Lt. Gen. William E. Odom: A Cassandra for Our Times

“Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

— Mark Twain [1]

On September 26, 2006, Lt. General William E. Odom, USA, Retired, testified before the House of Representatives’ Out of Iraq Caucus, at a Capitol Hill forum chaired by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA). He said: “The longer the U.S. stays in Iraq, the worse it will get!” His wise words are still ringing in my ears. [2] The hawkish Bush-Cheney Gang, however, has no intention of listening to Odom’s sage advise. It now insists on subscribing to a new kind of insanity: “A Surge!” This means escalating the troop levels in Iraq by 20,000 to 30,000. Only the U.S. Congress, echoing the voice of the people, as a result of the Nov. 7, 2006 election, can stop this madness. Odom said: “Wise commanders know when to make tactical withdrawals in order to regain the strategic initiative. The wisdom and moral courage to change course for strategic purposes is what we need today, not mindless rhetoric about ‘staying the course.’ Cutting and running from Iraq is neither cowardly nor imprudent. It is the only way to recover from what is turning out to be ‘the greatest strategic mistake in American history!'” [3]

Background: The Bush-Cheney Gang launched the Iraqi War based on a pack of rotten lies. Iraq’s Saddam Hussein didn’t have any WMD, ties to Al Qaeda or connections to 9/11. The congenital warmongers, who “fixed” the intelligence around the policy to get us into the conflict, want to compound their evildoing by sending yet more U.S. troops into what is now a raging Civil War. [4] As I write, the nation has already lost the lives of 3,052 of its bravest sons and daughters in Iraq and has created a bloodbath for the peoples of Iraq. The civilian death toll in that devastated country of 27 million is estimated at 655,000. The cost to our embattled treasury could now top a staggering $2 trillion dollars. [5]

Every day that passes of this illegal and immoral “War Without End” also creates more enemies for America in the Islamic World. [6] Gen. Odom continued with his testimony: “We must look back at whose interests were served by the invasion [of Iraq on March 20, 2003]. No American interests were served. The interests of Iran and Al Qaeda have been hugely advanced. Toppling Saddam avenged Iran’s grievance for his invasion of that country and eight years of war that ended in a stalemate in 1988. More importantly, the inevitable Shiite dominance in any successor Iraqi regime greatly enhances Tehran’s influence there. These were unexpected gifts to the Iranian Republic at America’s expense.”

Gen. Odom emphasized: “Al Qaeda is no less grateful to the U.S. than Iran. Our toppling of Saddam opened Iraq to Al Qaeda’s cadres and placed Americans there where they would be vulnerable. It also boosted Al Qaeda’s international appeal to young Muslims, something that was suffering after the U.S.’ successful campaign in Afghanistan in 2001…The invasion harmed U.S. relations with Europe and NATO allies more than anything I can recall in the history of the alliance. Osama bin Laden has publicly noted this as a great gain for his strategy against America.”

A Senior Fellow with the Hudson Institute, Gen. Odom is also a professor at Yale University. As director of the National Security Agency (NSA) from 1983 to 1988, he was responsible for the nation’s signals intelligence and communications security. From 1977 to 1981, he was a Military Assistant to Zbigniew Brzezinski in President Jimmy Carter’s White House. A West Point graduate, Gen. Odom earned a Ph.D. in 1970, from Columbia University.

Reinforcing his strong opinion, Gen. Odom offered this compelling rationale for getting the U.S. out of Iraq: “The implications of the strategic error of invading Iraq are two. First, ‘staying the course’ can make no sense. Every day we stay merely improves the position of our enemies while squandering our wealth. Even if an Iraqi regime can be created that prevents the breakup of the country, it will be extremely oppressive, anti-American, and under considerable Iranian influence. To ‘stay the course’ is to say that ‘we must continue to advance the interests of Iran and al Qaeda, not American interests.’ At the same time, being in Iraq paralyzes the U.S. strategically, denying it both diplomatic and military flexibility that are necessary to create a coalition of major powers to design and implement a larger strategy for stabilizing the whole region, not just Iraq.”

With respect to Iran, Gen. Odom said: “We have a lot of common interests…The single step that would do more to turn it [the Iraqi War] around and shock the world would be an opening with Iran…They hate Al Qaeda. We hate Al Qaeda. They want to sell oil. We want to buy…[Iranians] live in a bad neighborhood… Let’s cooperate..Instead of the war drums on Iran…we have a potential for an incredibly important strategic relationship there.”

Finally, Gen. Odom, an Establishment figure if there ever was one, also made this cogent argument, in his Cassandra-like warning to the nation: “Once these two facts are recognized–that we are fighting in the interests of our enemies, in Iraq, and that we cannot improve things there in the larger region until we withdraw–we can begin to talk sense about what to do next. In the meanwhile, the costs go up every day. We squander American lives and money, and lose allies and the moral authority we need and used so effectively during the long course of the Cold War…(Gen. Odom made a reference here to NATO, other U.S. security alliances, and to the UN.)The longer we remain bogged down in Iraq, the closer we come to the destruction of these institutions, that have served us so well, financially, military, politically and morally. The costs to the U.S. in every one of these categories rise every additional day we continue the war.”


[1]. “Mark Twain: A Life” by Ron Powers.

viewArticle.asp?articleID=14248 and

This writer’s hat goes off to each of the intrepid members of the “Out of Iraq Caucus” of the House of Representatives and for the fine work that they have done around the Iraqi War issue. If they now can only reenergize themselves to lead the gallant struggle in the U.S. Congress to, finally, end the Iraqi War and to impeach President George W. Bush and V.P. Dick Cheney for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” they will secure for themselves an enduring place of distinction and honor in the history of our Republic.


[4]. and