December 8th, 2008
09:18 PM ET

Myth of Shinseki lingers

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/12/08/obama.shinseki/art.shinseki.gi.jpg caption="Retired Gen. Eric Shinseki was selected by President-Elect Barack Obama to be his Secretary of Veterans Affairs."]Editor's Note: The nomination of retired Army Chief Gen. Eric Shinseki to be secretary of veterans affairs is widely seen as an appointment with a message, since Shinseki ran afoul of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But CNN Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre has the inside story of how Shinseki's reputation as a "truth-teller" has been burnished beyond what the facts support.

Jamie McIntyre
CNN Senior Pentagon Correspondent

In fairness to Gen. Eric Shinseki, he's never said "I told you so."

But many others have elevated his now-famous February 2003 testimony to the level of Scripture.

Shinseki was right, they say, when he told the Senate Armed Services Committee a month before the invasion that something on the order "several hundred thousand troops" would be necessary to keep order in a post-invasion Iraq.

At the time, that observation drew loud scoffs from then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and from his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, who dismissed the prediction as "wildly off the mark."

Still, Shinseki wasn't advocating 300,000 troops be dispatched into Iraq. In fact, he said specifically that the forces mobilized in the region to that point were probably enough, and he made it clear he would have defer to the combatant commander, Gen. Tommy Franks.

"I would have to rely on combatant commanders' exact requirements," he said.

But pressed by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, to make an off-the-cuff guesstimate, Shinseki said "it would take a significant ground force."


Filed under: Barack Obama • Jamie McIntyre • Raw Politics
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. JD

    I'm all for challenging myths, but this is lame.

    McIntyre grudgingly acknowledges that Shinseki said things in Congress that annoyed his superiors, but argues that he was deferential to them in private. Even if that is true, he may have just figured that challenging them in public made any further criticism redundant. They had obviously already taken notice.

    The idea that Rumsfeld was mad at him about the berets seems naive. Obviously Rummy would never admit that he was mad at Shinseki for publicly embarrassing him. The beret business seems like a pretext for venting his anger.

    December 9, 2008 at 7:04 pm |
  2. JN

    Confusing article: It states emphatically the the general did indeed suggest a larger force, then it says he didn't speak up. We know he spoke up because we know he suggested a larger force. Obviously, his feelings were known by higher-ups or we wouldn't be having this discussion. He seems a great pick. I would rather spend more time denouncing that arrogant, non-reasoning Rumsfield than trying to pick apart a man who has served his country well by saying the inconvenient truth.

    December 9, 2008 at 4:41 pm |
  3. John Stumbo

    I served under, then Col. Shinseki, when he was Commander of 2nd BDE. 3rd ID in the late 80's. I went to the field under his command and never once thought he had anything other than his troops best interests in mind. I appreciated his service then, and I believe in what he has accomplished since then. For a military man that had most of his foot blown off in combat, to have achieved the career that he has, and kept the level of dignity he has, it's truely incrediable.

    Honor and Integrity, strongs words associated with a strong person.

    December 9, 2008 at 3:59 pm |
  4. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    The Iraq Study Group was also ignored by Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney and his attorneys. If Bush had the intelligence needed we wouldn't be in this terrible situation today. Bush had all the information needed from the right people and as a result Bush chose to dismiss Gen. Shinseki from duty due to Rumsfeld, Cheney and his attorneys.

    December 9, 2008 at 12:01 pm |
  5. 3rd AD Vet

    Cooper and McIntyre are headed down the tabloid path with this type of story. We don't need media hypes to inflate the reputations of our leadership, but the apparent desire to smear public figures is gutter journalism at best. In fact, what can Cooper or McIntyre lay claim to in their professional life that even compares with Shinseki's achievements?

    Shinseki is a great pick for the VA because he exemplifies qualified and caring leadership. Cooper and McIntyre wouldn't make good pimples on the general's behind.

    December 9, 2008 at 10:42 am |
  6. Charles Greene

    Gen. Shinseki's reputation for frankness may be getting" burnished". However, he brings other "qualifications" to the VA position. One being that he had a foot blown off in Vietnam and has worn a prothesis ever since. I'm sure he will bring a new sense of service and compassion for Veteran's.

    December 9, 2008 at 10:21 am |
  7. Mike

    What some neglect to recognize about General Shinseki's "bad" choices:

    1. The change to black berets for the regular army did miff the Rangers but it was also a good recruiting tool.

    2. The change from the M1 Abrams main battle tank to the Stryker vehicle. Many felt that the M1 was indestructible and should never had been replaced. However, Gen Shinseki had the foresight to realize that the war of the future would be fought in cities and not the wide open spaces of the past. A smaller, more maneuverable vehicle would be needed.

    3. He did state that more troops would be needed but didn't "do" anything more about it. That is the Army way. You control what you can control. Gen Shinseki could have micromanaged but then he would be making the same mistake that occured in Vietnam – those on the ground that have the best, most up-to-date intelligence need to make the calls. Once the REMF's start overriding their decisions it affects troop morale as a whole and publicly shows that you have no confidence in your leaders.

    About the only thing bad that I can see that Gen Shinseki did was introduce the Army of One. Take as it was meant – "we are one Army", one team. Too many took it to mean that "its all about me". Bad marketing possibly, but in my opinion as a former Army officer, it was the only bad mistake I honestly think he made.

    December 9, 2008 at 9:57 am |
  8. Larry L.

    Jamie McIntire,

    You wrote:Shinseki was right, they say, when he told the Senate Armed Services Committee a month before the invasion that something on the order “several hundred thousand troops” would be necessary to keep order in a post-invasion Iraq.

    I'm thinking"post-invasion" has nothing to do with the "Surge"that was ordered later with the additional troops.

    December 9, 2008 at 4:34 am |

    there are myths of shinseki because, people want to know more about him....

    December 9, 2008 at 1:30 am |
  10. Keith Kamisugi

    As a fan of Shinseki’s with an admitted bias towards him, reading pieces like McIntyre’s and the one by TIME’s Mark Thompson makes me defensive.

    But it's a little simplistic to say that Shinseki should have resigned if the president wasn’t listening. In a complex organization, a champion for change doesn’t simply resign because his advice isn’t heeded. A leader must consider the most responsible choices that benefit the people he or she serves, in this case the soldiers and the American people.

    December 8, 2008 at 11:49 pm |

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