A former top US military commander in Baghdad has described the war in Iraq as "a nightmare with no end in sight".
In the bluntest assessment of Iraq by a former senior Pentagon official yet, retired Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez also lambasted US political leaders as "incompetent, inept, and derelict in the performance of their duty".
Addressing a meeting of military correspondents and editors in Arlington, a Virginia suburb of Washington, Sanchez said: "There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight."
He said the current White House strategy will not achieve victory in Iraq.
Sanchez blasted the "surge" strategy of George Bush, the US president, that calls for maintaining more than 160,000 US troops in Iraq until the end of the year in the hope of reducing sectarian violence.
March 2006: Major General Paul Eaton, in charge of training the Iraqi army, describes Donald Rumsfeld, former US defence secretary, as "not competent" to lead the armed forces.
April 2006: Major General John Batiste, formerly head of the US army's First Infantry Division, says the government had "repeatedly ignored sound military advice."
September 2007: General Sir Mike Jackson, the head of the British army during the invasion of Iraq calls the US strategy "intellectually bankrupt".
September 2007: Major General Tim Cross, a senior British officer involved in post-war planning, describes US policy in Iraq was "fatally flawed"
"Continued manipulations and adjustments to our military strategy will not achieve victory," he said. "The best we can do with this flawed approach is stave off defeat."
Sanchez retired from the military in November 2006, part of the fallout from a scandal over abuse of detainees by US military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.
Reacting to Sanchez's comments, the White House evoked a September report to congress by General David Petraeus, the current US military commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador .
"We appreciate his service to the country," Trey Bohn, White House spokesman, said.
"As General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker have said, there is more work to be done, but progress is being made in Iraq. And that's what we are focused on now."
"Iraq is still under foreign occupation and Iraqis continue to die in great numbers"
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Sanchez, however, had a starkly different view. "There is nothing going on today in Washington that would give us hope," he insisted.
According to Sanchez, US politicians in both the administration and congress have too often chosen loyalty to their political party above loyalty to the constitution because of what he called "their lust for power".
"There has been a glaring, unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders," the retired general complained.
"In my profession, these type of leaders would immediately be relieved or court-martialled."