Defending the troop strength deception

Ever the staunch protectors of the beltway military establishment, the Washington Times' Gertz and Scarborough, reinforce the belief that now-retired General Eric Shinseki had told the powers that be in 2003 that a much larger invasion force would be needed to secure and occupy Iraq.

In Friday's Inside the Ring column, Gertz and Scarborough reported that Shinseki had been visiting the Pentagon this past Monday to be at the promotion of one of the General's former subordinates and friends.  Gertz and Scarborough however, couldn't resist repeating the popular myth about Shinseki's views concerning the troop strength question.  They say,
...the man who famously said a larger invasion force was needed for Iraq - and was shot down by then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz - was called in to help with an ongoing review of Iraq war policy.
This completely ignores the context of how the General's opinion came to be publicized and twisted by the media and congressional opponents of the administration.  And another thing; I didn't know Wolfowitz was the commander of CENTCOM in 2003 or ever.  I thought that guy's name was Franks.  Senator John Warner sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee and for his part, he says that,

...he could find no evidence that Gen. Shinseki ever officially recommended more troops to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, of which he was a member, or to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

For a detailed discussion of the troop strength issue, see my article from over a year ago.  Here are the main points which back up Senator Warner's account:

Gen. Shinseki never mentioned any misgiving about troop strength for the Iraq operation in his prepared statement.  He did say though, that the Army was prepared to conduct simultaneous warfighting missions in two regions, and was capable of participating in multiple, smaller contingency operations.  [If you are one of those who believe the Army is now stretched thin due to concurrent stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, how do you now reconcile Shinseki's confidence in conducting two major regional wars in 2003?].  He did say though, that the Army was prepared to and was capable of .  [If you are one of those who believethe Army is now stretched thin due to concurrent stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, how do you now reconcile Shinseki's confidence in conducting two major regional wars in 2003?]

Shinseki pointed out that the Army already had more than 198,000 Soldiers deployed to 120 countries performing missions that involved fighting in the Global War on terror (GWOT).  There were also more than 110,000 Reserve Component (Army Reserve and National Guard) Soldiers mobilized for active federal service at the time.
It was after his prepared statement that Senator Carl Levin set the General up to get his views on more troop strength for OIF out in the open - a strictly political move.  It was then that Shinseki said (subscription required):

"Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers [emphasis added] are probably, you know, a figure that would be required."

The question not asked by the Senate committee was: Well...uh, you know, uh... where are we going to get the several hundred thousand troops...uh, you know, to field in addition to the nearly 200,000 already deployed?  Uh... to my colleagues on the committee, you know, can we appropriate more funds for this?  Something that a bigger figure would be required, you know?

And if this wasn't enough skewed reportage, Gertz and Scarborough said that General Shinseki was "vindicated" in his views because CENTCOM Commander General John Abizaid told the Senate Armed Services Committee on November 15 that the General was correct that a larger invasion force was needed.  As usual, General Abizaid's testimony is not only taken out of context, but the Pentagon reporters play a little loose with the facts.

Here is the abridged exchange  between Senator Lindsey Graham and the CENTCOM

GRAHAM: Was General Shinseki correct, when you look backward, that we needed more troops to secure the country, General Abizaid?

ABIZAID: General Shinseki was right that a greater international force contribution, U.S. force contribution and Iraqi force contribution should have been available immediately after major combat operations.

GRAHAM: So both of you believe that more troops would have been helpful -- we're in the central battle -- one of the biggest battles in the war on terror -- is that correct?  Both of you believe that?  This is a central battle in the war on terror -- Iraq.

ABIZAID: The central battle is happening in Iraq; that is, by the definition of our enemy.

GRAHAM: And you agree with their definition?

ABIZAID: Do we need more troops? Then my answer is yes, we need more troops that are effective, that are Iraqi.  [Emphasis mine]

GRAHAM: Do we need more American troops at the moment to quell the violence? [emphasis mine]

ABIZAID: No, I do not believe that more American troops right now is the solution to the problem. [emphasis mine]

In other words, General Abizaid is being very magnanimous and diplomatic by agreeing with Shinseki's troop strength estimate conceptually, because in 2003 Shinseki never mentioned any international contribution or Iraqi force contribution in his "sort of, kind of" rambling answer to Sen. Levin's leading question.  Gen. Abizaid skillfully gets everyone back to reality by essentially saying that the initial troop strength imbroglio is water under the bridge.  Right or wrong, this is 2006, and not 2003.  To be successful, we need Iraqis; not Americans - get off this three year old political hit job line of questioning, and let's get on with the war.

Abizaid is not only correct in his operational assessment, but is steadfast in the face of an assault by beltway politicos and their journalist hit men.  Since Rumsfeld's departure was announced, the vultures have been circling over the five-sided puzzle palace on the Virginia side of the fetid swamp known as our nation's capital.  The last thing we need is flawed reporting on a Pentagon in desperate need of a huge dose of honesty if we are ever to expect anything close to victory over the Islamo-fascists.  Our nation's future needs a united front at home and in the field.
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