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Ricardo S. Sanchez
Ricardo Sanchez2.jpg
Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, ret.
Born September 9, 1953(1953-09-09) (age 66)
Place of birth Rio Grande City, Texas
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Department of the Army Seal United States Army
Years of service 1973-2006
Rank US-O9 insigniaLieutenant General
Commands held Multinational Force Iraq
V Corps
1st Armored Division
  • 2nd Brigade
Battles/wars Operation Desert Storm
Iraq War
Awards Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star

Ricardo Sanchez (born September 9, 1953) is a retired United States Army Lieutenant General and was a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for the Senate election in 2012 for the seat of retiring Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.[1]

Early life and educationEdit

Sanchez was born into a poor Mexican American family in Rio Grande City, Texas. During the Vietnam War (1969–73), Sanchez was in college. He spent one year at the University of Texas at Austin on an ROTC scholarship, eventually transferring to Texas A&I University in Kingsville, Texas, where he graduated in 1973 with a double major in mathematics and history. Sanchez was named a Distinguished Military Graduate (DMG), meaning he was in the top 20% of all ROTC cadets in the nation. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army.

Army careerEdit

Sanchez became a platoon leader in the 82nd Airborne Division, stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. By 1977, he had transferred from the infantry to armor. He received promotions regularly and was stationed at posts in the United States, Korea, Panama and Germany.

In 1991, then Lieutenant Colonel Sanchez served as a battalion commander during Operation Desert Storm, successfully leading his unit of the 197th Infantry Brigade (Mechanized) to Basra without suffering any casualties. Shortly after the Gulf War, Sanchez was promoted to Colonel and given command of the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division. Afterwards, he served on the staff of U.S. Southern Command, first as deputy chief of staff then as director of operations.

On July 10, 2001, by now a general, Sanchez became commander of V Corps' 1st Armored Division. He held that position for nearly two years before assuming command of the entire corps on June 14, 2003. On this date he also became commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7, the coalition ground forces in the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. Much of Sanchez's time commanding 1st Armored Division had been as a brigadier general.

Commander of Coalition Ground Forces in IraqEdit

Ricardo Sanchez

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez at a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq.

June 2003 to June 2004Edit

Sanchez held the top military position in Iraq during what was arguably one of the most critical periods of the war—the year after the fall of the Hussein regime, and the time the insurgency took root and began its counterattack. Highlights during his tenure as commander in Iraq include the killing of Uday and Qusay Hussein, and the capture of Saddam Hussein.

He was in command when the abuse of prisoners occurred most notably at Abu Ghraib prison. Some have been highly critical of the U.S. military's failure to hold senior officers accountable, as blame for abuses at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers was placed only on a few individuals of the lowest rank.

Sanchez was succeeded as commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq by a four-star general: former Army Vice Chief of Staff George Casey. This changeover was part of a larger split in responsibilities as Sanchez's former command, Combined Joint Task Force 7 under a three-star general, was superseded by Multi-National Force Iraq under a four-star general.

Disunity in leadershipEdit

L. Paul Bremer was the leader of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. There was almost a complete failure to communicate between Bremer, the top civilian, and Sanchez, the military leader. According to journalist Thomas Ricks: "It was very clear they hated each other. They lived in the same palace and didn't talk to each other." This disunity in leadership has been cited as one of the major failures of the first year of the Iraq War.[2]

Abu GhraibEdit

Sanchez was commander of coalition forces during a period when abuse of prisoners occurred at Abu Ghraib and at other locations. In a memo signed by General Sanchez and later acquired by the ACLU through a Freedom of Information Act request, techniques were authorized to interrogate prisoners, included "environmental manipulation" such as making a room hot or cold or using an "unpleasant smell", isolating a prisoner, disrupting normal sleep patterns and "convincing the detainee that individuals from a country other than the United States are interrogating him."[3]

On May 5, 2006, Sanchez denied ever authorizing interrogators to "go to the outer limits". Sanchez said he had told interrogators: "...we should be conducting our interrogations to the limits of our authority." Sanchez called the ACLU: "...a bunch of sensationalist liars, I mean lawyers, that will distort any and all information that they get to draw attention to their positions."[4]

Career after IraqEdit

In June 2004, Lieutenant General Sanchez relinquished command of the Multi-National Force Iraq (MNF-I) to General George Casey, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. Sanchez returned to Germany where he continued as Commanding General, V Corps. He was briefly considered for promotion to four-star rank with assignment as Commander, Southern Command; nomination would have required Senate confirmation, which would have been contentious due to the Abu Ghraib scandal. He was not nominated; the position went to General Bantz Craddock.

On September 6, 2006, Sanchez relinquished command of V Corps in a ceremony at Campbell Barracks, Heidelberg, Germany. Sanchez had commanded the corps for more than 3 years; longer than any previous commander in the unit's history. In deference to Sanchez' longevity, he relinquished command to General David McKiernan, Commanding General, US Army Europe and Seventh Army, his higher commander, instead of to a successor.

Sanchez retired on November 1, 2006, culminating 33 years of Army service. Sanchez now lives in his home state of Texas.


On May 6, 2008 HarperCollins Publishers released Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story, a memoir by General Sanchez and Donald T. Phillips.[5]

On May 7, 2008 General Sanchez was interviewed by Fresh Air host Terry Gross on NPR where he discussed the Iraq war, his life and book.[6]

2012 Senate campaignEdit

Having previously entered the race, Ricardo Sanchez announced on December 16, 2011 that he would not run as a candidate in the Democratic Party primary for Texas' open U.S. Senate seat in 2012.[7] In a statement to his followers Sanchez stated:

“I am very grateful for the strong support and encouragement I have received from supporters across the country and the wonderful Texans I have met in every part of our great state. However, pressing personal challenges, coupled with the recent loss of our home due to fire and lagging fundraising numbers make a statewide election campaign impractical for me at this time. “After extensive consultation with my family, Maria Elena and I have decided to put family first and I will therefore end my campaign for the 2012 U.S. Senate seat as of today. “I am blessed to have made friends with so many great Texans on this journey. Their personal stories and their love for our homeland will continue to inspire me as I look ahead and consider future opportunities for public service. I remain steadfast in the desire to serve both my country and the State of Texas to help bring new, responsible, and fair-minded leadership to our government. May God Bless Texas and May God Bless America. ”

Criticism of the media and political leadershipEdit

Speaking to a group of military reporters and editors in Washington DC on October 12, 2007,[8] Sanchez lambasted the media for "sensationalist" coverage and "self-aggrandizement" and expressing the belief that reporters were willing to "compromise [their] integrity" and "display questionable ethics" to get front page stories:

The death knell of your ethics has been enabled by your parent organizations who have chosen to align themselves with political agendas. What is clear to me is that you are perpetuating the corrosive partisan politics that is destroying our country and killing our servicemen who are at war.

My assessment is that your profession, to some extent, has strayed from these ethical standards and allowed external agendas to manipulate what the American public sees on TV, what they read in our newspapers and what they see on the web. For some of you, just like some politicians, the truth is of little to no value if it does not fit your preconceived notions, biases and agendas.

Sanchez went on to criticize the partisanship that has characterized America's political leadership on Iraq:[9]

There has been a glaring, unfortunate, display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders. As a Japanese proverb says, "Action without vision is a nightmare." There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight.

Since 2003, the politics of war have been characterized by partisanship as the Republican and Democratic parties struggled for power in Washington. National efforts to date have been corrupted by partisan politics that have prevented us from devising effective, executable, supportable solutions. At times, these partisan struggles have led to political decisions that endangered the lives of our sons and daughters on the battlefield. The unmistakable message was that political power had a greater priority than our national security objectives. Overcoming this strategic failure is the first step toward achieving victory in Iraq — without bipartisan cooperation we are doomed to fail. There is nothing going on in Washington that would give us hope.


Sanchez has become the most senior retired general to criticize American political leadership of the war.


  • "(The Abu Ghraib prison scandal is) the key reason, the sole reason, that I was forced to retire. I was essentially not offered another position in either a three-star or four-star command.[11]
  • In reference to the 2007 "surge" strategy in Iraq: "The best we can do with this flawed approach is to stave off defeat" [12]


External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
Tommy Franks
Commander Multinational Force Iraq
Succeeded by
George W. Casey, Jr.
Preceded by
William S. Wallace
Commander V Corps (United States)
Succeeded by
Peter W. Chiarelli

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