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In the News In From the Cold
December 7, 2008
“He was the only service chief that spoke out... And the message sent [back] is, "Do it my way or leave."”
"He was right," Barack Obama says of Eric Shinseki, the retired four-star general just nominated to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, and sadly it seems he was. In 2003, Gen. Shinseki told Congress that the war in Iraq would require "hundreds of thousands of troops," an estimate that far exceeded what Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was saying would be necessary. Gen. Shinseki, a decorated and admired career soldier, paid dearly for his candor -- within months he was sent packing -- but history appears to have absolved him.
In 2004, Producer Michael Kirk told this emblematic story in Rumsfeld's War, a riveting account of Secretary Rumsfeld's stormy tenure at the Pentagon, and its momentous consequences for the nation and the world. You can see the entire film, and a good deal of background material, on the program Web page. Or you can go straight to the Shinseki story, which we've excerpted here. As the excerpt begins, Gen. Shinseki has already tangled privately with his bosses over what has come to be known as the Powell Doctrine, which he supports and they most emphatically do not.
For the breaking news on Shinseki's nomination, see The Washington Post, which had the story first. Finally, for a further sense of the general's thinking (not to mention his foresight), here's an interview he did in 2000, for an earlier FRONTLINE, called The Future of War.