General Anthony Zinni was born on the 17th of September 1943; he is now fifty-eight years old and currently holds the post of special advisor to the Center of Strategic and International Studies in Washington, after having retired from the highest position an American member of the military can achieve ï¿½ general commander of the American forces.
President Bush’s decision to appoint him special envoy to the Middle East to implement the Tenet accords and Mitchell recommendations comes following extensive discussions about this mission, and General Zinni’s willingness to accept or refuse it. These discussions were carried out with Secretary of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor.
President Bush only gave him this mission after General Zinni had agreed to undertake it. It is known from General Zinni’s history, and from his military service record, that he is a man of missions who does not accept failure, and who will not sleep a wink until his missions have been completed, no matter how difficult they are.
General Zinni began his young life as a leader of a gang of youths who collected kickbacks or debts owed to his family. His family, the Zinni family, is of Italian origin. It is no secret to anyone that the Zinni family was a powerful family, and that was why Zinni called it the Godfather when he was young. This is a more than clear indication that the Zinni family was involved in the world of American Mafia with Italian origins.
Anthony Zinni has a big strong body, is tall and of upright stature. Thus, the family used him as a collector because of the awe and fear this massive body instilled in others. After he joined the American military establishment, the gold stars found a proper place for themselves on the shoulders of Anthony with the big body. Now out of military service, General Zinni still acts as if the gold stars were still on his shoulders.
During his military service he led those Marines troops specialized in difficult missions in many battles in Vietnam. Many medals adorned his chest for his bravery, and for the injuries he sustained in those operations.
From what is known about Zinni in the field, from what those who served under him said, is that he left no room for discussion when it came to a difficult or dangerous mission; instead, he led. His famous expression, according to those who served under him, was “follow me”, not “go” or “attack”. He was always in front of them and leading them, which always spurred them on with either enthusiasm or the fear of lagging behind.
It was only possible to contain and manage the great energy that was Anthony Zinni, of Italian origin and a familiar figure in both the dark alleys and wide streets of Philadelphia with their restaurants and night clubs, by his joining the military establishment, in one of its toughest branches ï¿½ the Marines special forces. Thus Anthony Zinni’s energy turned into accomplishments and actions for the United States and the American nation, not just for the family of Italian origin.
Following his appointment as special advisor to the center of studies in Washington, Anthony Zinni appeared, with his big body and his very serious attitude. He appeared as if he was still in his smart military uniform adorned with four gold stars.
Zinni still looked like he did when he was the general commander of the U.S. forces when he recently left Washington heading to the Middle East, carrying under his arm the file of the biggest challenge of his military and civilian service to the United States.
In addition to this side of his personality, an old American friend, who knows the ins and outs of official American circles, tells me that Anthony Zinni used to find himself in the middle of a battle of opinions between senior military personnel when they discussed some military plan. He told me that Zinni would remain silent and would not involve himself in the battle and would not risk injury to himself. At the end of the confrontations, he would be the one most capable of going into negotiations with those who had stars on their shoulders, and would give to each their own and settle the battle. All this would be done with a high sense of responsibility, firm action and a commitment to absolute seriousness.
He would set out on a mission of bridging the gap between the generals based on a very realistic policy. According to these Anthony Zinni was always very down to earth and did not cling to fantasies.
His general appearance sends out a message which Zinni is good at using to his advantage. This is what Guy Ferar, the ex official at the Pentagon and National Security Council and who now works at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said. Zinni is also practical and very modest which helps him in his diplomatic missions.
Secretary of State Colin Powell named Zinni his special advisor for the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians. Zinni has very close ties to the region; he served in it for a whole decade, including four years as the military commander of the U.S. forces in the region.
Zinni studied the Arabic language as well as Middle Eastern History and politics during his preparation for his job as the commander of the central American military command. He moved around the region and met many of its military and political leaders. Many of the people whom Zinni befriended in the nineties who had lower ranks now have higher ranks, some have reached the highest ranks.
Zinni helped Eritrea and Ethiopia solve the dispute they had over borders that led them to wage war against each other. He supervised the United States’ military withdrawal from Somalia in 1995 where it is believed that, in 1993, fighters belonging to Osama Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda organization were responsible for the attack on two American helicopters that led to eighteen American soldiers being killed.
In addition to that he also led the operation in which two rockets were fired on a factory in Sudan, that the U.S. claimed was a chemical weapons factory, following the bombing of two American embassies in Eastern Africa in 1998. It was proven that the factory was not manufacturing chemical weapons.
Anthony Zinni is not naive, or a General who limits his mind to only military matters and missions. Those close to him say his mind is much broader than that. General Zinni has expressed this on more than one occasion. In an interview Zinni said that the senior officers always failed to answer his question regarding the aims of the United States’ military campaign in Vietnam. He said that he then promised himself that he would not accept any military mission unless he was able to explain the objectives of to the officers and troops under his command.
He also said that he promised himself not to accept any mission that he felt was wrong, or one whose aims the politicians could not define in a way that would make him accept it.
Thus, General Anthony Zinni arrived at a point of view regarding the narrow mindedness of American military personnel who absorb themselves in military work alone. He believes that American officers should understand politics and diplomacy so as not to remain confined by blind military work. The United States’ point of view is its own, but the Americans should become aware of other points of view because this is the key to success.
Anthony Zinni has come to the Middle East this time in a civilian diplomat’s suit, moves as if the four gold stars are still on his shoulders, speaks calmly and with persistence and is working to achieve the goals President Bush set for him. He believes in right and justice. He will face one problem, however, which is the deception, untruthfulness and lack of seriousness that are the constant attributes of Sharon.
Thus, the Palestinians and Arabs who know Zinni well from when he led the Bright Star maneuvers in Egypt to the Arab Gulf countries and the neighboring countries, expect him to be firm in his mission, and to act in the battle of opinions with the same calm and sense of responsibility and show no reluctance in standing by truth and what is right. The General must, however, be wary of Sharon’s deception. Zinni is undoubtedly capable of this, he has prepared himself well, and has once again studied the facts that he first became aware of during his long association with the Middle East region.
It has become very clear that the United States’ best interest calls for the immediate ending of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the Arab lands, and the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on Palestinian land occupied by Israel in 1967.
The Middle East welcomes General Anthony Zinni, and respects him for accepting the greatest challenge of his long service to his American nation.
Bassam Abu-Sharif is a special advisor to President Arafat.