FLASHBACK: Five Years Ago, Wolfowitz And Rumsfeld Were ‘Off The Mark’ On Troop Levels

In the run-up to war in Iraq in early 2003, General Eric Shinseki testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that it would take “several hundred thousand soldiers” to secure Iraq:

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. 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.

Just two days later — and exactly five years ago today — then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, swiftly and infamously dismissed Shinseki’s assessment:

Rumsfeld: What is, I think reasonably certain, is the idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces, I think, is far from the mark. [2/27/03]

Wolfowitz: But some of the higher-end predictions that we have been hearing recently, such as the notion that it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq, are wildly off the mark. First, it’s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam’s security forces and his army. Hard to imagine. [2/27/03]

Watch Shinseki’s testimony, followed by reactions from Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz (via The Invasion of Iraq by PBS’s Frontline):

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2008/02/wolfowitzshin.320.240.flv]

In a disastrous miscalculation, the Bush administration embraced Wolfowitz’s logic. Last year, however, Gen. John Abizaid admitted, “General Shinseki was right.” Five years after the invasion of Iraq, 157,000 troops remain deployed in Iraq. In August, the number of U.S. troops in Iraq peaked to its highest level — 162,000. Because of this strain, the Army is now stretched to a breaking point.

Despite these lessons, the right wing refuses to take off its rose-colored glasses. Yesterday on the Senate floor, Sen. Lindsay Graham said that the United States is “well on our way” to victory in Iraq. Earlier this week, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) claimed that the “war will be over soon.”

Joshua Fryer