Wednesday, May 11, 2011

General, harshest critic of GOP's war, in Senate bid

San Antonio – Anonymous sources won't be quoted for attribution, but retired Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez has thrown his hat in the ring for election to the Senate in 2012.

He was the commander of coalition forces in Iraq during the period 2003-2004.

Rumors have circulated since April that Democratic Party officials have tapped him as the sole candidate for the race. A crowded Republican primary field is expected to include Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz.

Democrats are obviously sending two messages.

First, the 2010 census showed a major surge in Texas' Hispanic population – enough to add 4 new seats in the House of Representatives. As a Hispanic candidate, he is electable.

Second, he is the harshest, most blunt critic of GOP political leadership in the Iraq war.

General Sanchez, 59, lost his job and couldn't get another one following revelations of the scandal at Abu Ghraib Prison in 2004.

He officially retired on Nov. 1, 2006, after 33 years of service.

“The Abu Ghraib prison scandal is the key reason, the sole reason, that I was forced to retire. I was essentially not offered another position in either a three-star or four-star command,” the general said following his ouster 7 years ago.

Only very low-ranking members of the Armed Forces have been in any way corrected, charged or convicted for criminal offenses committed under official sanction at the prison, including humiliation of naked prisoners in front of female guards, attacks by enraged guard dogs, forced simulations of homosexual acts, and torture through “stress positions,” waterboarding, and sleep deprivation.

Gen. Sanchez did not stop at his criticism of Republican policies on interrogation and imprisonment of war prisoners.

In a comment on the 2007 “surge” strategy in Iraq, he said, “The best we can do with this flawed approach is to stave off defeat.”

Gen. Sanchez told newsmen in his retirement home town of San Antonio that Democratic Party officials approached him to encourage his candidacy, but he has until now reserved comment about his ultimate decision.

In military matters he has been far from reticent.

“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,” Gen. Sanchez said on Oct. 12, 2007.

His remarks came in a statement that was highly critical of news reporters' tactics to pursue “sensationalist” coverage in order to get front page stories published.

Born into an economically disadvantaged Mexican-American family in Rio Grande City, Texas, Gen. Sanchez's first experience as a junior officer was in the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.

He commanded the 197th Infantry Brigade in Operation Desert Storm, taking the road to Basra with no casualties.

Regarding his most recent military experience, he summed up his impressions by saying, “The unmistakable message was that political power had a 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 in Washington that would give us hope.”

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