Sunday, December 07, 2008

Shinseki To Head the VA

Today, President-elect Barack Obama announced that Gen. Eric Shinseki will become his Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary. The nomination of the first Asian-American to the post — Shinseki, a Japanese-American, grew up in Hawaii — carries extra poignancy, coming on the 67th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks.

President-elect Obama confirmed that General Shinseki was his choice in an exclusive interview with NBC News, taped for broadcast on "Meet the Press." President-elect Obama called General Shinseki "exactly the right person who is going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home."

Watch President-elect Obama's official announcement here:

You may recognize the name General Shinseki. His name is forever tied in the minds of liberal progressives with the rush to war by the Bush administration. For General Shinseki is most famous for publicly contradicting Bush administration officials’ overly optimistic predictions about the war in Iraq. In 2003 he was serving as the Army’s chief of staff, and he told Congress that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to secure Iraq.

The Bush administration’s failure to heed General Shinseki’s warnings have truly been a disaster for the military.

Shinseki served two combat tours in Vietnam, receiving two Purple Hearts and four Bronze Stars. Shinseki has frequently worked with wounded veterans and visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center, referring to it as a “members-only section” since he too is an amputee. Some veterans organizations, such as IAVA, have already come out with high praise for Obama’s choice, saying that Shinseki is a man the military community holds in “high regard” but also note that he faces enormous challenges.

Watch President-elect Obama discuss his choice on Meet the Press:

Spencer Ackerman writes about this choice:

"To say this is an inspired choice underscores its magnitude. Shinseki's personal courage and virtue are close to unparalleled in the current generation of general officers. He knows the sacrifices of war personally, as he left part of his right foot in Vietnam. The new generation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans -- already underserved by the country that sent them to war -- can know that he has their backs. After all, before the war began, he all but ended his career (Rumsfeld had announced his successor months before after they feuded over the Crusader artillery system) by telling Congress that the indefinite occupation of Iraq would require hundreds of thousands of troops to keep the peace, far beyond the antiseptic and now-discredited estimates of the Bush administration. At his retirement ceremony, Shinseki gave a prescient and impassioned speech imploring the Pentagon to "beware a 12-division strategy for a 10-division Army."

Last year, an exemplary soldier named Paul Yingling wrote a scathing essay indicting the generals who acquiesced to the Bush administration's inadequate plans for the occupation. It was titled "A Failure in Generalship." Yingling accused the current generation of generals of cowardice, egotism, careerism and dereliction of duty, putting self-interested deference to the administration before integrity, intellectual honesty and service to both the frontline soldier, sailor, airman and marine and the country itself. Ric Shinseki was the man who stood against this unfortunate trend, and he paid for his integrity with his career. To see him vindicated is to witness a
proud moment in American history."

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