CNN Makes Case Shinseki Did Not Push for More Troops in Iraq

On Monday’s The Situation Room, CNN correspondent Jamie McIntyre conveyed a dissenting view of whether retired General Eric Shinseki, Barack Obama’s choice for Veterans Affairs Secretary, can accurately be described as having advised the Bush administration to send more troops to occupy Iraq. McIntyre: "But Shinseki has his critics, too, who say, in fact, he never stood up to Rumsfeld, never pressed for more troops for Iraq, and, when asked in a private meeting of the Joint Chiefs if he had concerns about the war plans, never said a word, according to two people who were in the room. Asked by Newsweek two years ago to respond to the criticism he didn't press his concerns, Shinseki e-mailed back: ‘Probably that's fair. Not my style.’"

McIntyre began his report: "The story that's going up around General Shinseki is that he spoke truth to power and was punished for it. But the facts suggest a slightly different, perhaps a little less complementary narrative. For better or worse, General Eric Shinseki's distinguished 38-year Army career has been largely reduced to these 29 words uttered in a Senate committee almost six years ago."

Then came a soundbite from Shinseki that he gave before the Senate committee, dated February 25, 2003: "I would say that what's been mobilized, to this point, something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required."

In contrast with other media accounts which leave the impression that Shinseki had actively pushed this view at the time, McIntyre characterized those famous words as an "off-the-cuff guesstimate" in response to a question from one Senator. By contrast, as previously documented by NewsBusters, on Sunday’s CBS Evening News, Dean Reynolds blamed the high number of U.S. troop injuries in Iraq on the Bush administration refusing to take Shinseki’s advice to send more troops to occupy Iraq.

Below is a complete transcript of McIntyre’s report from the Monday, December 8 The Situation Room on CNN:

WOLF BLITZER: He’s the first Japanese-American to become an Army Four-Star General, and would be the first Asian-American ever to lead the government’s second largest agency. The retired General Eric Shinseki, Obama's pick for Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Those facts aside, there are also some other questions surrounding General Shinseki. Let's go to our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre who's covered him for some time. What's the latest? Because he gets a lot of praise from critics of the Iraq war for standing up to Defense, supposedly standing up to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

JAMIE MCINTYRE: That's right, Wolf. The story that's going up around General Shinseki is that he spoke truth to power and was punished for it. But the facts suggest a slightly different, perhaps a little less complementary narrative. For better or worse, General Eric Shinseki's distinguished 38-year Army career has been largely reduced to these 29 words uttered in a Senate committee almost six years ago.

GENERAL ERIC SHINSEKI: I would say that what's been mobilized, to this point, something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required.

MCINTYRE: That off-the-cuff guesstimate just a month before the invasion of how many U.S. troops it would take to secure Iraq turned Shinseki into a poster boy for Bush administration critics. For years, they have argued the General's sage advice for a larger ground force was ignored by his civilian bosses. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his Deputy Paul Wolfowitz, who famously dismissed the high-end estimate. In naming Shinseki as his pick for Veterans Secretary, President-elect Obama seemed to be subtly rebuking Rumsfeld, calling Shinseki someone who always stood on principle.

BARACK OBAMA: No one will ever doubt that this former Army chief of staff has the courage to stand up for our troops and our veterans.

MCINTYRE: But Shinseki has his critics, too, who say, in fact, he never stood up to Rumsfeld, never pressed for more troops for Iraq, and, when asked in a private meeting of the Joint Chiefs if he had concerns about the war plans, never said a word, according to two people who were in the room. Asked by Newsweek two years ago to respond to the criticism he didn't press his concerns, Shinseki e-mailed back: "Probably that's fair. Not my style." But nobody disputes General Shinseki has had a distinguished military career, and now that he's serving a President who wants his advice and counsel, he has the potential to make a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of wounded veterans and their families.