In making the Cabinet Appointment of Retired General Eric Shinseki as Secretary for Veterans Affairs, President-Elect Obama emphatically did the right thing. First, it sent a clear signal to all of the complicitous Bush Administration officials, particularly ex-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who forced the general into retirement, that General Shinseki was right about a number of things regarding the Iraq invasion:
1)the troop levels needed to be northward of 200,000 men;
2)the conflicting factions and ethnic groups in Iraq could spill into open civil conflicts;
3)occupation and control of the country would be a huge task.
Second, by Obama saying that “he was right”, it helped to restore the honor and credit due to General Shinseki for taking a principled stand on the Iraq War. Think of this as a commendation for expressing a divergent opinion – something that Barack Obama is reportedly cultivating in his Cabinet appointments. Third, and most importantly, it allows the General to apply his intelligence to a dire problem – the lip-service-only if not downright callous treatment of veterans by the Department of Defense and the Bush Administration. But the task is huge – nearly 50,000 have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan alone in the past 5 years. There are significant backlogs in getting approvals for medical and educational support. Yet as a group, veterans have higher rates of unemployment, illness, and suicides relative to the general population. A formidable task set for a formidable man.