Once again, it's fact-checking time.
A Bush administration defender tried yesterday to support the embattled Donald Rumsfeld by again denigrating Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army Chief of Staff who had stated in prewar testimony that the occupation of Iraq would require several hundred thousand soldiers.
Shinseki is obviously a sore subject for Rumsfeld's defenders, given the fact that he was hustled into early retirement after stating his view (which contradicted Rumsfeld's smaller troop estimates) to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. So when former Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Richard Myers appeared on ABC yesterday, and the Shinseki testimony was brought up, he basically insisted that Shinseki had dreamed up his troop estimate on the spot.
Myers said: "I’m just saying that General Shinseki was forced to make that comment under pressure, pulled a number out.…He was forced to make — say a number. He said a number."
Myers was factually inaccurate. Shinseki had chosen that number because it was widely substantiated elsewhere.
For starters, here's Ret. Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who led the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq. He said on television the other day:
"You know, there’s a process within the Department of Defense, a very deliberate planning process which goes into each contingency and deliberately analytically develops war plans. It continues year to year. Our senior (Pentagon) leadership chose to radically modify 12 years of very deliberate planning with respect to Iraq. Previous planning identified the requirement for three times the level of forces that we committed into Iraq to take down a regime and then build the peace."
Another source: The bestselling book Cobra II, a detailed military history of the prewar planning. Pages 101-2, in particular.
Steve Hawkins, a brigadier general assigned to the Joint Staff and charged with postwar planning, briefed Shinseki during the same week that Shinseki visited the Senate committee. From the book: "Shinseki asked him how many troops he thought were needed to secure Iraq after Saddam was toppled. Hawkins said that no fewer than 350,000 coalition forces would do, and (possibly) half a million."
Most important, the authors concluded: "For all of the controversy, Shinseki's numbers were similar to those generated by CENTCOM," a reference to U.S. central command.
Fresh denigrations of Shinseki aren't likely to inspire the military dissenters to clam up.