When General Anthony Zinni publicly criticized the Iraq War, he became a darling of the Left. Now that the Iraq War has all but ended in victory, he’s apparently dispensable. Zinni had been offered the position of Ambassador to Iraq, accepted it, and had even received a congratulatory phone call from Joe Biden. While he made arrangements to live in Iraq, though, Obama and Hillary Clinton changed their minds — and never bothered to tell him:
When retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni told the Washington Times that he was offered the job of U.S. ambassador to Iraq before being passed over in favor of diplomat Christopher Hill, he did not say that one of the outrages of the experience was that his friend of 30 years, fellow former Marine Corps commandant and now national security advisor James L. Jones, had offered him the job, and then failed to tell him when the decision was changed.
“Jones had called me before the inauguration and asked if I would be willing to serve as ambassador to Iraq or in one of the envoy jobs, on the Middle East peace process,” Zinni told Foreign Policy. “I said yes.”
“Then two weeks ago, Jones called,” Zinni continued, “and said, ‘We talked to the secretary of state, and everybody would like to offer you the Iraq job.’ I said yes.
“The president called and congratulated me,” Zinni said. [See Update II.]
Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked for a meeting last Monday night, Zinni said. He said he went to the meeting in her office at the State Department, where Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Williams Burns were also in attendance.
“She thanks me, asked me my views on Iraq,” Zinni recalled. “She said to Burns and Steinberg, ‘We’ve got to move quickly, Crocker is leaving, we’ve got to get someone in there and get the paperwork done and hearings… Lots to do to get ready to go.”
With that in mind, Zinni tried working quickly to get to Iraq, figuring that he would hear from Burns within hours about how to proceed. When Zinni heard nothing for a day, he began making calls and got no one. He finally tracked down Jones after several attempts to contact him, and Jones told him that Hill had the job instead of Zinni. They offered Zinni the Saudi Arabia post as a consolation, and Zinni told them to shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.
So what happened to the man Democrats used repeatedly to bolster their efforts to undermine George Bush’s efforts in Iraq? Zinni works for a company that does a lot of business in Iraq, and supposedly the Obama administration worried about how that would look in a confirmation hearing. Another source told FP that the Obama team worried about the optics of sending two former generals as ambassadors to Iraq and Afghanistan simultaneously.
However, neither of those explanations make much sense. Given how hard Obama fought to keep Tom Daschle and his $5 million worth of work for the industry he would soon regulate, the Dyncorp position would have been hardly a burp in a Democratic-controlled Senate. Obama’s appointed 12 lobbyists to key positions already, and an ambassadorship even to a key post like Iraq wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. And who cares whether one general or two becomes Ambassador to war theaters?
It’s yet another fumble from an administration that has become much better known for bumbling than for competency and leadership. It has become Amateur Hour in Washington DC. (via Michael Goldfarb)
Update: And speaking of supposed conflicts of interest, wouldn’t it matter more that the Secretary of State’s spouse took in millions from foreign sources than Zinni being the #2 man at a business that sells product in Iraq?
Update II: Foreign Policy has corrected part of the story. It turns out that Zinni got a call from Vice President Joe Biden, not President Obama, congratulating him on the post.