Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who served a tumultuous year as commander of all U.S. forces in Iraq, retired from the Army on Wednesday, calling his career a casualty of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
“That’s the key reason, the sole reason, that I was forced to retire,” Sanchez said for a story in Thursday’s editions of The (McAllen) Monitor. “I was essentially not offered another position in either a three-star or four-star command.”
Sanchez had been a candidate to become the next commander of U.S. Southern Command but was passed over after the prisoner abuse scandal exploded into an international controversy. He was criticized by some for not doing more to avoid mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners.
An Army spokeswoman declined comment early Thursday.
The Army’s inspector general, Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Green, concluded last year that allegations of criminal wrongdoing by Sanchez were unsubstantiated.
Sanchez, 55, served for 33 years. As commander of the Army’s 5th Corps in 2003, he issued three memos authorizing harsher interrogation techniques such as stress positions, sleep deprivation and dogs at Abu Ghraib — but only with written authorization.
'We were all confused'
The changing policies confounded Col. Thomas M. Pappas, an intelligence officer who assumed the prison’s management in late 2003. Pappas was reprimanded last year for approving a request to use dogs in an interrogation without Sanchez’ approval — something Pappas testified he believed at the time the policy allowed.
“We were all confused at one time or another,” Pappas testified in June at the court-martial of an Army dog handler.
Sanchez retired in a formal ceremony at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. He told the newspaper he expects to stay in the San Antonio area and will try “to contribute to the Hispanic community, developing young Hispanic leaders.”