EXCLUSIVE: Obama backs out on Iraq appointment

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


The Obama administration asked retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni to be U.S. ambassador to Iraq but abruptly withdrew the appointment without explanation, Gen. Zinni said Tuesday.

Gen. Zinni, a former commander of Central Command, told The Washington Times that he had been offered the job by the White House national security adviser, retired Marine Gen. James Jones, two weeks ago and that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton confirmed the offer on Jan. 26.

"I started making arrangements," Gen. Zinni said, but became concerned because he heard nothing further from the State Department or White House. He called Gen. Jones Monday night and was told that Christopher Hill, the outgoing assistant secretary of State for East Asia, was getting the job.

Gen. Zinni said no explanation was given. "That kind of bothered me," he said. "I was told that I had it."

Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman, said, "We have spoken to a number of extraordinarily talented individuals about serving in this important role, and have made no announcement about who will be the U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

"Obviously, the president has enormous respect for Gen. Zinni, and believes he would be on anybody's short list for a number of critical national security roles."

The State Department had no immediate comment.

Gen. Zinni indicated that he was not interested in other offers from the administration.

"I'm not going to give up my day job" writing books and teaching at Cornell University, he said.

Mr. Hill has extensive experience in Northeast Asia and the Balkans but not in the Middle East.

Gen. Zinni, on the other hand, was the deputy commanding general of "Provide Comfort," a U.S. operation that provided relief to Iraqi Kurds in 1991.

He was deputy commander in chief of Central Command from 1996-1997 and commander from 1997 until 2000. In 1998, he supervised "Operation Desert Fox," a series of U.S. air strikes against Iraq targeting what the U.S. believed were weapons of mass destruction programs.

"I know Chris," Gen. Zinni said. "He's a fine guy."

• Jon Ward and Nicholas Kralev contributed to this story.


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Comments 1 - 15 of 15

  • By: MindTinker

    pwforaker - potential nominee vested interests have not prevented O-man from submitting nominations for his cronies and other dems, why would a potential vested interest have kept him from niminating Zinni?

    February 5, 2009 at 11:57 a.m.  | Mark as Offensive

  • By: pwforaker

    Although it does sound like there was disorganization and consequently rudeness in the treatment of the General, I wonder why the Times story left out the fact that until the end of 2008, Gen. Zinni was executive VP of Dyncorp, which has hundreds of millions of dollars worth of defense contracts in Iraq. This might account for the decision not to appoint him (if that's the case), but of course not excuse the mismanagement of the appointment process.

    February 5, 2009 at 11:52 a.m.  | Mark as Offensive

  • By: NavyBrat

    Of course! Why would we want anyone competent in a position like that? I'll bet he got bounced b/c he actually PAYS his taxes. Obama would do well to remember the old phrase, "no better friend, no worse an enemy than a United States Marine."

    February 4, 2009 at 4:30 p.m.  | Mark as Offensive

  • By: MindTinker

    Hey, if Obama made a promise, why expect him to keep it? Has he shown himself capable of keeping promises?

    February 4, 2009 at 3:38 p.m.  | Mark as Offensive

  • By: irish2

    I don't think there is any comparison between politicians and our military. Its all about character.
    The lack of character in many politicians should be pretty obvious after the last few days.

    February 4, 2009 at 3:22 p.m.  | Mark as Offensive

  • By: hdc77494

    typical. Offer the job, the guy accepts, then they change their minds and don't bother to call him back. Suspiciously the job is given to someone clearly less qualified. Mr Obama, you better get a grip on your staff. Are they all busy amending their tax returns for underreporting income??

    February 4, 2009 at 3:07 p.m.  | Mark as Offensive

  • By: mesquito

    Just watch. Obama will decimate the military just like Clinton did. In 2 yrs we will have the opportunity to change the balance in congress and get the checks and balances back in government. By then, they will have given themselves so much rope to hang themselves. If we don't take that opportunity to vote in new people then we might as well get our own rope.

    February 4, 2009 at 1:52 p.m.  | Mark as Offensive

  • By: Shore10

    I hear William Ayeres is available for a 6 figure offer.

    February 4, 2009 at 12:43 p.m.  | Mark as Offensive

  • By: TripleDad

    Recall that Mr. Bush and his administration were extremely helpful in aiding the Obama team in their transition to the White House. Mr. Bush made it clear that he would do whatever was necessary to assist Mr. Obama in a successful and seamless transfer of power. Unlike the Clinton administration that did everything to hamper a successful transition. At least in this sense the Obama administration can't cast blame on Mr. Bush for what has amounted to a comical first couple of weeks in office. For someone who supposedly came into office better prepared to take the reins of government than any President to date, he certainly isn't coming off as the most competent choice, now is he? No one doubts his ability to talk a good game but let's see him start to walk the walk. One more goofy nomination for another tax cheating ex-Clinton flunky and I'm thinking we all need to start wondering about the wisdom of voting these guys in to power, I certainly didn't vote for him.

    February 4, 2009 at 10:34 a.m.  | Mark as Offensive

  • By: MindTinker

    g9m4, stock up on LOTS of SPAM, because they won't get it. Everyone has a Global mentality now. Our military will not step up to defend against an elected tyrant. Even an elected tyrant who may tactfully usurps Constitutional authority.

    February 4, 2009 at 10:13 a.m.  | Mark as Offensive

  • By: g9m4

    Mr. obama should continue to hire civilians for all his appointments because once the military finds out what he's really up to...they may in the final,analysis decide to defend the population. (i'm still stocking up on SPAM...just in case they don't get it...)

    February 4, 2009 at 6:39 a.m.  | Mark as Offensive

  • By: MindTinker

    O-man appears to be starting to lose it. Catch these headlines in the current WP, one of the MSM usually doting over the Anointed One.

    Obama Says He Erred in Nominations

    Administration Is Described as Being at a Loss

    A Good Day to Get Out of the White House

    Nominee Trouble Preventable, Experts Say

    Stumbling on Their Sense of Entitlement

    and I read elsewhere today (can’t find it now) that O-man’s approval ratings are already dropping after only two weeks on the job. I believe the figure was somewhere around a 15% drop.

    Let’s hope he doesn’t sink the whole national ship.

    February 4, 2009 at 12:22 a.m.  | Mark as Offensive

  • By: soxconn

    Barack Obama is not comfortable with the military. They have a tendency to say and do what they think is right for their people without it being tempered politically. This would probably put Obama at a disadvantage because he would have no room for relativity and would be forced to make decisions without consulting his committee and the teleprompter. If you look at General Jones career, he spent most of his time in diplomatic assignments and not combat roles. Obama is especially uncomfortable with those that have greater command leadership skills than he does.

    February 4, 2009 at 12:06 a.m.  | Mark as Offensive

  • By: Lonnie

    How slipshod. Do you get the idea that there is a lot of disorder to this administration?

    February 3, 2009 at 7:43 p.m.  | Mark as Offensive

  • By: ataloss

    This is the way these anti-military liberal cabal treat our nation's heroes. The administration love affair with the military is a ruse. They haven't shown them any affection ever, now they love em to death.It is a big show that the middle class republican and independents fell for when they voted this bunch of creeps in.

    February 3, 2009 at 7:02 p.m.  | Mark as Offensive

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