Tuesday, Dec. 02, 2008

Secretary of Veterans Affairs: Eric Shinseki

After his December 7th nomination as President-elect Barack Obama's Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki became living proof that one President's trash can be another President's treasure. The decorated veteran is most remembered for his controversial role as Army Chief of Staff in the Bush Administration. His testimony in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding the need for several hundred thousand troops in Iraq was challenged and dismissed as "wildly off the mark" by the Department of Defense. Spoiler alert: Shinseki ended up being right, but his public dissent of the Administration's estimate irreparably strained his relationship with his superiors. He unceremoniously retired in June 2003.

Fast Facts:

• Born in Hawaii on November 28th, 1942 to Japanese-American parents.

• Married with two children.

• Shinseki is the first Asian-American four-star general in US history.

• After graduating from the United States Military Academy in 1965, Shinseki took a brief break from the military life, earning an MA in English Literature from Duke University.

• Lost part of his foot during combat in the Vietnam War.

• President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz were conspicuously absent from Shinseki's retirement ceremony in 2003.

Quotes About:

• "The notion that it would take several hundred thousand American troops just seems outlandish."
— Former Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, on Shinsaki's estimate

• "I happened to be the senator that asked the question that produced the answer that got him shown the door. I thought it was tragic. It was wrong of the Bush administration to mistreat him the way they did...He gave an honest answer. He spoke truth to power."
— Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Head of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the aftermath of Shinseki's testimony

• "He was right"
— President-elect Barack Obama on Shinsaki's prediction of the troop levels needed to maintain the peace in Iraq

• "This is a big name and it shows that he [Obama] is not going to treat the Veterans Affairs Secretary as a low priority."
— Paul Reickhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, on how the appointment will boost veteran's morale

Quotes from:

• "Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required. We are 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. And so it takes a significant ground-force presence."
— Shinseki's testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb 25th 2003 on his troop level estimates in Iraq

• "Beware a 12-division strategy for a 10-division army"
— Shinseki criticizing the Bush administration's Iraq war strategy during his retirement ceremony in 2003

• "I asked my Grandma Shinseki what I should say before I came here. She told me, 'tell them you come from a good family...and tell them you're a good American soldier.'"
— Shinseki at the 2006 opening of a gallery in his honor at the U.S. Army Museum in Hawaii

• "I do not want to criticize while my soldiers are still bleeding and dying in Iraq."
— Shinseki on keeping a low profile after retiring from his Army Chief of Staff post in 2003

• "I can think of no higher responsibility than ensuring that the men and women that who have served out nation in uniform are treated with the care and respect that they have earned."
— Shinseki accepting his nomination as Secretary of Veterans Affairs

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