Zinni also serves on the advisory boards of eight different companies, including the security testing firm, Mu Dynamics, based in Sunnyvale, California. He will begin teaching at Duke University's Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy in Spring 2008.
In 1967, Zinni was assigned as an infantry battalion advisor to the Vietnamese Marine Corps. Following the Vietnam War, he was ordered to the Basic School where he served as a tactics instructor, platoon commander, and company executive officer. In 1970, he returned to Vietnam as a company commander in 1st Battalion, 5th Marines where he was wounded, evacuated, and subsequently assigned to the 3rd Force Service Support Group on Okinawa. There he served as a company commander and guard officer. In 1971, Zinni returned to the 2nd Marine Division, where he served as a company commander in the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, Aide de Camp to the Commanding General, and Officer in Charge of the Infantry Training Center. In 1974, he was assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps, where he was assigned as the Retention and Release Officer and Plans Officer in the Officer Assignment Branch of the Manpower Department.
Zinni again served in the 2nd Marine Division in 1978, as the Operations Officer of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, Executive Officer of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, Executive Officer of the 8th Marine Regiment and Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines. In 1981, he was assigned as an operations and tactics instructor at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College at Quantico, Virginia. He was next assigned to the Operations Division at Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps where he served as the Head of the Special Operations and Terrorism Counteraction Section and as the Head, Marine Air-Ground Task Force Concepts and Capabilities Branch. In 1984, he earned his master's degree from Central Michigan University. In 1986, he was selected as a fellow on the Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group. From 1987 to 1989, Zinni served on Okinawa as the regimental commander of the 9th Marine Regiment and the Commanding Officer of the 35th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which was twice deployed to the Philippines to conduct emergency security operations and disaster relief operations. Upon his return to the U.S., he was assigned as the Chief of Staff of the Marine Air-Ground Training and Education Center at Marine Corps Base Quantico.
His initial general officer assignment was as the Deputy Director of Operations at the U.S. European Command. In 1991, he served as the Chief of Staff and Deputy Commanding General of Combined Task Force Operation Provide Comfort during the Kurdish relief effort in Turkey and Iraq. He also served as the Military Coordinator for Operation Provide Hope, the relief effort for the former Soviet Union. In 1992-93, he served as the Director for Operations for the Unified Task Force in Somalia for Operation Restore Hope. Also in 1993, he served as the Assistant to the U.S. Special Envoy to Somalia during Operation Continued Hope. Zinni was assigned as the Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico, Virginia, from 1992 to 1994.
From 1994 to 1996, he served as the Commanding General, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. During early 1995, Zinni served as Commander of the Combined Task Force for Operation United Shield, protecting the withdrawal of U.N. forces from Somalia.
From September 1996 until August 1997, Zinni served as the Deputy Commander in Chief, United States Central Command. His final tour was from August 1997 to September 2000 as the Commander in Chief, United States Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. He organized Operation Desert Fox, a series of airstrikes against Iraq during December 1998, with the stated purpose of degrading Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program.
Zinni has attended the Army Special Warfare School, Amphibious Warfare School, Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the National War College. He holds a bachelor's degree in economics and two Master of Arts degrees, one in international relations and another in management and supervision.
Zinni's decorations include: the Defense Distinguished Service Medal; the Defense Superior Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters; the Bronze Star with Valor device ("Combat 'V'") and gold star in lieu of a second award; the Purple Heart; the Meritorious Service Medal with gold star in lieu of a second award; the Navy Commendation Medal with Valor device and gold star in lieu of second award; Navy Achievement Medal with gold star in lieu of a second award; the Combat Action Ribbon; and 36 unit, service and campaign awards. In addition to his U.S. military decorations, Zinni holds decorations from Bahrain, Egypt, France, Italy, Kuwait, South Vietnam, and Yemen, including the Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal (First Class); the National Order of Merit (France); the Order of Merit of the Republic (Italy); the Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm; the Vietnam Civil Actions Medal (First Class); the Vietnam Campaign Medal; and the Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait).
His son, a captain, currently serves in the Marine Corps.
"While Iraq's WMD capabilities were degraded under UN supervision and set back by Coalition strikes, some capabilities remain and others could quickly be regenerated. Despite claims that WMD efforts have ceased, Iraq probably is continuing clandestine nuclear research, retains stocks of chemical and biological munitions, and is concealing extended-range SCUD missiles, possibly equipped with CBW payloads. Even if Baghdad reversed its course and surrendered all WMD capabilities, it retains the scientific, technical, and industrial infrastructure to replace agents and munitions within weeks or months. A special concern is the absence of a UN inspection and monitoring presence, which until December 1998 had been paramount to preventing large-scale resumption of prohibited weapons programs. A new disarmament regime must be reintroduced into Iraq as soon as possible and allowed to carry out the mandates dictated by the post-Gulf War UN resolutions."
Zinni also warned about terrorism: "Extremists like Osama bin Laden and his World Islamic Front network benefit from the global nature of communications that permits recruitment, fund raising, and direct connections to sub-elements worldwide . . . Terrorists are seeking more lethal weaponry to include: chemical, biological, radiological, and even nuclear components with which to perpetrate more sensational attacks . . . Three [Iraq, Iran and Sudan] of the seven recognized state-sponsors of terrorism are within this potentially volatile area, and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan has been sanctioned by the UN Security Council for its harboring of Osama bin Laden. Nearly one half of the 28 recognized terrorist organizations have operational sites within the region. Afghanistan has emerged as a catalyst for regional instability offering sanctuary, support, and training facilities to a growing number of extremist elements."
In May 2004, his memoir, Battle Ready, co-authored with Tom Clancy, was published. It features stinging criticism of the planning for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and more specifically, the post-battle planning. In a widely reported speech at a dinner in May 2004, Zinni detailed ten serious criticisms of the rationale and execution of the war, summarised below:
His civilian awards include the Papal Gold Cross of Honor, the Union League's Abraham Lincoln Award, the Italic Studies Institute's Global Peace Award, the Distinguished Sea Service Award from the Naval Order of the United States, the Eisenhower Distinguished Service Award from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, The Chapman Award from the Marine Corps University Foundation, the Penn Club Award, the St. Thomas of Villanova Alumni Medal, the George P. Shultz Award for Public Service from the U.S. Department of State, and UNICO National's Grand Patriot Award.
In 2004, Zinni was singled out by The New York Times investigative reporter Diana Henriques for serving on First Command's board of advisors. Henriques alleged that First Command used its military connections "to lend credibility to their sales efforts". First Command defended its affiliation before the U.S. House of Representatives stating, "It would be unfortunate if anyone inferred that these honorable individuals would take any action or support any organization that did not act in the best interests of service members." The SEC and NASD concluded that First Command willfully violated the Securities Act of 1933 Section 17(a)(2) dealing with inter-state fraud. First Command settled without admitting guilt.
In 2006, Zinni argued that more troops were needed in Iraq in the context of preventing the then-budding civil war.
In 2007, he worked on a report entitled "National Security and the Threat of Climate Change" with 11 other retired military commanders. The report stated that global warming would act as a threat multiplier to global conflict.
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