Monday, December 15, 2008

Lawrence Di Rita on Shinseki

In a nutshell, Di Rita, who was Donald Rumsfeld's flak in the Pentagon, argues that General Eric Shinseki was not snubbed by Rumseld, that he supported the Iraq war plan, that he was wrong about the number of troops needed in Iraq (his suggestion was dismissed in 2003 as “wildly off the mark”), and that he should correct the record.

"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."

This is why Di Rita's commentary is disingenuous:

  • Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and others dismissed out of hand the assertion that more troops would be needed, and were publicly dismissive of the assertion.  Rumsfeld held to his position even after early evidence suggested that the U.S. did not have enough troops to occupy Iraq. In fact, Rumsfeld cancelled some planned deployments in the early months of occupation.  It is true that Shinseki in effect saluted and kept his mouth shut, but he did so in an environment where dissent was punished.  (Nonetheless, my view is that he should have fallen on his sword; that is the duty of dissenting senior officials.)
  • Di Rita tries to deflect the well-founded charge that the U.S. did not deploy an adequate occupation force by claiming that 400,000 were in the pipeline and noting that the long-term troop deployment settled at 150,000 or so.  Given the horrific violence and terrible losses suffered by occupation forces as well as Iraqi civilians, it is bizarre to imply that the war planners anticipated correctly the long term challenges that would confront the occupation force.  As for the "pipeline", Rumsfeld was intent to close it.
  • The risible suggestion that Shinseki did not invite the Secretary of Defense to attend or speak at his retirement ceremony ignores the fact no senior representative of the Secretary was present at the ceremony.  Senior serving officers (old friends of mine) understood that Shinseki was being snubbed, as I surmise Shinseki understood as well.
  • Finally, Shinseki's retirement (in June 2003) was announced more than a year in advance by the Defense Department (Di Rita was the head of Public Affairs at the time), making the Army Chief of Staff a lame duck even as he testified in February 2003 about troop needs in Iraq.  In other words, Shinseki had already been amply tutored about Rumseld's tolerance for dissent.  (Recall also that the Secretary of the Army Thomas White, who also challenged the Rumsfeld line and supported Shinseki's anticipation of troop requirements, was canned by Rumsfeld in May 2003.)


Anonymous said...

DaRita's op-ed read to me like a mafia threat: Tell our story or else. It is, in fact, much more about Rumsfeld than it is about Shinseki, and about maintaining the Rumsfeld myths, which I'm fairly certain, only right wing neo-cons believe. Shinseki did what he was supposed to do, even if reluctantly. When asked a question by a member of the US Senate, he rsponded with his best military judgement, rather than the party line. That's what he got snubbed for.

KP44 said...

I am so glad I am not the only one who thought Di Rita was a bag man for Rumsfeld. Talk to any Marine who was in action in 2003 and they will tell you how they were not allowed to secure Tikrit and other positions due to a shortage of troops. They wound up taking the same ground over and over again.

This is what happens when warriors like Shinseki and Powell are ignored and a five-time draft evader and a weekend warrior that could not qualify in his bird are allowed to run a war.