Guests: Anthony Zinni, Tom Clancy
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: Military conflict. He was one of the Pentagon‘s top guns, a four-star general whose jurisdiction covered the Middle East. And he was trusted by high-ranking officials in the White House, until General Anthony Zinni‘s outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq made him an outcast.
He was denounced as a turncoat and a traitor, but General Zinni isn‘t done.
GEN. ANTHONY ZINNI, U.S. ARMY (RET.): It was a blunder at the Pentagon and the president was not well served.
NORVILLE: Now the general has teamed up with best-selling author Tom Clancy to detail his scathing critique of U.S. military policies in an explosive tell-all book.
What were the Bush administration‘s true motives for bringing down Saddam? Why is General Zinni accusing his former comrades of lying, incompetence and corruption? And why does he feel duty bound to buck the system?
ZINNI: Our country wasn‘t served well, and our troops weren‘t served well.
NORVILLE: Tonight, the so-called warrior diplomat speaks his mind again, and when you hear what he has to say, you‘ll understand why General Anthony Zinni has the Defense Department up in arms.
ANNOUNCER: From Washington, D.C., Deborah Norville.
NORVILLE: And good evening.
When it comes to knowing about the U.S. military, not many people know more than retired General Anthony Zinni.
He was in charge of all American troops in the Middle East from 1997 until the year 2000, and after he retired from the Marine Corps, the Bush administration made him special envoy to the Middle East.
Now General Zinni is the latest of former members of the Bush team to speak out against the president‘s foreign policy. The general is with me for the hour here in Washington, D.C., tonight to talk about his new book called “Battle Ready,” a book he co-authored with Tom Clancy. He‘ll join us in just a moment.
It‘s good to see you. Welcome.
ZINNI: Good evening, Deborah.
NORVILLE: Congratulations on the book.
ZINNI: Thank you.
NORVILLE: You have built a bomb during this presidential campaign with some of the pronouncements that you make in here. Did you mean to have so much impact with this book?
ZINNI: No. Obviously, there‘s no political motivation for this. The book, as you pointed out, is just the story of my career teaming with Tom Clancy.
It does mention my concerns about our intervention in Iraq and some of the things I saw that I didn‘t think were appropriate. The timing, unfortunately, in this political year, has made it so that it‘s become a point.
NORVILLE: And it‘s made you a point person in the political campaign. The papers again today are talking about Zinni for vice president. Any possibility that this could happen?
ZINNI: No. I have no political ambitions, no desire for any political position. And I will not accept any. That‘s not what I‘m about. And I didn‘t do this motivated by any politics.
NORVILLE: Has John Kerry talked to you, though?
ZINNI: No. There are people from—that support John Kerry that have talked to me, just as there are people in the Bush campaign that asked me to rejoin the veterans for Bush. I mean, from both sides. I will do neither.
NORVILLE: You—you said about six months ago, right around Christmas time, to the “Washington Post,” that looking back, having endorsed the Bush-Cheney ticket in 2000, that you would never do another political thing again. Why do you feel so strongly?
ZINNI: Well, I did it because I really liked what I was hearing in terms of transformation of the military in the 2000 campaign. Actually, both campaigns were talking about it.
I have the greatest respect for Colin Powell, Rich Armitage, and I—it looked like they would be part of this administration.
So it wasn‘t so much politics as it was what I saw as a change for the military that I thought was needed for this post-Cold War environment. And that motivated me to do it.
Unfortunately, I got caught up in the politics of it. People thought that retired general officers shouldn‘t take political positions, and looking back on it, they probably were right. I shouldn‘t have done it. It wasn‘t motivated by politics; it was motivated by what I thought the military might get out of this. And I wouldn‘t do it again.
NORVILLE: And you honestly thought good things were going to happen for the American military if this team went into the White House.
ZINNI: I did. I believed that we would get the likes of Rich Armitage and possibly others in the Pentagon that were talked about as potential secretaries, deputy secretaries, the kind of people I thought could really transform the military into what‘s needed now in the world.
NORVILLE: And yet in your book, it‘s clear the level of disappointment that you felt. I want to read an excerpt from it. You said, “I saw at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence, and irresponsibility. At worst, lying, incompetence and corruption. False rationales presented as justification; a flawed strategy, lack of planning, unnecessary alienation of our allies; the underestimation of the task, the unnecessary distraction from real threats; and the unbearable strain dumped on our overstretched military. All of these caused me to speak out.”
That‘s a fairly all-encompassing condemnation.
ZINNI: Right. I believe the strategy was flawed. The basis by which we went into Iraq. Certainly the threat or the rationale wasn‘t there: weapons of mass destruction, association with terrorism.
I didn‘t see the quality of planning from the civilian leadership of the Pentagon that our troops deserve.
Our troops‘ performance was magnificent. I was proud of Tommy Franks, my successor, and the way they performed, but the reconstruction part, economically, politically, has been a mess.
They made bad decisions on the ground. They didn‘t understand the culture. The team put together for the Coalition Provisional Authority was a pick up team. It was done on the move. Our association with the exiles.
And we can see the problems just looking at the news now.
ZINNI: And back to 1998, I warned and cautioned the Congress that we should not get ourselves connected to these exiles. And I was raked over the coals because of that.
NORVILLE: I want to back up to what you said in the very beginning, the justification, the rationale for the military action.
You were the head of the Middle East command from ‘97 to 2000. You were the point person who knew what the intelligence was with respect to weapons of mass destruction, which was still being looked for after the first Gulf War.
What evidence did you see? What intelligence was presented to you that it existed?
ZINNI: At that time, there was no clear evidence that it existed. We had to assume that all the weapons of mass destruction not accounted for still existed: the artillery rounds, rocket rounds and based on what the inspectors, the U.N. inspectors knew.
We looked lard to see if there was a weaponization program, if there was some sort of program out there that we could see. We could not. And the inspectors could not.
When in 1998 Desert Fox, President Clinton directed us to attack the weapons of mass destruction program, we ended up having to attack the missile program that he was allowed to have, the al-Samoud system, the Special Republican Guard who had traditionally been sort of the keepers of the documents.
NORVILLE: And you had the element of surprise on that one. There weren‘t a lot of people in the loop. There wasn‘t a huge amount of time ramping up to that operation, and you say it was a huge success.
ZINNI: It was, in what we targeted. I think in terms of machinery, and high-tolerance machinery in their missile program, we set it back probably about two years.
But we had no hard evidence, no hard targets of weapons of mass destruction, of sites, storage areas, missile systems, planes. This was all speculation, much of which, even at that time, was coming from exiles that didn‘t prove out to be credible.
NORVILE: But there were some reactions to the bombing that would certainly give the Bush administration later reason to believe that as they supposed when they went into Iraq with the current conflict that the Iraqi people would warmly welcome and embrace.
Because you say that had the bombing of Desert Fox gone on a couple of days longer, it was quite likely that the system itself was going to implode, that the Iraqi people would, indeed, have risen up against Saddam Hussein.
ZINNI: That wasn‘t our assessment. That‘s what we were hearing. We were hearing it from diplomats from other countries that had missions in Baghdad. We were hearing it from friends in the region that had connections in there.
NORVILLE: Who were credible sources?
ZINNI: Who were credible sources. We‘re actually hearing it communicated by Special Republican Guard generals and others.
And so my concern became, if this is true—I had no way of validating that—we could have an Iraq that collapses or implodes. And my God, we‘re going to have to pick up the pieces. I didn‘t believe there‘d be this cheering in the streets. Even in an implosion, we would have chaos factions fighting each other, lawlessness, and that‘s what concerned me.
NORVILLE: And one of the critical points you make in your book is that at that time you did the what-if scenario.
NORVILLE: If that happens, someone needs to prepare for it. And you took it upon yourselves.
ZINNI: I did. And what bothered me is I understood the military piece or the security piece in reconstruction, but who was working political, economic, social reform, reconstruction, construction in a country that‘s never known some of the things we were trying to impose or implant.
And I tried to get the other agencies of government involved and interested in the planning, post-Saddam reconstruction. They were willing to sit through the scenarios, the potential what-ifs, which were very good. We conducted war games here in Washington at Booz Allen. But they wouldn‘t take the next step and actually develop the plans.
NORVILLE: And this was during the Clinton administration?
ZINNI: Yes, it was. This was ‘99, 2000.
NORVILLE: So the plan, such as it was, that was developed you called Desert Crossing?
NORVILLE: Fast forward, you‘re now a special envoy during the Bush administration, working under the auspices of Colin Powell. As the war starts ramping up, you ask the question, “Whatever happened to Desert Crossing?”
ZINNI: I did, as it looked like we were committed to war. I called down to U.S. Central Command, my old command, and spoke to the deputy there, and said, “You know, just a piece of advice. You ought to dust off Desert Crossing.”
Of course, I left command just as that plan was being worked on. I never saw the completed product. I wouldn‘t, because obviously it was classified. And the comment I got was, “What‘s Desert Crossing?”
I mean, the corporate memory or whatever happened, it disappeared.
I‘m not sure whatever happened to the work we did on that down there.
NORVILLE: And for this reason and others, you think heads should roll.
ZINNI: Yes. My concern was, this was the wrong war at the wrong time. I thought the war on terrorism, dealing with al Qaeda, we could be distracted from that. Our troops could be tied down and bogged down in this.
I really had a sense we were underestimating the depth and the complexity of problems we were going to run into. I didn‘t see the quality planning.
NORVILLE: And who do you fault for this? Donald Rumsfeld?
ZINNI: I fault the civilian leadership in the Pentagon, yes. And from the secretary and civilian leaders who are responsible.
They took on this mission, the CPA, the Coalition Provisional Authority, Ambassador Bremer answered to them. It was their responsibility to make sure that the military was supported in the counterpart plans, the political reconstruction, economic reconstruction.
The troops were great. Nineteen days they took out organized resistance. And then what?
NORVILLE: Was this arrogance, you believe, on the part of Donald Rumsfeld: “Don‘t tell me how to run the war. I‘m the secretary of defense?”
Or was this ignorance?
ZINNI: I don‘t know. And the point of me speaking out is we need to know.
It‘s not a matter of just accountability, although I certainly think that‘s important. We don‘t want to repeat these mistakes in history. Look, we just went—we went through Vietnam. We came out of that, and you can read the books by McNamara and others, we went through a whole series of mistakes where the joint chiefs of staff didn‘t speak out.
We had books called “Dereliction of Duty,” where McNamara has this great apologetic book out and what they didn‘t understand. We made strategic mistakes, planning mistakes, intelligence mistakes.
We‘re going through it again. And what I don‘t want to see is our young men and women in uniform not being well served, without getting the kind of quality planning and analysis and strategic direction.
NORVILLE: And you make a very specific analogy. You say look at the Gulf of Tonkin during Vietnam, which was the justification for the escalation of the war, and look at the weapons of mass destruction and the linkage to terrorism. You say they don‘t match in the exact same way.
ZINNI: If you‘re going to convince the American people to go to war, the most difficult decision a president can make, the most difficult decision for the American people to back up, unless they‘re directly attacked by 9/11 or Pearl Harbor, there‘s a strategic rationale. There‘s a political rationale. We should be straight up and honest. I think the American people are smart enough to get it and understand it.
To create a rationale, to stretch the intelligence, to exaggerate the imminence of the threat is a big mistake. We did it in Vietnam. It was a mistake with the Gulf of Tonkin. And we‘ve done it again.
NORVILLE: Do you believe that this was well intentioned, or do you believe that this was a deliberate attempt to fool the American people? For reasons that had to do with launching a war that had nothing to do with the state of...?
ZINNI: I certainly believe that the president and the White House believed it. They received...
NORVILLE: You tell yourself something often enough you‘ll believe it.
ZINNI: Well, I don‘t—The president is presented not only with the intelligence but the analysis of the intelligence. The president has to accept the information he‘s given.
Those that do the analysis, those that interpret the intelligence—the intelligence is facts or possible facts, and they‘re put together in some sort of story line. Those that do that are responsible for either a gross negligence in the way they gathered, handled the intelligence and translated it, their job. Or they‘re guilty of deliberately misleading the president. Now, what...
NORVILLE: Which do you think it is?
ZINNI: I don‘t know. I think we ought to know, the American people.
ZINNI: We went to war over this. More importantly, you know, Saddam is a bad guy. I said right from the beginning, I certainly don‘t opt to military action against Saddam. I did it myself.
But we needed to go at him with a U.N. resolution and with a coalition. President Bush 41 magnificently developed a coalition and a U.N. resolution that made the Gulf War work with an unbelievable collection of countries.
We did a rush to war here. And if the threat wasn‘t imminent, it means we broke a model we had set up for the post-Cold War environment to work under...
NORVILLE: And in the book, you also make the point that Saddam was in a box anyway. He had a no-fly zone, a no-drive zone. He wasn‘t going anywhere.
ZINNI: We bombed him at will every other day.
NORVILLE: We‘re going to take a short break. Back with more with General Tony Zinni.
Also we‘ll be joined by the co-author of their new book. General—with the general, Tom Clancy is joining us right after this break.
NORVILLE: We‘re back now with retired General Anthony Zinni. Also joining us is best-selling author Tom Clancy, who has written such books as “The Hunt for Red October” and “Patriot Games.”
The two of them, together with Tony Koltz, wrote the new book on General Zinni‘s distinguished military career. It is called “Battle Ready,” and it is—it is a real spellbinding read. And he‘s had an amazing career.
And Tom Clancy, how did you decide to team up with General Zinni to add this to your collection of commanders series?
TOM CLANCY, AUTHOR, “BATTLE READY”: It was pretty smart.
NORVILLE: You approached him?
CLANCY: Through intermediaries, yes. It was—I‘ve been lucky enough to run into four interesting guys at a four-star level, and generals are all pretty smart.
NORVILLE: When did you realize, in collaborating with General Zinni, that not only had he had a incredible military career but that he had some points of view that were going to be explosive, as many of them in this book have turned out to be?
CLANCY: I wouldn‘t say explosive. It‘s just illuminating.
He—This guy knows his business. He‘s been in the—he‘s served our country for 40 years. And he‘s made his professional way down the road. He‘s seen a lot of things. He‘s learned from every one of them.
And these guys, these four-stars are actually smart guys.
NORVILLE: And you spent your literary career working with people like General Zinni, with people in the CIA. I mean, you have impeccable resources and sources within the intelligence community and the military community.
CLANCY: I‘ve been lucky to make a lot of good friends.
NORVILLE: Well, you have a lot of good friends. They give you a lot of good information.
As you were talking with General Zinni, what struck you as the most illuminating information that he had to share in this collaboration?
CLANCY: His overall view of the Middle East and how it works and the cultures and the societies and how they‘re different from us and how we can learn from them and they can learn from us.
It‘s a core American belief that people are the same all over the world. Well, that‘s both true and false. Individually, we‘re all the same. You wake up in the morning, we all do the same thing when we wake up.
In the Middle East, the culture is, however, different, partially because of the environment and the religious background. And the society, societal evolution.
I mean, over there it starts a collection of tribal societies. Whereas in America we have a fairly firm national identity with only minor regional differences.
So that‘s something we have to understand about that part of the world. It‘s not quite the same. We‘re still finding out who they are.
NORVILLE: General Zinni, you talked in the last segment about America made friends with the wrong friends and one of them has certainly been in the news lately, Ahmed Chalabi.
You say in your book that you knew from the get-go that this guy was not somebody we needed to be playing ball with.
ZINNI: No. When this first came up, when the Congress was, in 1998, about to pass the Iraqi Liberation Act, I suddenly discovered these exiles, and my intelligence officers said they were not credible. Much of the intelligence they gave us was misleading, either possibly deliberately or not based on fact.
I saw too much reliance on them, too much trust. I talked to people and friends in the region. They had no credibility on the ground out there. I was told not with Iraqi people, certainly not with our friends and allies in the region.
I cautioned the Senate. I was called to testify in 1998 for the Senate Armed Services Committee. I really took a lot of heat because...
NORVILLE: And you said to them what?
ZINNI: I said to them that we—at the time they were actually trying to sell a plan that was being constructed by two Senate staffers to arm them, put them into Iraq on the belief that suddenly all Iraq and Saddam would be overthrown with just 1,000 fighters.
And they were requiring me in this plan to provide the air support, Special Forces because these are troops under my command. I—Since I was the commander I thought maybe I ought to be involved in the plan and Senate staffers should not be doing military plans. And so I let that be known.
NORVILLE: And they completely discounted your testimony?
ZINNI: Yes. Yes, they did. I saw this—this connection our government was having with these exiles that I thought that if it got overly close and we relied too much we were going to be deceived as to what we might face and what was possible.
NORVILLE: True. And again, this would have during the Clinton administration?
NORVILLE: Who was it that was so hell bent to get into bed with the Iraqi National Congress?
ZINNI: Well, you know, I‘m not exactly sure. There were certainly a lot of members of Congress. They voted in the ILA. They were charmed by Ahmed Chalabi. There were elements around Washington that seemed to transcend both political parties. I don‘t know specifically whether Democrat or Republican.
The alarm to us was that we just not—again, they were not credible. The intelligence they picked up was not credible. And we had certain questions about how they handled their finances and other things that went on that have come about.
I was really alarmed when I saw us beaming Mr. Chalabi and the INC in, putting them in a position of authority. It seemed to me from the Iraqis I talked to they were not well received on the ground.
And then to find we were paying $400,000 a month to him...
NORVILLE: And you say that came after a huge payment of almost $100 million at the beginning of the war?
ZINNI: The Iraqi Liberation Act authorized $97 million for support and directed, in that time, the Clinton administration to provide that support to the INC, the Iraqi National Congress, Mr. Chalabi‘s organization.
NORVILLE: Tom Clancy, you‘re sitting here sort of chuckling and shaking your head as the general tells this story.
CLANCY: One of the differences you see between people like Tony here and politicians is politicians spend their lives studying, essentially acting lessons and selling snake oil, whereas professional soldiers, they have to do the real thing.
You know, Tony has studied his profession the same way a professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins Medical School studies his. And so he knows his business. Politicians are people who deal in images and perception rather than reality and perceptions are important but reality is important, too.
NORVILLE: If you had written the reality of some of the stories that General Zinni shares in the book you all wrote together, and wrote it as one of your fiction novels, it would have been a great movie. But people would have sat there and gone, “That‘s not possible,” just as in your earlier book, “It‘s not possible to fly a plane that the capitol.”
CLANCY: There‘s an old saying, the difference between fiction and reality is fiction has to make sense. Reality often does not make any sense. And there‘s no law that says the world has to make sense. I said that in one of my books, almost 20 years ago. Sadly, true.
NORVILLE: Sadly, true.
General, as I was reading the book, I had this impression of in many cases I felt like you were intimating that too often the military is like the guy with the brush after the elephant in the circle. The politicians create the situations a and you‘re the cleanup team.
ZINNI: That—unfortunately, that‘s true. And since the end of the Cold War, it‘s become more and more true.
We‘re in a very—period of a very disordered, chaotic world. And look at the Haitis, the Bosnias, the Kosovos, the Somalias. We go in, there‘s a security or military element or dimension to the problem, but there are also dimensions to the problem.
We, the military, get stuck with these. We get stuck with these commitments. We get stuck with these quasi-military missions. We are not trained, organized and equipped for that.
We never really made the adjustment to the post-Cold War world and the other elements of government, the other instruments of government, that need to be working side by side haven‘t lived up to their end of the bargain. And so those poor troops on the ground get stuck with these missions.
NORVILLE: And yet, while the headlines portray this book as a condemnation of the Bush administration, the fact of the matter is, you spread the blame around. You say this—many of these inane decisions preceded the current administration and can be traced back to others.
ZINNI: Absolutely. Absolutely. Again, I guess because it‘s a political year.
I don‘t point this—I do blame this specific situation in Iraq with this leadership and the Pentagon, but we have not adjusted. We need major reform in the way we approach these crises since the end of the Cold War.
We need a Goldwater-Nichols Act, which reformed the military in 1983.
We need that level of legislation for the entire process.
If we learned anything out of seeing the 9/11 commission hearings, you saw a dysfunctional government. It wasn‘t the president‘s fault, either President Clinton or President Bush. You saw agencies of government that have not learned to work together.
NORVILLE: It makes you wonder if the biggest threat to America isn‘t al Qaeda, or some foreign nation that wishes us ill, but our own bureaucracy.
ZINNI: Our own bureaucracy is what stifles us. And we see it time and time again.
We also had a 50-year strategic position in fighting the Cold War that became obsolete in about 1989, 1990 when the wall came down. We have never adjusted to that. Not only in our strategic thinking but in our bureaucratic organization for handling these kinds of crisis.
NORVILLE: I want to take a short break and come back and talk exactly about that. The rules of the game changed when the wall came down, but did the way we play the game change?
We‘re going to take a short break. Back, more with Tom Clancy and General Zinni after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans, mayor combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
NORVILLE: That was President Bush declaring an end to mayor combat in Iraq 13 months ago.
I‘m back with retired General Anthony Zinni and author Tom Clancy. they co-wrote a new book on the general‘s military career called “Battle Ready.”
General, as you heard that statement on the aircraft, what went through your mind?
ZINNI: Well, I made a comment then that it‘s only the third inning and we‘re declaring a victory. And I also made a comment at the time, we don‘t understand how to define victory, because it‘s no longer sort of the traditional sense of defeating the military forces of an enemy state. That‘s just the beginning.
For our military, that‘s a easy part, given our dominance. We now have to reconstruct a state and a society and therein lies the most difficult task ahead. That‘s what struck me. We are declaring a mission accomplished or a victory before we even get into the most difficult part, which we‘ve seen in the last year has panned out that way.
NORVILLE: Tom Clancy, you all make the point in the book that you don‘t go into a room, into a situation unless you‘ve figured out how you‘re going to get out of it.
CLANCY: That‘s always a good procedure to follow, yes.
NORVILLE: But it wasn‘t done here, in your opinion?
CLANCY: America has a long tradition of not thinking wars all the way through. And we‘re carrying on that traditional today, unfortunately.
Will Rogers said back in the ‘20s, America has got a perfect record. We‘ve won every war and lost every peace. That‘s a tradition we ought to break and something we better break in a big damn hurry, because this terrorism stuff is a global problem. And we have to learn how to deal with it. And I was saying off camera, what we have to do is build up our intelligence community.
If you don‘t have good intelligence, you‘re always going to get surprised. If you‘re getting surprised, it‘s not good. Ask the poor slobs who lived or who worked in the twin towers. September 11 was a bad day for them. But we didn‘t know it was coming.
CLANCY: And we didn‘t know it was coming because we didn‘t have the intelligence community to do the job. The intelligence community didn‘t do the job because the intelligence community was largely destroyed in the 1970s. And we have to build it back.
NORVILLE: Do you think there‘s going to be a consensus to do that in the light of the 9/11 hearings?
CLANCY: Ask Congress.
There was a—the congressional hearings—or I think they were congressional hearing not too long ago where the DCI, director of central intelligence, Mr. Tenet, was saying it‘s going to take at least five years to rebuild this capability. And some senators said, well, what if we don‘t have five years? Well, I‘m sorry, Senator, my wife just had a baby and it took her nine months. Three women can‘t do it in three months. Some things take as long as they take because it‘s just the nature of the beast.
To build back our intelligence community will take five to 10 years.
But we have got to start doing it now.
NORVILLE: Well, what is it they say? The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is to do it now.
CLANCY: Yes. Exactly.
We‘re going to live in the future, whether we like it or not. And we better start planning for it now.
NORVILLE: And, General, you say we‘ve completely missed the boat in terms of planning for the military demands that this nation will be expected to meet, that the rules of the game changed after the Cold War ended and that—and our military changes didn‘t keep up.
What we did is, we talked about a peace dividend. We immediately began reducing the size of the military. Certainly, the Cold War structure of the military was obsolete and we needed to downsize.
NORVILLE: How many troops did we have back then? You‘ve been through so many phases in the military. How many troops did we have at the max?
ZINNI: See, I was in Europe at the time. We had 350,000 troops just in Europe.
NORVILLE: And how many were needed to do the job, in your opinion, in Iraq?
ZINNI: I bought into—and my plan for the taking down Saddam Hussein was in line with General Shinseki‘s. We talked in terms of 300,000 troops, not to defeat the Republican Guard.
Where we saw the need for those additional troops was to freeze the immediately security situation, because we realized, once you go into a place like Iraq and you tear out this authoritarian government, the Mukhabarat, the secret police, the Republican Guard, the Special Republican Guard, you have a security vacuum. You need to protect the infrastructure, the people, prevent revenge kills.
Don‘t allow people from the outside to got in, the so-called jihadis and others. Border security, route security, infrastructure security, that‘s what was going to be needed. And you needed to do that right way as you uncovered and rolled through these towns.
NORVILLE: And yet this is what Donald Rumsfeld said a few weeks ago, when he was testifying in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The commanders on the ground from the beginning asked for and received all the troops they needed, all the troops they wanted, all the troops they asked for. They got them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Tom Clancy?
CLANCY: I think maybe the secretary just misspoke himself there.
The United States Army is not as big as it needs to be. During the Clinton administration, Clinton pretty much raped and pillaged the Department of Defense. He took, what, two or three divisions out of the Army. And two of those light infantry divisions we need back, because the future, the future strategic picture tells me that we‘re going to have a light of work for light infantry out there, guys who, especially—in Iraq, they‘d almost be beat cops, walking the street, making sure things are quiet.
And we didn‘t have enough troops to do that, the way the war was fought, and we‘re paying for that. We‘re paying the price for that now.
NORVILLE: Didn‘t have enough troops. But the secretary says, if you asked for them, you got them. Was the request not made? Is he technically correct or...
ZINNI: Well, that‘s an interesting question that will be answered in history when memoirs are written. We‘ll find out the truth.
I know the plan I left at CENTCOM—actually, General Franks was my ground component commander. He commanded the Army and Marine forces on the ground. So there was a change in numbers, in the approach. The inner workings of that change will probably be another Bob Woodward book. Maybe. I don‘t know.
Let me say something about transformation of the military. It‘s not just a question of numbers and size units. It‘s what kind of military. We need to reform our manpower system, our acquisition system. We need to change the structure. We have big demands on our intelligence capabilities and our civil affairs, our psychological operations. We believed that we could handle everything through high technology and we didn‘t need traditional ground forces.
We‘re paying a price for that. The Army today has just extended troops beyond their enlistment.
NORVILLE: And this new stop-loss policy means that a guy who is in
uniform or gal in uniform could see their tour of duty extended conceivably
by as much as a year and a half.
NORVILLE: That sounds like a draft, except you‘re not taking private citizens.
ZINNI: Yes, I mean, it‘s not really a draft in that you‘re extending people that came in to the all-volunteer.
NORVILLE: They‘re not volunteering for this extension.
ZINNI: They‘re not volunteering for the extension. And so this creates a morale problem. It could send the wrong signals back to those that are trying to recruit and retain quality people.
I don‘t believe the draft is necessary. I think we can do it with an all-volunteer force. I would prefer it that way. But benefits, quality of life, predictability, as much as we can get it, common sense being made out of our deployments around the world, using the military in ways—look, our troops on the ground out there understand what‘s going on.
NORVILLE: I want to follow up on all of this. We‘ve got to take a short break.
NORVILLE: When we come back, more about the structure of Army and Navy and military as General Zinni believes it should be.
Back in moment.
NORVILLE: You‘ve heard retired General Anthony Zinni and author Tom Clancy criticize President Bush‘s foreign policy. Will they vote for him?
NORVILLE: Back now with retired General Anthony Zinni and Tom Clancy.
As you know, earlier today, President Bush announced that CIA Director George Tenet was resigning for personal reasons.
Tom Clancy, you were talking about the need to rebuild the intelligence system in this country.
CLANCY: Well, we have to rebuild the clandestine services, the CIA, the guy who use human intelligence, the spies, the guys who go out there and talk to real people and find out what they‘re thinking and report back to the home office.
That was essentially destroyed in the 1970s. And it must be rebuilt, because aerial photographs are great, but they don‘t tell you what people are thinking.
NORVILLE: Do you think that the public sentiment is such now, post-9/11, post-Iraq war, that the American population gets the need for that kind of intelligence, for the guy who‘s blending into the background?
CLANCY: If they don‘t, just show videotapes of 9/11.
And the reason we didn‘t have any warning for that was, we didn‘t have spooks in the field to tell us they‘re bad guys that are planning some bad things. And the only way you find that out is with human intelligence. The Russians always knew that. The KGB was supremely good at that. And so was the East German Stasi—well, maybe the best spook of our time. But they worked for the other side.
NORVILLE: And General Zinni, talking about reformulating America‘s military, people will read your book, people see your interviews on TV, they‘ll care greatly about this disconnect that you‘re speaking about. But what can the average guy or gal out there do?
ZINNI: You know, I think we‘re much more conscious of the problem now. I think the 9/11 Commission and others have shown the flaws in our bureaucratic system. It‘s a bureaucracy that was designed for the Cold War.
Harry Truman at the end of the Second World War decided he needed to fix it. We had the 1947 National Security Act and we‘ve had amendments to that, as I mentioned before, Goldwater-Nichols. I think now the time is right. What I‘m hearing from some members of the commission is that we‘re going to propose sweeping, significant change, legislation.
We need to find a way to bring these different departments of government together. They need to integrate at a much lower level. They need to be up on the step and functioning and aware of potential brewing crises, not come together after the bomb has exploded and try to put it together.
NORVILLE: Do you think the system is capable of functioning like that?
ZINNI: It‘ll take major reform and change. And there will be bureaucrat resistance. There always is. We can see what‘s happening with Homeland Security Department. They‘re still trying to sort out their roles vis-a-vis and other things. And that‘s natural. But you need to force it. You need to make it happen.
NORVILLE: But shouldn‘t that be coming from the top? Shouldn‘t that be coming from the administration? A good leader leads and directs.
ZINNI: It needs to come from the administration and the Congress. It takes a combination of both, because it will take legislation to change the structure. But we need it.
We have a system that no longer is viable in this environment now and we‘ll have to change it. I would say one thing about the intelligence. Gathering the pieces of the puzzle is important. But we‘re probably going to find the pieces were gathered out there. They were never put together. You don‘t only need the ability to collect.
And, certainly, Tom is right. We have dismantled our human intelligence and others. But we need brilliant analysts that understand the cultures, understand the situation, that can put it together and present it to the president, to the Congress, to the American people in a way that makes sense and is credible. That failed in this system somewhere along the line, either in the analysis or those that wanted to present the analysis.
NORVILLE: And the question is, where did the failure happen?
NORVILLE: Four years ago, you came out in support of the Republican ticket for president. You‘ve already said you won‘t make an endorsement this time around. Will you vote for President Bush?
ZINNI: I will have difficulty with this administration if the current leadership in the Pentagon continues on for the second part of it.
NORVILLE: So if Donald Rumsfeld is going to be part of a second Bush administration, they won‘t get your vote?
NORVILLE: Tom Clancy?
CLANCY: Oh, voting for Senator Kerry would be a big—quite a stretch for me.
But we‘re a long way from November. And you‘re not supposed to make your decisions hard—on a voting booth, assuming they get voting machines that work, which is another national disgrace, when you think about it. I remember—in probably ‘52, I was five years old and my mom took me to vote and said, OK, flip that lever. And that‘s how I learned voting was important. I‘ve never missed an election since then because mom had me flip the levers in ‘52.
Now, those voting machines work. Why can‘t we replicate that 1952 technology today?
NORVILLE: Honey, make sure your chad is not dangling.
CLANCY: Oh, god.
NORVILLE: We‘ll take a short break. Back more with the general and Tom Clancy after this.
NORVILLE: Back now with retired General Anthony Zinni and author Tom Clancy.
General, as I was reading your book, I wondered if you were ever conflicted between the life you lived for nearly 40 years as a soldier in uniform and the period you spent as an envoy for the administration. Were you always a soldier first?
ZINNI: Oh, yes.
I think you don‘t do something for 39-plus years and it not become part of you. And I was always a soldier first. But in many years, there are a lot of things in common with that. It‘s a service to your country. Much towards the end of my military career, I found myself much more involved in diplomacy and political issues and dealing with people around the world, so it wasn‘t a hard stretch to move over.
NORVILLE: And, Tom, when you work on a series, and I know you say this is the final book that the commander series, is part of your objective to stir the pot enough that things will change?
CLANCY: Not sort of stirring the pot.
The objective for the whole series was to let the American know the quality of people we have in command. And these are good guys and they really do care and worry about the kids under their command. These guys get weepy about the corporals and the sergeants who work for them. And Hollywood tells you that generals are a bunch of drunken Nazis. Well, they‘re not like that at all. These are well-motivated, highly professional, thoughtful people.
NORVILLE: And General Zinni, you in your career came into contact with so many people at so many different levels. And I just want to throw some names out and get reaction from you on some of these folks.
ZINNI: A tough old soldier, I think very much has his mind made up as to how things will come out in the end. A tough negotiator.
NORVILLE: Yasser Arafat?
ZINNI: Very difficult to get the truth. You know, he‘ll tell you what you want to hear, but did not deliver when we presented him I thought a great opportunity to move forward.
NORVILLE: Tom Clancy, Osama bin Laden?
CLANCY: His head would look good on a pike.
NORVILLE: Do you think we‘ll ever see it there?
CLANCY: More likely he‘ll blow his own brains out. But some Green Beret is going to come close to bagging him. We had a bunch of those guys at Camden Yards for a ball game. I don‘t want them chasing my little white tushy around. These are good kids and they‘re tough kids and they‘re smart kids. And I don‘t want them chasing me.
NORVILLE: And do you think they‘ll find him?
CLANCY: Even money.
NORVILLE: Not a bad bet. Not a bad bet. Bill Clinton?
ZINNI: Very smart. Understood the military. I had personal problems, I think like many people, with the moral character side. I can‘t say that I was treated badly. Of course I was removed much.
I had plenty of issues with the Clinton administration and some of the policies out there, which are in the book clearly. But I found in the times I briefed him, he understood what we were doing and what were trying to do. As a matter of fact, he was a quick study.
NORVILLE: Tom Clancy, Donald Rumsfeld?
CLANCY: Never met the man, just shook hands with once.
NORVILLE: What do you think?
CLANCY: I think he should listen more.
When you‘ve got guys like this working understood under you and you ask their opinion, you‘re supposed to listen to the opinion. When you‘re on the operating table, you don‘t sit up and say, OK, don‘t use that instrument, use this one, because a doc knows his job. These guys know their job.
NORVILLE: And Paul Wolfowitz.
CLANCY: Is he really on our side?
NORVILLE: You genuinely ask that question? Is he on our side?
CLANCY: I sat in on—I was in the Pentagon in ‘01 for a red team operation and he came in and briefed us. And after the brief, I just thought, is he really on our side? Sorry.
NORVILLE: And finally, General Zinni, are there others in uniform who feel as you do, but have been constrained against speaking, briefly?
CLANCY: You know, I never speak for anybody else, whether it‘s in uniform or not. They have their opportunity. They‘ll make their judgments as to when. They may decide it‘s in a memoir. They may decide to take a stand now.
There are retired generals like me that have expressed the same views, many of them former commanders of CENTCOM, so they know what they‘re talking about. But I never go there. I don‘t solicit opinions and I don‘t speak for anybody else but me.
NORVILLE: Well, you speak loud and clear in the book called “Battle Ready.”
General Tony Zinni, Tom Clancy, it‘s a pleasure to have you on tonight. Thanks so much.
CLANCY: My pleasure. Thank you.
NORVILLE: We‘ll take a short break. We‘ve got some excerpts of “Battle Ready” on our Web site. Just go to NORVILLE.MSNBC.com to check it out.
NORVILLE: It‘s always fun to hear from you.
Rob C. from Tenafly, New Jersey, wrote in on our interview with Barry Manilow last night. He said: “After all the shows on Iraq, the Peterson trial, etcetera, what a nice change of pace it was to watch your show with Barry Manilow. It was great fun to listen to the interview with him and his music. I love watching your show.”
And Kait writes in. She said: “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. There‘s absolutely no one better than Barry Manilow, ever, period, end of discussion.”
You can send us your comments to us at NORVILLE.MSNBC.com, which is also the place to send any questions that you might have for Reba McEntire. She‘ll be on the program on Monday. And we‘ll be reading some of your questions to her. Also, you can send us your questions to our Web page at NORVILLE.MSNBC.com, which is also where you‘ll see some of your e-mails posted.
That‘s our program for tonight. Thanks so much for watching.
Tomorrow, we will kick off a full weekend of special programming here on MSNBC looking at the 60th anniversary of D-Day, the allied storming of the beaches of Normandy which changed history.
And tomorrow night, a very special D-Day connection with these guys. It‘s the Oak Ridge Boys. Joe Bonsall, one of the Oaks, will be here to tell us his stories of his father, a decorated D-Day war hero, and his mother, who was also in the Army, the story of how they met, fell in love and Joe‘s musical tribute.
That‘s our program for today. “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” is next.
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