Shinseki's revenge

The retired general, shunned by the Bush administration for being too prescient about the occupation of Iraq, is up for a Cabinet position.

By Alex Koppelman

Published January 14, 2009 5:08PM (EST)

Retired Gen. Eric Shinseki is on Capitol Hill Wednesday, testifying in a confirmation hearing regarding his nomination to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. It's a return to public life that looked all but impossible for him just five years ago, after a different kind of Senate testimony made him persona non grata with the Bush administration.

Shinseki's sin, back in 2003, was being entirely too accurate with his predictions regarding the occupation of Iraq. At the time, he was Army chief of staff. Not long before the war began, he testified, "Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required" post-invasion. "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."

This kind of talk didn't endear him to his bosses, like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who had always advocated for a smaller force. As the New York Times notes, Rumsfeld deputy Paul Wolfowitz called Shinseki's projection "wildly off the mark." The general was never able to regain influence in the Pentagon, and he retired -- on schedule -- later that year.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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