Eric Shinseki

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U.S. Army General Eric Shinseki "graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1965 with a bachelor's degree. He earned an M.A. in English literature from Duke University. He has also taken the Armor Officer Advanced Course and attended the Army Command and General Staff College and the National War College. He received two Purple Hearts and four Bronze Star Medals for his service in Vietnam. He then served for more than ten years in Europe. Shinseki was named a lieutenant general and deputy chief of staff for operations and planning in 1996. The following year, he was promoted to general, later being made commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, the allied land forces in Central Europe, and the NATO force in Bosnia. In 1998 he was named vice chief of staff of the army, and chief of staff in 1999."

"He came into office in June 1999 with a clear vision for "transformation" and talked passionately about the army's need to adjust from thinking about traditional enemies to what he called "complicators", including both terrorists and the then little-known phrase "weapons of mass destruction". Gen Shinseki might thus have relished the arrival of a Republican team equally committed to change." [1]

"The general wanted a new kind of army, one that could combine the adaptability of light infantry and the power of heavily mechanised forces. His new bosses had other ideas. "They had pre-decided what transformation meant," said one Pentagon source. "It meant more from space, more from air and it didn't involve the army much. That was the essence of the[ir] conflict."
  • On August 1, 2003, Donald Rumsfeld replaced General Shinseki as Army Chief of Staff with General Peter J. Schoomaker after Shineski "questioned the cakewalk scenario, and told Congress (that February) that we would need several hundred thousand soldiers in Iraq to put an end to the violence against our troops and against each other." [2]

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz called his estimate "wildly off the mark" and said, "I am reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators, and that will help us to keep requirements down." By July 2003, "many experts say that the worst of the chaos in Iraq could have been contained if there had been enough troops on the ground from the beginning. There's a growing consensus that something close to what Shinseki suggested might be necessary to turn the situation around." [3]

"Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required," General Shinseki told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee today. "We're talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that's fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems." [4]

General Shinseki continued, "It takes a significant ground force presence to maintain a safe and secure environment, to ensure that people are fed, that water is disturbed, all the normal responsibilities that go along with administering a situation like this."
General Shinseki made clear that he was providing only his personal assessment of postwar needs, and that the final decision would be made by the commander of American forces in the region, Gen. Tommy R. Franks.

Mr Rumsfeld publicly repudiated him, saying he was "far off the mark".In semi-private, the Pentagon's civilian leadership was far more scathing. A "senior administration official" told the Village Voice newspaper that Gen Shinseki's remark was "bullshit from a Clintonite enamoured of using the army for peacekeeping and not winning wars". [5]

Then the general said it again. "It could be as high as several hundred thousand," he told another committee.

Controversy about Kerry comment

During the second U.S. presidential debate between George W. Bush and John F. Kerry that occurred on October 8, 2004, candidate Kerry incorrectly stated, "General Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, told him he was going to need several hundred thousand [troops]. And guess what? They retired General Shinseki for telling him that." Although it is correct that Shinseki's advice was ignored, in fact his decision to retire was reported in the Washington Times on April 19, 2002, nearly a year before his February 25, 2003 testimony. The Washington Times article stated that Rumsfeld "and Army Secretary Thomas White have settled on Gen. John M. Keane, Army deputy chief of staff, to succeed the current chief, Gen. Eric Shinseki. Gen. Shinseki does not retire for more than a year. Sources offer differing reasons for the early selection."

Oddly though, Mark Mazzetti in an article published by The US News & World Report stated that Shinseki's successor hadn't been picked as of June 16, 2003:

"The Army must face these challenges without a soldier at the top, since no successor has yet been named to Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, who retires this week. Shinseki and Rumsfeld have had a famously frosty relationship, and several Army officials say that with Rumsfeld at the helm, the post of chief of staff is not exactly coveted. As one Army officer puts it: ‘Anyone who steps into the job is going to have to be pretty damn thick skinned’." [6]

Nevertheless, Shinseki and others have made it clear that the decision to announce his successor more than a year before his planned retirement undercut his authority and reflected sharp disagreements between his and Donald Rumsfeld's vision of the Defense Department - disagreements which were not limited to specific troop projections for the Iraq War. As the Washington Post reported in October 2002, "The relationship, never close, hit the rocks when Rumsfeld let it be known in April that he had decided to name Gen. John Keane, the Army's vice chief of staff, as its next chief, 15 months before its current chief, Gen. Eric Shinseki, was scheduled to retire. This immediately made Shinseki a lame duck and undercut his ambitious 'transformation' agenda, which he had set forth in late 1999." [7] And Army secretary Thomas White was fired in April 2003 after expressing his agreement with Shinseki's assessment of needed troop levels in Iraq. According to USA Today, "Rumsfeld was furious with White when the Army secretary agreed with Shinseki." [8] In an interview after leaving the Pentagon, White said that senior Defense officials "are unwilling to come to grips" with the scale of the postwar U.S. obligation in Iraq, adding, "It's almost a question of people not wanting to 'fess up to the notion that we will be there a long time and they might have to set up a rotation and sustain it for the long term." [9]

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