future.
Given the lack of a grand strategy we must move rapidly to minimize
that force presence and allow the Iraqis maximum ability to exercise
their sovereignty in achieving a solution.
At no time in America’s history has there been a greater need
for bipartisan cooperation. The threat of extremism is real and demands
unified action at the same levels demonstrated by our forefathers during
World War I and World War II. America has failed to date.
This endeavor has further been hampered by a coalition effort that
can be characterized as hasty, un-resourced and often uncoordinated
and unmanaged. Desperately needed, but essentially ignored, were the
political and economic coalitions that were the key to victory and stability
in the immediate aftermath of the conventional war. The military coalition
which was hastily put together in the summer of 2003 was problematic
given the multitude of national caveats, inadequate rules of engagement
and other restrictions on the forces deployed. Even so, the military
coalition was the most extensive, productive and effective deployment
of forces in decades. Today, we continue our inept coalition management
efforts and, in fact, we are facing ever decreasing troop commitments
by our military coalition partners. America’s "revised"
strategy does not address coalition initiatives and challenges. We cannot
afford to continue this struggle without the support of our coalition
partners across all elements of national power. Without the political
and economic elements of power complementing the tremendous efforts
of our military, America is assured of failure. we continue on that
path. America’s political leadership must come together and develop
a bipartisan grand strategy to achieve victory in this conflict. The
simultaneous application of our political, economic, information and
military elements of power is the only course of action that will provide
a chance of success.
Achieving unity of effort in Iraq has been elusive to date primarily
because there is no entity that has the authority to direct action by
our interagency. Our national security council has been a catastrophic
failure. Furthermore, America’s ability to hold the interagency
accountable for their failures in this war is non-existent. This must
change. As a nation we must recognize that the enemy we face is committed
to destroying our way of life. This enemy is arguably more dangerous
than any threat we faced in the twentieth century. Our political leaders
must place national security objectives above partisan politics, demand
interagency unity of effort, and never again commit America to war without
a grand strategy that embraces the basic tenets of the Powell doctrine.
It seems that Congress recognizes that the military cannot achieve
victory alone in this war. Yet they continue to demand victory from
our military. Who will demand accountability for the failure of our
national political leaders involved in the management this war? They
have unquestionably been derelict in the performance of their duty.
In my profession, these type of leaders would immediately be relieved
America has sent our soldiers off to war and they must be supported
at all costs until we achieve victory or until our political leaders
decide to bring them home. Our political and military leaders owe the
soldier on the battlefield the strategy, the policies and the resources
to win once committed to war. America has not been fully committed to
win this war. as the military commanders on the ground have stated since
the summer of 2003, the U.S. military alone cannot win this war. America
must mobilize the interagency and the political and economic elements
of power, which have been abject failures to date, in order to achieve
victory. Our nation has not focused on the greatest challenge of our
lifetime. The political and economic elements of power must get beyond
the politics to ensure the survival of America. Partisan politics have
hindered this war effort and America should not accept this. America
must demand a unified national strategy that goes well beyond partisan
politics and places the common good above all else. Too often our politicians
have chosen loyalty to their political party above loyalty to the constitution
because of their lust for power. Our politicians must remember their
oath of office and recommit themselves to serving our nation and not
their own self-interests or political party. The security of America
is at stake and we can accept nothing less. Anything short of this is
unquestionably dereliction of duty.
These are fairly harsh assessments of the military and press relationship
and the status of our war effort. I remain optimistic and committed
to the enabling of media operations under the toughest of conditions
in order to keep the world and the American people informed. Our military
must embrace you for the sake our democracy but you owe them ethical
Thank you for this opportunity
May God bless you and may god bless America.
Praise be to the Lord my rock who trains my fingers for battle and my hands for war. [See Psalm 144]