Monday, December 08, 2008

Obama recruits critic of Bush's Iraq strategy.

Barack Obama has named Eric Shinseki as veterans' affairs secretary, which should go some way to assuaging left wing complaints that his administration has, so far, only been populated by centrists and former Bush appointees.

Shinseki was the man Bush let go after he claimed that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to keep the peace in Iraq, a claim which was openly mocked by Paul Wolfowitz, but which turned out to be true.

"No one will ever doubt that this former army chief of staff has the courage to stand up for our troops and our veterans," Obama told a press conference in Chicago announcing the appointment yesterday.

The choice of Shinseki could go some way in satisfying opponents of the Iraq war disappointed at the appointment of Hillary Clinton, who voted for the invasion, as secretary of state, and the decision to keep on George Bush's Pentagon chief, Robert Gates.

Neither Rumsfeld nor Wolfowitz even bothered to attend Shinseki's retirement, which was their way of showing their distaste for his opinions.

But Bush, by ordering the surge, in effect conceded that Shinseki had been right and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz had been wrong.

"It was wrong for the Bush Administration to mistreat him the way it did," Carl Levin, the chairman of the armed services committee told Fox television.

He said the choice of Shinseki was a signal that Obama would tolerate dissenting views.

Richard Shelby, a Republican Senator for Alabama, also praised the choice.

It could also shore up morale among veterans. The Bush Administration has been accused of underestimating the numbers of wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The one thing that Obama cannot be accused of is avoiding dissenting views within his team. He appears to genuinely want to hear the opinions from all sides before he makes the final decision.

I've said it before but it all seems so grown up compared to what we've witnessed during the reign of Shrub. It's like he's composing a government made up of adults, which is such a novelty compared with the last lot.

Click title for full article.


Ingrid said...

my husband works for the VA and he was quite surprised by the choice. It seemed a choice based on Shineski's previous action, rather than the possibility of him being a good VA head based on merit. The better contenders would've been Max Cleland and Tammy Duckworth. This feels a bit like a consolation price. Tammy Duckworth would've been a really good choice.


Kel said...

I suppose the argument would be that Shinseki did not hesitate to speak truth to power and that the hope is that he will do the same for the sake of the Veterans.

Ingrid said...

I don't really buy that though. To lead an organization, understanding 'delivery systems' (sorry, my husbands lingo although he's not negative about this appointment, but it came from left field for a lot of VA people) etc, leading an org like that is still a different capacity. For example, Tammy Duckworth is the head of the Illinois VA, she would've been a natural to head up the same organization but at a federal level.

just my own thoughts ..


Kel said...

Thanks Ingrid. Don't you also think that he's using this appointment to offer some kind of token to those on the left who have been critical of the fact that he has stuck, so far, to the centre ground or the right?

Ingrid said...

Kel, could be. But then, he'd have to do that in a more 'visible' arena than the VA I think. I'm really surprised that at this point, before officially taking office, he made the choices that he did. Now he did not have much perhaps to choose from, in terms of genuine anti-war senators/representatives but still..
I'm disappointed already and that is understanding that he cannot please all..the direction is not change..I hope for the best for the VA as there are so many veterans with brain traumas and combat related ptsd.. how is that in the UK? I've always wondered about their treatment of their veterans..

Kel said...

Obama recently made the point that change will come from the policies which he implements and that it would be very odd if, with America facing it's worst financial crisis in decades, he started hiring people with no experience.

I am not disappointed, I will wait and see what he does once inaugurated rather than judge him now.

As for treatment of veterans over here, there have been a lot of complaints.

I covered it here.