I wrote earlier on the nomination of retired General Eric shinseki to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs, however in today’s Washington Post, former Defense Department spokesperson Lawrence Di Rita does the best job I’ve seen thus far of deflating the Shinseki mythos.
Like so much else we’ve seen with this Administration in the area of communications, this comes about 6 years too late to be of any real use but at the same time it tosses down a valid challenge to Shinseki, a challenge that any man of integrity would feel honorbound to take up. He asks Shinseki to simply set the record straight.
On Shinseki’s professional opinion of the initial war plan:
Here are some facts: First, Shinseki, as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, supported the war plan. The head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Tommy Franks, and his planning staff presented their approach to the Joint Chiefs and their staffs during the development of the plan. There was ample opportunity for the chiefs to express concerns and propose alternatives. There is no record of Shinseki having objected.
Shinseki also met with the commander in chief himself to discuss the plan. On at least one occasion at the White House, President Bush asked each member of the Joint Chiefs, including Shinseki, whether he believed the Iraq war plan was adequate to the objectives. Each said it was.
On Shinseki being snubbed at his retirement:
Much has been made of the fact that the secretary of defense did not attend Shinseki’s retirement. The retiree determines who is included in the ceremony. The secretary, when included, is there by invitation. For whatever reason, and with an explanation neither required nor sought, Shinseki did not ask the secretary to speak or to attend.
On the recommendation for “several hundred thousand” troops:
Even allowing that Shinseki was under pressure to respond to a U.S. senator after trying to avoid answering, his estimate turned out to be far from the number of forces actually employed. “Several hundred thousands of soldiers” suggests Shinseki believed 300,000 troops would be needed for post-conflict Iraq. As it happens, and Shinseki would have known this, as many as 400,000 troops were in the pipeline for use during major conflict operations. But nowhere near that number was used. After major conflict operations ended, the number that remained in country settled around 150,000 to 160,000 (about half of Shinseki’s guesstimate). Ultimately, commanders brought troop levels down to about 135,000 on the belief that a relatively lighter U.S. footprint would minimize the perception of occupation.
As the insurgency grew, and as Iraqi security forces grew in strength and capability, there was continual assessment and adjustment of the number of U.S. forces. In fact, at least twice before the January 2007 surge, force levels rose as high or nearly as high as the surge level of 165,000.
Di Rita is right. General Shinseki owes, to a great extent, his proposed cabinet position to the notion that he was a unique teller-of-truth in the run up to the Iraq War. During the confirmation hearings General Shinseki owes it to his country and to himself to state clearly and unequivocably his role in the Iraq war planning and lay to rest the mythology that has been carefully nurtured by the left and let the president-elect decide if he is still the man that is wanted at the Department of Veterans Affairs.