A Tidbit More on General Shinseki

…and the PhD’s post. He was every bit the professional military officer and, for his honesty born of combat experience, treated abomidably by the ‘civilians’ he was sworn to protect. Whatever their disagreement, for the arrogant BASTARDS to do THIS was INEXCUSABLE.

There were a few empty chairs at General Eric Shinseki’s June 2003 retirement ceremony. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld didn’t make it to the event, which honored Shinseki’s 4 years as U.S. Army chief of staff and 38-year military career. Neither did Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, nor any of Rumsfeld’s other close associates. For a four-star general concluding a brilliant career, it was a major breach of protocol.
It was also no surprise, given Shinseki’s simple answer to a simple question a few months earlier. On February 25, 2003, as the general testified before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the looming war in Iraq, Senator Carl Levin asked him what kind of manpower he believed it would take to keep the peace in postwar Iraq. “Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required,” he said. It was the reasoned estimate of a lifelong military man who had lost most of a foot in Vietnam, had led NATO’s Peace Stabilization Force in Bosnia, and had commanded both NATO’s land forces and the U.S. Army in Europe.
But it was not the answer his civilian boss was looking for. Rumsfeld was then in the process of convincing Congress that the war would require relatively few ground forces. Shinseki could have parroted the party line, or hedged his answer to appear more neutral, but he didn’t. As Bill Clinton recently put it, Shinseki committed candor. “He was a darn good military leader but not a very good politician,” says Les Cotton, the sheriff of Navarro County, Texas, who served as a soldier with Shinseki in Vietnam.

Amen to that, Les. Where and how is the Neo-Cons’ dismissive arrogance toward a general officer’s intelligence and experience any less disgusting than the Clintonites’ loathing of the uniform itself?

44 Responses to “A Tidbit More on General Shinseki”

  1. Cullen says:

    Every soldier I knew who served with Shinseki loved him. I had a lot of respect for the no-nonsense way he approached things.
    However, I will never get over the black beret thing. That was a HUGE mistake.
    In the end, as you say, he was very wronged by his bosses.

  2. Completely despicable. His treatment and the natty headgear. But his treatment more so.

  3. Mr. Bingley says:

    Yeah, the beret thing was so…so…french.

  4. Mike Rentner says:

    I didn’t much like Shenseki because he brought the beret to the heads of everyone in the army. Not only is the beret distinctly unmasculine in appearance (dare I say gay?) but the beret was originally created as the head gear used as a uniform for the early communist movement. It seemed somehow consistent that a Clinton-selected general was forcing the army to wear a communist uniform.
    I suspect that there was more to this snubbing, but it is still deplorable and rude. And three years old news.

  5. And three years old news.
    (Which is pretty much the point of both posts, there Mike ~ no point in our Inquisition jokes either, if there’s a post relevance deadline involved.) And I don’t remember it (the snub) in particular being widely broadcast at the time. Do you?

  6. Cullen says:

    Well, I will defend the existence of the beret in U.S. military service. In the very earliest instances of guerilla warfare by U.S. troops during the American Revolution, many of them wore berets. Tankers, mechanics, cavalry and many other MOSs wore berets throughout the Army’s history. Until the Rangers were formed. They chose the beret as their organizational headgear in memory of Rogers’ Rangers, veterans of the French and Indian war.
    Interestingly, Robert Rogers’ offer of assistance in the Revolutionary War was turned down by George Washington because he thought Rogers might be a loyalist spy. Rogers, infuriated, joined the British organized and commanded the Queen’s Rangers and later formed the King’s Rangers.

  7. Mike Rentner says:

    THS, my comment about old news was meant to re-inforce the point that it’s a big deal and yet took so long for anyone to notice. I sure didn’t until you pointed it out.
    Cullen, I’d like to see some facts behind this claim that Roger’s Rangers wore berets. My sources tell me that it was first worn in southern France at the turn of the last century by communists, then adopted by the communists in the Spanish civil war. My sources may be wrong, however, tracing the history of hat styles is tricky.

  8. …might be a loyalist spy. Rogers, infuriated, joined the British organized…
    Sorta proved GW’s point for him, didn’t he? I mean he could have done the Francis Marion thing and been another Swamp Fox, but he joins the British ’cause he’s pissed? Excellent judge of character there.
    I hate berets. But I understand how special they were to the Rangers and that shouldn’t have been taken from them, different color or not.
    Did you know, right before Kcruella and I joined the Marine Corps, WM’s had a Uniform of the Day designed by some damn flight attendant or something. They were green SEERSUCKER(??!!) with a jaunty green beret ~ I sh*t you not. They’d just changed over to the female version of the male UD’s when I came in and thank God for it. The WM’s could still wear those nasty outfits for almost another year before the phase out was complete. Most WM’s ditched them the second they could get the new ones, but we had a very cranky friend who wore hers continually just because she could.

  9. (Oh, very well then, Mike. I’ll have to put away the special surprise I was working on for you…damn.)

  10. major dad says:

    Back in the late 70’s (76 to be exact) the USMC was looking at adopting a beret, scarlet in color with a gold emblem. Looked weird to me but some liked it. Thankfully it never went anywhere. THS’s account of Shinseki stem from some comments from me;I’m reading Assassins’ Gate by George Packer. I suggest it to all you out there.

  11. Oh! I found a picture ~ it’s called “Summer Seersucker” and dated from WWII! I’m thinking the beret addition vice the pisscutter in the pic came during the sixties.

  12. Mike Rentner says:

    After googling and wikipedia-ing, I retract my claim about berets being a communist symbol.

  13. Cullen says:

    Mike, admittedly, most of what I wrote is anecdotal. Passed down from every Ranger and Special Forces soldier I’ve known. Every image you see Rogers dicted in, he’s wearing a beret. Perhaps it is best said that the Rangers and SF afterwards adopted the beret because they believe Rogers’ Rangers to have worn them.
    As for the rest of the history of the headgear, the Army’s worn the beret in one form or another at least since the ’40s.

  14. Mike Rentner says:

    THS, your link didn’t work for me. Is this the uniform?

  15. PREcisely! (Dagnabbit, why didn’t it work for vous? Just worked for moi…)

  16. Cullen says:

    dicted = depicted
    Damn fast fingers of fury.
    I admit that I liked the beret. It looks very sharp with BDUs (don’t get me started on that cluster foxtrot that is the new Army uniform). But it was wrong to wear it. It was something distinctive to Airborne, Rangers and SF. You had to earn that beyond just getting into the service. Which, admittedly, isn’t all that difficult. Staying in, that’s hard.

  17. Nightfly says:

    Mike – I must retract with you. Everyone knows the annoying iconography of St. Ché, patron of motorcycling diarists: red beret, star, looks a little like Carlos Santana. Sort of ruined the look for every bohemian artiste to follow.

  18. Mr. Bingley says:

    Tripod images don’t link, Sis. They have some type of hot-link blocking software.
    And I agree, Mike, the berets look poofy. Why not completely update the uniform to strike fear into the hearts of our enemies?

  19. WHAT?!! The bastards. I’ll fix THEM.

  20. Mr. Bingley says:

    Eww, blech. Is that creme-de-menthe?

  21. Yes, yes indeed it is. I would have looked fetching in it, for sure, more’s the pity.

  22. major dad says:

    If you were relatively well porportioned,tall,stacked and a blonde that uniform looked pretty good. THS would have been killer in it.

  23. Mike Rentner says:

    Hmm. I never noticed how THS looked in a uniform, so long as it was neat and military in appearance. The matter of being stacked and blonde was never noticed by someone of my professional caliber.

  24. Mr. Bingley says:

    If one is “relatively well porportioned,tall,stacked” then I daresay you’ll look mighty good in a potato sack.

  25. Mike Rentner says:

    Okay, I just went and saw a picture of the stacked and blonde THS on her website to remind myself of what she looked like, and I have to say that I am one hell of a professinal Marine!

  26. major dad says:

    Nice save Mikey but we’ll wait till she reads this.

  27. major dad says:

    Cullen, do start on that rip off of a uniform the Army now sports. Have you seen the Navy version of the pixalated forrest?

  28. Mike Rentner says:

    Hey, YOU started it! 🙂

  29. cullen says:

    Maj. D, no I haven’t seen the Navy’s yet. I have heard about the Air Force’s — isn’t it blue?
    I ripped on the Army’s a bit here. I just can’t stand the color or design of the uniform. It’s ugly and unserviceable. JeffS ripped on it a bit too and said he was glad to get out of theater before he got issued them.
    I understand the tech behind the digital camouflage (now, after I made that post at my site), but what the Army’s gone with is just horrible. I wish we’d just used the Marine’s patterns.

  30. cullen says:

    One last point Maj. D, a little research and I came across this page. They refer to the Army’s digital pattern (ARPAT) as the Alternate Reality Pattern — pretty much sums up my feelings on it.

  31. The_Real_JeffS says:

    Actually, I have no problem with digital camouflage patterns; my issues lie with the practical aspects of the Army uniform. I expect major changes after a couple years of use in Iraq. I could be wrong, though. Depends on how willing the Army is to admit mistakes. But the Marines clearly have a superior design.
    Back on thread…..Shinseki should not have been dissed as he was. As a serving officer, he deserved better treatment, and I’m ashamed to see what happened at his retirement ceremony.
    But he shot himself in the foot, folks. Not with his opposition to Iraq war plans, although there’s evidence for insubordination there (right or wrong, the military answers to the civilian leadership), and that might have been a final straw. But Shinseki started long before that, and berets were the least of his concerns.
    My major problem with Shinseki is that he was an old school tanker. A fine leader, yes, but he was focused on armor and armored forces, and that’s where his priorities lay….even though the need for armored forces has declined since the Soviet Union collapsed. Witness the Crusader program that died a deserved death (the project, not our Crusader!). Although, to be fair, the Stryker is doing well in Iraq. But the Stryker was designed to keep up with the Abrams battle tank in an open battle, not patrol Iraqi cities.
    So his priorities did not meet the realities of war as we now know it. Even the run into Baghdad was not an armor-on-armor battle. Armor is decisive, but it is not the primary weapon. That is the soldier, with a rifle, moving on the objective.
    He should have been treated better. But I, for one, was glad to see his departure. Shinseki was the right man in the wrong job.

  32. cullen says:

    Jeff did you visit the link I put in the second comment? Admittedly, the source is not objective, but I think they make a good argument that the ARPAT pattern isn’t effective in either woodland or desert conditions.
    But. I could be wrong.

  33. Mike Rentner says:

    Camouflage: We have little need for camouflage in our current war. The item with the most visual impact anyway is the rifle. The black line of a rifle sticks out like a sore thumb. Our snipers have been spray painting their rifles overseas. Everyone else would love to do the same.
    Shinseki and armor: I don’t understand the attacks on armor as though it were obsolete. Didn’t we just win our last two wars with extensive use of armor? As someone who had to drive into hostile towns in Iraq, I can assure you our most valuable asset was tanks, and when we were supported by an army armor company of tanks and bradleys one time they were phenomenal.
    There is an obsession with the civilian leadership of the DoD to get rid of heavy equipment and pretend that some magic bullet of special forces can do everything. This is a fairy tale.

  34. Cullen says:

    There is an obsession with the civilian leadership of the DoD to get rid of heavy equipment and pretend that some magic bullet of special forces can do everything. This is a fairy tale.
    Very agreed, Mike. I think most SOC guys realize this also. But they are pretty hyped about being the lead agency in this war. You can tell they are playing politics.
    I don’t know that anyone has really argued that armor should go away. But they do seem to want to reduce our dependence on them, which I am sure is not smart.

  35. The_Real_JeffS says:

    Mike, I didn’t say armor is obsolete. Armor no longer dominates the battlefield as it did in the days of the Soviet Union. How many nations now have the huge armor forces that requires the force mix we had pre-1989? This could change, of course, but I don’t see the need for forces to deal with current problems (i.e., urban warfare and low intensity conflict) as an “obsession”.
    The problem back then (as I see it) was that people wanted bigger and faster tanks, and were willing to slash infantry and support forces to do. We were going away from a balance of armor/infantry/support forces into armor dominated forces.
    Tanks are wonderful, but they are not omnipotent. As an Engineer, I supported those beasts. There are places they can not go, and things they can not do. Sometimes you need infantry, not armor. But this is not the Army under Shinseki thought. To be fair, this was a major schoolt of thought in the Army for years. But he did personify it.
    So infantry and support forces took in the shorts. The Bradley was deployed, and it dropped the number of effective grunts simply because the crew of 3 was expected to stay in their vehicle, a major change from the M113 APC. The crew were re-classified infantry soldiers, so the overall infantry strength plummeted.
    And what do we need now in Iraq? Infantry, so badly that tankers and gun bunnies are being retrained as grunts before deploying. Engineers are doing infantry duty because that’s their secondary mission in the Army. Special ops have their place, but it’s infantry that’s really needed…..and what they are getting.
    You want an obsession, look how the civilian leadership sees contractors as the cure all on the battlefield. Logistically, this is not a bad move, although I have concerns about sticking civilians where trained soldiers were before. Not to mention the costs involved. But you ought to see how the construction contracts work in Iraq, work that Engineer forces used to do, and not all that long ago, I might add.

  36. The_Real_JeffS says:

    Cullen, I did read the link. Sorry, I should have been more clear. The Marine pattern is superior to the Army pattern — no question about it. It’s just that the Army pattern is better than the tri-color desert camies.
    But the Army wanted a “one pattern for all conditions”, and that’s where they blew it. Not to mention that the uniform design itself (e.g., velcro for God’s sake!).

  37. Mike Rentner says:

    Yes, I agree that you can’t over-indulge tanks at the expense of infantry. You always need infantry no matter what you do.
    I just think it is short-sighted the way the USMC and the army are getting rid of artillery and tank capabililty to get more infantry.
    Heck, the USMC is still 10% below its strength from the cold war when THS and I were in the FMF together, and now we’re in a war!
    It’s so bad that now the navy is beefing up its Master at Arms forces so it can send companies to Iraq to provide base security for Marine units. Can you believe that? The navy being the Marines’ gate guards? 🙂 The irony is delicious.
    But that’s what the navy gets for doing such a great job and completely and totally dominating the oceans. They’re now incorrectly considered largely irrelevent.

  38. The_Real_JeffS says:

    I just think it is short-sighted the way the USMC and the army are getting rid of artillery and tank capabililty to get more infantry.
    I agree completely, Mike. From my perspective, what’s even worse, is using engineers as infantry…..when other Army commanders in Iraq are screaming for engineer support. Also, a lot of other MOSs (e.g., cooks and mechanics) are being retrained as military police and/or infantry. It’s a major swing in the other direction, and it’s largely due to not having much flexibility in our forces. Supposedly, the “Expeditionary Units” coming on line will resolve this issue. We’ll see about that.
    I knew the Navy was pulling base security, but for Marines?!?!?!?!? Boy, I can taste the irony clear over here! Wow. Just wow. Some of my relatives (both retired Navy and Marine) will have conniptions over that.

  39. Mike Rentner says:

    The army is using women as infantry. They just call them MP’s but use them as infantry. It’s ridiculous.

  40. Cullen says:

    Oh, the Army’s been doing that since Desert Pt. 1, Mike.
    I am all for the flexible strike forces that Shinseki wanted, but I thought it was perfectly fine when then were called Cavalry Regiments.

  41. major dad says:

    The pendulum always swings too far and too late. There will always be a need for tanks be it for the wide open desert or urban fighting. Nothing shapes the battle space like arty. Just like they say we need all these SOF guys now, what they think they these guys fall off trees? That’s why there “special”, not your average dude. Rumsfeld’s vision is flawed I think, dedicated low-tech will defeat undedicated high tech. Be sure the Chinese are noting our decrease in armor, arty etc.

  42. The_Real_JeffS says:

    The pendulum always swings too far and too late.
    Ain’t that the truth. And, yup, the Chinese are watching this very closely, you betcha!

  43. Mr. Bingley says:

    The chinese certainly have infantry to spare…

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