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Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, right, former commander of U.S. Central Command, signs copies of his new book, "Battle Ready," written with renowned author Tom Clancy, left, outside Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. The pair signed more than 600 books Wednesday.
Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, right, former commander of U.S. Central Command, signs copies of his new book, "Battle Ready," written with renowned author Tom Clancy, left, outside Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. The pair signed more than 600 books Wednesday. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)
Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, right, former commander of U.S. Central Command, signs copies of his new book, "Battle Ready," written with renowned author Tom Clancy, left, outside Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. The pair signed more than 600 books Wednesday.
Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, right, former commander of U.S. Central Command, signs copies of his new book, "Battle Ready," written with renowned author Tom Clancy, left, outside Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. The pair signed more than 600 books Wednesday. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)
Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, right, former commander of U.S. Central Command, signs copies of his new book, "Battle Ready," written with renowned author Tom Clancy, left, outside Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. "Battle Ready" is about Zinni's 40-year career within the Marine Corps and then at the State Department as a special envoy.
Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, right, former commander of U.S. Central Command, signs copies of his new book, "Battle Ready," written with renowned author Tom Clancy, left, outside Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. "Battle Ready" is about Zinni's 40-year career within the Marine Corps and then at the State Department as a special envoy. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

QUANTICO, Va. — For the mission in Iraq to succeed, the administration must work to establish credibility for the new interim government and build a working Iraqi military and police force, said retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, former head of Central Command and an outspoken critic of the occupation.

“Of the things that have to be done to get us out of there, I think this governing council that’s now been selected … has got to work, so we need to do everything we can to help them succeed,” said Zinni.

“They need to be accepted by the Iraqi people, they need to prepare the Iraqi people for elections, make sound decisions, economic and political decisions, so we need to give them all the support possible to make them succeed,” he said Wednesday during an interview after signing more than 600 copies of his book, “Battle Ready,” written with renowned military storyteller Tom Clancy.

“The second thing we need to do, for Gen. Dave Petraeus … who’s now leading the effort to train Iraqis, we should give him everything he needs to put on the streets an Iraqi Army, police force and border guard, that is credible, that’s well-compensated, that will fight and stand up to the enemy. That’s what gets us out … and that’s going to take a while.”

The interim government appointed Tuesday will assume responsibility for the country when the United States turns over authority at the end of June.

In the book, Zinni, 60, criticizes the post-conflict occupation in Iraq.

“I would have put more troops in. This had nothing to do with the warfighting part, but I really felt strongly that we were going to run into problems after the organized resistance was broken, and I felt we needed a lot more troops to secure the situation, that we were going to run into the chaos, and looting and all those problems, and I thought it was important to seal the borders and control the road networks,” he said.

“I thought the Coalition Provisional Authority was not well-organized, not together, they didn’t have a plan and were slow at getting started. They made a lot of mistakes.”

Pointing out any administration mistakes, however, was not his motivation behind the 440-page book. It’s the fourth in Clancy’s Commander books, in which former military leaders tell their stories.

“It’s not a book written to criticize about Iraq,” Zinni said. “That’s probably half a page, but everybody quotes from that page. It’s about 40 years, about my experience in the military and the State Department afterwards. If I would say anything about the book, it’s that I tried to be as truthful as possible, so it ended up being criticism [and] unfortunately that gets quoted all the time.”

His target audience is young leaders in uniform.

“My son’s a captain in the Marine Corps, and I basically wrote it for somebody like that — the young NCO, young officer, that can look at that and maybe through my experience, things I did right, things I did wrong, they could learn something from that, pick up something.”

Maj. Craig Wonson, an infantryman and now student at the Marine Corps’ Command Staff College at Quantico, got the book to glean insight.

“He’s someone most Marines have a tremendous amount of respect for, and not just for his career, but for his opinions,” Wonson, 37, said. “He has good perspectives on a lot of things and has held a variety of positions.”

Getting Tom Clancy’s autograph for a buddy stationed on Okinawa drew Cpl. William Baxter to stand in line for almost an hour. “If anybody would want it, I know he would,” he said of Cpl. Darius Stewart. “We grew up together in the Marine Corps and I know he’s just going to love this.”

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