Sunday, 7 December 2008

Shinseki Tapped by Obama for Veterans Affairs

Today on Meet the Press, Obama indicated that he would appoint retired General Eric Shinseki to serve as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Here's what Obama said about Shinseki's career in his statement:
A graduate of West Point, General Shinseki served two combat tours in Vietnam, here he lost part of his foot, and was awarded two Purple Hearts and three Bronze Stars. Throughout his nearly four decades in the U.S. Army, he won the respect and admiration of our men and women in uniform because they have always been his highest priority. He has always stood on principle - because he has always stood with our troops. And he will bring that same sense of duty and commitment to ensuring that we treat our veterans with the care and dignity they deserve. A decorated soldier who has served at every level in the Army, General Shinseki understands the changing needs of our troops and their families. And he will be a VA Secretary who finally modernizes our VA to meet the challenges of our time.

All of this is undeniably true, and very much to Shinseki's credit. But unspoken in Obama's statement - though surely not far from his mind - were some other important fact about this brave General.

Prior to the Iraq war, General Shinseki was asked by the Senate Armed Forces Committee to estimate the number of troops that would be required to secure Iraq after the initial conflict. He estimated, based on his assessment of what the needs on the ground would be, that something on the order of "several hundred thousand" troops would be required.

Though honest and, as it turned out, painfully accurate, this was not what the Bush administration wanted to hear. The then Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz immediately contradicted Shinseki's assessment, calling his estimate "wildly off the mark." Shortly afterwards, the General retired - some claim under pressure from the Bush administration, which had come to consider him disloyal.

Congratulations to General Eric Shinseki on his new appointment (which I predict will sail through the Senate's confirmation hearings), and sincere thanks to him for consistently demonstrating courage on the battlefield and off. And it is heartening to see that following an administration that punishes honesty from it's most qualified advisors, we are soon to enter an administration that rewards precisely that honesty and skill.

Here's Obama's Meet the Press interview in full: