This is a man who, I believe, is both genuinely sorry about our Iraqi disaster and his role in it, and also concerned about the soldiers we’re dumping in the streets with little or no help available for dealing with the problems that the Rushpubliscums so happily sent them off to acquire.

There will be those who disagree with me, which is fine. But don’t you think it would be a kick for whoever runs for Hutchison’s seat to try to question the patriotism of this guy?

The Democrats think they’re within striking distance of a Republican-held Senate seat in Texas, and they think they’ve found their man: retired Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, a cantankerous San Antonian who oversaw the Iraq War effort in 2003 and 2004. “It’s the one candidate that will cause John Cornyn some heartburn,” a Dem state politico told McClatchy last week.

But Sanchez comes with obvious baggage, and Wired’s Danger Room marshaled the opposition research today, calling Sanchez a “disgraced three-star” and launching into quite the denunciation:

Congratulations, Texas Democratic Party: you are on the verge of a new level in cynicism. Sanchez’s tenure running the Iraq war saw a humiliated and cashiered Iraqi military metastasize into an insurgency that killed and maimed thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Under pressure from the Pentagon, he approved abusive detention and interrogation practices for Abu Ghraib that resulted in the U.S.’ most damaging wartime scandal since Vietnam. What could possibly interrupt Sanchez’s deserved fade into obscurity? “He’s the one guy who could unite the Hispanic vote,” former Texas Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes told McClatchy. “He’ll get the conservative Hispanic businessman.” Amazing…

Really? A “new level” in military and racial cynicism? In congressional politics? (Hello, Allen WestIlario Pantano?)

It’s absolutely true that Sanchez was made one of a small number of high-ranking fall guys for Abu Ghraib. But that was hardly an entirely fair outcome, considering the Pentagon (and White House) torture pressure Wired cites. And let’s not even get started on the fortunes of the White House guys who actually explicitly sanctioned torture in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, like Cal-Berkeley law professor and perennial op-ed waterboarding apologist John Yoo.

It is fair to say that Sanchez was an uninspiring strategist when it came to pacifying Iraq at a critical juncture. But look at what he was handed: a politically cooked-up war (PDF) that was unpopular with everybody but the US electorate at the outset; a crappy battle plan from Gen. Tommy Franks that lacked any semblance of caring what happened in Iraq once the tanks arrived in Baghdad’s Firdos Square; a Coalition Provisional Authority run by a blue-blazered country-club Republican who could write a book on how to create a violent failed state; and an Army that needed substandard reservists and guardsmen to handle an ever-growing number of prisoners…prisoners from which the runaway executive branch hoped to extract some kind of politically salient intelligence. None of this really changed until after the 2004 presidential election, when Iraq violence was still rising, domestic patience over the war was thinning, and even a recalcitrant Bush administration had to admit that shit was bananas. If you tell me a Casey or a Petraeus could have made lemonade out of this sour citrus mash in 2003, I’d be inclined to call a medic over to your side to check your vitals. 

The above is absolutely true; Sanchez was thrown into the middle of an already-destroyed situation, and then the criminals who actually set the whole show up continued to behave in a manner that he objected to. While it is certainly true that he didn’t stop anything from happening, it’s also true that he didn’t set the mess up, and in a criminal prosecution (which we’ll never see,) this guy would be one of those who would get an immunity grant for his testimony.

I’m more interested in what he’s had to say since he left Iraq. I believe that his head is in the right place when it comes to trying to do right by our combat vets. Dog knows we could use a few more Senators who actually give a shit about them.

I really don’t know if I’d vote for him, but I’d like to hear what he has to say.