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Passings | William E. Odom

Army intelligence official, war critic

June 06, 2008|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

William E. Odom, 75, a retired Army lieutenant general who was a senior military and intelligence official in the Carter and Reagan administrations, died May 30 of an apparent heart attack at his vacation home in Lincoln, Vt., family members said.

A career officer, Odom was a scholar of international relations and a leading authority on the Soviet Union. He was the military assistant to Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security advisor and director of the National Security Agency during President Reagan's second term.

In recent years, Odom became a forceful critic of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which was something of a surprise because of his reputation as a military hard-liner who rejected any thought of compromise with the Soviet Union.

"Among senior military people, he was probably the first to consider the war in Iraq a misbegotten adventure," Brzezinski told the Washington Post. "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."

Odom was born June 23, 1932, in Cookeville, Tenn., and was a 1954 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. After serving as an infantry and armor officer, he earned a master's degree at Columbia University. He later returned to Columbia, where he earned a doctorate in comparative politics. He spent time teaching at the academy and served as a military attache at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

He spent four years in Army intelligence before being named director of the National Security Agency in 1985.

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