Democrats are told reporters on Monday that they’ve found their secret weapon when it comes retaking retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat in Texas next fall: Retired Lt. Gen. Ricard Sanchez, last seen leaving Iraq in shame after the 2004 Abu Ghraib prison scandal engulfed some of the American forces he was leading there.
National Democrats are urging Sanchez to run for Senate, claiming his military career and Hispanic heritage will make him a serious threat in the Lone Star State. In a statement released to reporters Monday afternoon, Sanchez said he’s going to make a decision about the race “in the coming weeks,” but sources told the AP the former Lt. General is “expected to run.”As could be expected, news of the bid included a lot of talk about Abu Ghraib. As the AP noted, Sanchez “was never directly linked to wrongdoing — and has maintained he had no knowledge about events at the prison — but the issue is certain to come up if he enters the race.”
In an interview with McClatchy, which broke news of a Sanchez Senate run Monday morning, the retired General said it would be “pretty fair” to say Abu Ghraib ended his military career, which came to a formal end in 2006 when he retired from the Army.
From McClatchy’s Marcia Recio:
Sanchez emphasized that he hadn’t known or had anything to do with the actions at the prison and was cleared by Army investigators. His 2008 book, “Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story,” was critical of the Bush administration’s handling of the war. In the interview, he said that President George W. Bush “at times asked the right questions, but didn’t impose his will.”
But not everyone agreed with Sanchez’s take on Abu Ghraib at the time. The results of a Freedom Of Information Act request by the ACLU in 2005 showed Sanchez had ordered his troops to “exploit Arab fear of dogs”, as well as authorized other harsh interrogation techniques on prisoners. As the BBC reported in 2005, the ACLU said the FOIA’d documents found “the [interrogation] measures go beyond generally accepted practice and says Gen Sanchez should be made accountable.”
The ACLU did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the possibility of a Sanchez run.
But in Texas, Democrats are saying Sanchez’s positives outpace the negatives that might come with his connection to Abu Ghraib. Former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes, which McClatchy called “one of the state’s last high-profile Democrats,” said Sanchez is just the man Democrats are looking for.
“He’s the one guy who could unite the Hispanic vote,” Barnes said. “He’ll get the conservative Hispanic businessman.”
The two Hispanic members of the Texas congressional delegation — Democratic Reps. Henry Cuellar and Charlie Gonzalez — also “welcomed Sanchez’s likely entry into the race,” according to McClatchy.
Meanwhile, Sanchez says he’s ready to take up the Democratic mantle should he decide to run.
“I would describe myself as during my military career as supporting the president and the Constitution,” he told McClatchy. “After the military, I decided that socially, I’m a progressive, a fiscal conservative and a strong supporter, obviously, of national defense.”