Saturday, December 6, 2008

Obama Picks Shinseki In A Not-So-Subtle Blow to Bush Administration!

AWESOME! Back long ago when the talk of war in Washington was that it would cost only $50 billion mostly paid for by Iraqi oil and we wont need that many troops to secure the country, one brave General stood up and bravely said we will need more. For that brevity, hew was shunned and awarded with 'early retirement.' Today, Barack Obama brings back Shinsheki as the new Secretary of Veteran Affairs - awesome move!

Sometimes war is just unavoidable, but perhaps next time we plan to go to war, before we lose thousands of brave American men and women, before we plunge trillions of dollars in some war that doesnt do much for us while our economy stutters, perhaps we will be more careful and ask the right questions.

Obama's cabinet is shaping up nicely, I am sure he has disappointed a lot of people on the left, but if you are in the middle you ve gotta love the picks from Clinton to keeping Gates. People on the right are just dumbfounded. After all, Obama was supposed to be this extreme liberal that will bring a liberal agenda to Washington and pal around with his terrorist friends - I wonder if Gates counts as one?

December 7, 2008
General Critical of Iraq War Is Pick for V.A. Chief

CHICAGO — President-elect Barack Obama has chosen retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki to be secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department, elevating the former Army chief of staff, who was vilified by the Bush administration on the eve of the Iraq war for his warning that far more troops would be needed than the Pentagon had committed.

In his choice of General Shinseki, which Mr. Obama will announce here on Sunday, the president-elect would bring to his cabinet someone who symbolizes the break Mr. Obama seeks with the Bush era on national security. The selection was confirmed by two Democratic officials.

General Shinseki, testifying before Congress in February 2003, a month before the United States invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime, said “several hundred thousand soldiers” would be needed to stabilize Iraq after an invasion. In words that came to be vindicated by events, the general anticipated “ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems,” adding, “and so it takes a significant ground force presence to maintain a safe and secure environment.”

The testimony angered Donald H. Rumsfeld, the defense secretary at the time, whose war plans called for far fewer troops. Mr. Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz, publicly rebuked General Shinseki’s comments as “wildly off the mark,” in part because Iraqis would welcome the Americans as liberators.

With the subsequent years in which Americans battled ethnic insurgents, and after President Bush agreed to a “surge” strategy of more troops in January 2007, General Shinseki was effectively vindicated and military officials, as well as activists and politicians, publicly saluted him. By then, however, General Shinseki had been marginalized on the joint chiefs of staff and quietly retired from the Army.

When asked about General Shinseki’s early troop estimates in an interview to be broadcast Sunday on “Meet the Press” on NBC, Mr. Obama said, “He was right.” At the same time, General Shinseki drew criticism in the postwar years for not pressing more aggressively for more troops before the war. In an interview in Newsweek in early 2007, he said of the critiques, with characteristic brevity, “Probably that’s fair. Not my style.” In the past, he would say to his associates, “I do not want to criticize while my soldiers are still bleeding and dying in Iraq.”

When other retired officers publicly called on Mr. Rumsfeld to resign, he did not.

The controversy made General Shinseki popular with soldiers in Iraq and veterans of the conflict who resented what they saw as inadequate troop strength. In taking over Veterans Affairs, he would inherit an agency struggling with increasing numbers of veterans with physical and mental wounds from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the many aging veterans of past conflicts.

General Shinseki, 66, who was the highest-ranking Asian-American in the military, also commanded the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia. Like Mr. Obama, the general is a native of Hawaii. He is a veteran of the Vietnam War, where he suffered serious wounds and lost much of a foot.

Rumsfeld critic Shinseki to head Veterans Affairs
By: Jonathan Martin
December 6, 2008 07:24 PM EST

CHICAGO — Retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki will be named as Barack Obama's Secretary of Veterans' Affairs Sunday afternoon in Chicago.

The surprise pick adds yet another heavyweight to the Obama cabinet, and also takes a not-so-subtle slap at President Bush's original national security team.

Shinseki served as Chief of Staff of the Army and retired a four-star general in 2003. Like Obama a native of Hawaii, Shinseki served two combat tours in Vietnam, where he earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Shinseki, who is of Japanese ancestry, becomes the first Asian-American in the new Cabinet.

He rose to prominence—and become something of a hero to the anti-war left— after he clashed with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz personally and professionally, especially on the Iraq war.

Shortly before the end of his term as Chief of Staff in 2003, Shinseki told a congressional committee that post-war Iraq would require hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops. Both Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz publicly scoffed at the estimate— a rare public rebuff to one of the nation's most senior generals. When Shinseki retired, no senior civilians from the Pentagon showed at his ceremony.

Iraq war critics later said it was Shinseki, not Rumsfeld, who turned out to be right about the need for more troops after U.S. forces suffered heavy losses in the post-war insurgency.

In an interview to air tomorrow, Obama praised Shinseki's judgement on the war.

"He was right," Obama told NBC's Tom Brokaw in a "Meet the Press" interview taped here Saturday, excerpts of which were released tonight by the network.

Obama also cited his shared his Hawaiian roots with Shinseki.

"I grew up in Hawaii, as he did," the president-elect noted. "My grandfather is in the Punch Bowl National Cemetery. When I reflect on the sacrifices that have been made by our veterans and, I think about how so many veterans around the country are struggling even more than those who have not served — higher unemployment rates, higher homeless rates, higher substance abuse rates, medical care that is inadequate — it breaks my heart, and I think that General Shinseki is exactly the right person who is going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home."

Shinseki served on active-duty for 38 years, graduating from West Point in 1965 and rising through the officer ranks until he became Vice Chief of Staff and then ultimately Chief of Staff in 1999.
Shinseki Slated to Head VA, Obama Confirms
Updated 6:50 p.m.
By Philip Rucker and Thomas E. Ricks
Retired Army Gen. Eric K. Shinseki will be introduced tomorrow as President-elect Barack Obama's nominee to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, a Democratic official familiar with the announcement said today.

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

Shinseki, a 38-year veteran, is best known for his four years as Army chief of staff, and in particular his response to congressional questioning in February 2003 about troop levels necessary to protect a presumed military victory in Iraq.

Shinseki told the Senate Armed Services Committee that "something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" could be necessary, an assessment that was at odds with the announced determination of Pentagon leaders.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld reacted by telling reporters that Shinseki's estimate "will prove to be high," and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz called the assessment "way off the mark."

Three years later, Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command and the chief architect of U.S. military strategy in Iraq, told the same Senate committee, "General Shinseki was right." And in January 2007, President Bush ordered tens of thousands of U.S. troops back into Iraq to stabilize and secure the country.

Obama concurred with Abizaid's view in the "Meet the Press" interview, saying of Shinseki, "He was right."

Shinseki retired in the summer of 2003, shortly after the fall of Baghdad. Neither Rumsfeld nor Wolfowitz attended his farewell ceremony.

Notably Shinseki led the Army at the same time that Obama's nominee as national security adviser, then-Marine commandant Gen. James L. Jones. Both questioned Wolfowitz's presumptions, before the war in Iraq commenced, about how the fighting would go, and they argued that Pentagon planning was being too optimistic and should prepare thoroughly for worst-case scenarios.

The politics around the planned nomination are intriguing. Shinseki has maintained a near-total silence since leaving the Pentagon. However, earlier this year, a letter he wrote to Rumsfeld in June 2003 leaked. In it, Shinseki criticized Rumsfeld for not letting the Joint Chiefs of Staff "express their best military judgment as often as they should." He also said that the way Rumsfeld and other top civilian officials ran meetings was "unhelpful."

Also, there long has been speculation inside the Army that Shinseki, who was severely wounded in Vietnam, is interested in running for the Senate when Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), an 84-year-old World War II veteran, decides to retire.

Shinseki, a 66-year-old native of Kauai, told the Associated Press in 2005, "I intend to move back to Hawaii. It's just a question of when."

Since retiring from the Army, he has joined the boards of Honeywell International and Ducommun, both companies focused on military contracting. He also is on the board of the Hawaiian companies Grove Farm Corp. and First Hawaiian Bank.


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