Accuracy in Media

Searching for another Bush critic to put on national television, 60 Minutes on May 23 featured retired General Anthony Zinni, who has written a new book with the help of fiction writer Tom Clancy. Correspondent Steve Kroft, who interviewed Zinni, called him “one of the most respected” military leaders of the past two decades. In fact, Zinni allowed himself to be used by President Clinton in brazen “Wag the Dog” efforts to divert attention from Clinton’s sex scandal and alter the course of his impeachment. Despite his impressive military career, Zinni shall go down in history as the general who ran “The Monica Lewinsky War.”

On the night before President Bush’s speech to the nation on Iraq, Kroft featured Zinni’s sensational charge that the Pentagon officials who planned and executed the war in Iraq were guilty of dereliction of duty, incompetence, negligence, lying and corruption.

But Zinni’s record is notable for leaving both Saddam Hussein in power and Osama bin Laden alive.

He was the commanding general in “Operation Desert Fox,” a 1998 bombing campaign against Iraq that took place less than 24 hours before the scheduled start of House of Representatives impeachment proceedings of Clinton over his perjury and witness tampering related to the Lewinsky scandal. Zinni also defended Clinton’s ineffective 1998 attack on Osama bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan, widely seen as another attempt to deflect attention from the Lewinsky scandal. Zinni himself admitted the strikes didn’t cause any significant damage, and he was quoted as saying that getting bin Laden was never one of his objectives.

Zinni was appointed by Secretary of State Colin Powell as a special envoy to bring peace to the Middle East. His efforts produced no peace, and he left this post about one year later. He was apparently more successful in the private sector on the board of Raytheon. Now he wants to sell a book attacking U.S. officials while America is at war. 

Zinni is an advocate of the view that we only needed to “contain” Saddam.  But he certainly had strange ideas about doing that. Senator John McCain, who favored the liberation of Iraq, was not impressed with “Operation Desert Fox,” which Zinni planned and commanded,

“The 1998 Desert Fox air campaign against Iraq was limited to four days of bombing, and the force used was insufficient to destroy Saddam’s weapons program,” he said. “While it degraded a little of Saddam’s WMD capability, no follow-on military action was taken to prevent its restoration.”

In an August 23, 2002, speech to the Florida Economic Club, Zinni said the Iranian regime was more of a threat than Iraq. Referring to the problem of international terrorism, he said, “The country that started this, Iran, is about to turn around, 180 degrees. We ought to be focused on that. The father of extremism, the home of the ayatollah?the young people are ready to throw out the mullahs and turn around, become a secular society and throw off these ideas of extremism.”

The notion that young people in Iran are “ready to throw out the mullahs” is wishful thinking at best. So-called “experts” have been predicting major changes in Iran since Mohammed Khatami became the president in 1997. But no substantial reforms have taken place.

Nir Boms, a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and Erick Stakelbeck of the Investigative Project, recently noted that, “?the most likely place to find an Iranian reformer these days is in a Tehran prison.”

Rather than put faith in the unarmed students, it makes more sense to believe, as Bush does, that the success of democracy in Iraq could have an impact in neighboring Iran and other countries.

In a February 4 speech, Bush said, “America is pursuing a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. We’re challenging the enemies of reform, confronting the allies of terror, and expecting a higher standard from our friends. For too long, American policy looked away while men and women were oppressed, their rights ignored and their hopes stifled.”

By contrast, Zinni thought that the interests of the U.S. and the international community could best be served by leaving Saddam Hussein in power. Rather than going to war, he told 60 Minutes that the U.S. should have asked for more help from U.N. Security Council members who were on the payroll of Saddam under the scam known as the U.N. oil-for-food program. He’s got the gall to second-guess the Bush administration when his strategy for the Middle East gave failure a bad name. But the media love him because he feeds their anti-Bush agenda.

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