William E. Odom, 75, a retired Army lieutenant general who was a senior military and intelligence official in the Carter and Reagan administrations and who, in recent years, became a forceful critic of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, died May 30 at his vacation home in Lincoln, Vt. An autopsy will be performed, but his wife said he had an apparent heart attack.
Gen. Odom was a career Army officer who was also a serious scholar of international relations and a leading authority on the Soviet Union. He was the military assistant to Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser and director of the National Security Agency during President Ronald Reagan's second term.
He had a reputation as a military hard-liner who opposed any compromise with the Soviet Union, which made his vocal opposition to the current involvement in Iraq all the more cogent and surprising.
"Among senior military people, he was probably the first to consider the war in Iraq a misbegotten adventure," Brzezinski said yesterday. "He believed that we're just stoking hostility to the United States in that region and developing an opposition that cannot be defeated by military means. He was very outspoken."
Well before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Gen. Odom warned that military action in Iraq would be foolhardy and futile. He outlined his positions in The Washington Post's Outlook section Feb. 11, 2007, in the essay "Victory Is Not an Option."
"The president's policy is based on illusions, not realities," he wrote. "There never has been any right way to invade and transform Iraq."
No other general spoke so forcefully and so correctly so early in this war. He will be missed.