Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, coalition commander in 2003 and 2004, called the Iraq war "a nightmare with no end in sight," for which he said the Bush administration, the State Department and Congress all share blame.
Sanchez told a group of military reporters in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday that such dereliction of duty by a military officer would mean immediate dismissal or court martial, but the politicians have not been held accountable.
He said the Iraq war plan from the start was "catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic," and the administration has not provided the resources necessary for victory, which he said the military could never achieve on its own.
Still, he said, the U.S. cannot pull out of Iraq without causing chaos that would have global implications.
"After more than four years of fighting, America continues its desperate struggle in Iraq without any concerted effort to devise a strategy that will achieve victory in that war torn country or in the greater conflict against extremism," Sanchez said.
Sanchez pointed to what he said was "neglect and incompetence at the National Security Council level" which has put the U.S. military into "an intractable situation" in Iraq.
NSC spokeswoman Kate Starr issued a short response to Sanchez Friday evening:
"We appreciate his service to the country. As General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker said, there's more work to be done but progress is being made in Iraq. And that's what we're focused on now."
Sanchez, who retired in 2006, said it was his duty to obey orders and not object publicly when he was on active duty, but now that he is retired he has an obligation to speak out.
"While the politicians espouse a rhetoric designed to preserve their reputations and their political power, our soldiers die," he said.
The administration, he said, has ignored messages from field commanders that warned repeatedly that "our military alone could not achieve victory" without corresponding help from the State Department.
"Our National leadership ignored the lessons of World War Two as we entered into this war and to this day continue to believe that victory can be achieved through the application of military power alone," he said.
"From a catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan, to the administration's latest surge strategy, this administration has failed to employ and synchronize its political, economical and military power," he said.
Sanchez said the current strategy, which included a "surge" of troops into Iraq, was "a desperate attempt by the administration that has not accepted the political and economic realities of this war and they have definitely not been able to communicate effectively that reality to the American people."
"Too often, our politicians have been distracted and they have chosen loyalty to their political parties above loyalty to the Constitution because of their lust for power," he said.
Congress, he said, has failed its job of oversight.
"Who will demand accountability for the failure of our national political leadership involved in the management of this war," he said. "They have unquestionably been derelict in in the performance of their duty. In my profession, these types of leaders would be immediately relieved or court-martialed."
Sanchez was pessimistic about the chances of victory in Iraq unless there is a major change in commitment.
"Continued manipulations and adjustments to our military strategy will not achieve victory," he said. "The best we can do with this flawed approach is stave off defeat."
"There is no question America is living a nightmare with no end in sight," he said.
The nightmare will not end, he said, until the partisan struggle for power in Washington ends.
"National efforts to date have been corrupted by partisan politics that have prevented us from devising an effective, executable and supportable strategies," he said. "At times, these partisan struggles have led us to political decisions that endangered the lives of our sons and daughters on the battlefield. The unmistakable message was that political power had greater priority than our national security objectives."
"Overcoming this strategic failure is the first step toward achieving victory in Iraq," he said. "Without bipartisan cooperation, we are doomed to fail. There is nothing going on today in Washington that would give us hope."