SEATTLE — Retired Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, the first foreign-born chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who counseled President Bill Clinton on the use of troops in Bosnia and other trouble spots, has died, the Army said in a statement. He was 75.
Gen. Shalikashvili died Saturday morning (July 23, 2011) at Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington state following complications from a stroke suffered on August 2004 that paralyzed his left side.
President Barack Obama said Saturday that the United States lost a "genuine soldier-statesman," adding in a statement that Gen. Shalikashvili's "extraordinary life represented the promise of America and the limitless possibilities that are open to those who choose to serve it."
The native of Poland held the top military job at the Pentagon in the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1997, when the general retired from the Army. He spent his later years living near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and worked as a visiting professor at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation.
Clinton pointed out that "Gen. Shali" made the recommendations that sent U.S. troops into harm's way in Haiti, Rwanda, Bosnia, the Persian Gulf and a host of other world hot spots that had proliferated since the end of the Cold War. "He never minced words, he never postured or pulled punches, he never shied away from tough issues or tough calls, and most important, he never shied away from doing what he believed was the right thing," Clinton said.
In a farewell interview with the Associated Press in 1997, Gen. Shalikashvili said American military and civilian authorities need to cooperate more when they decide to get involved in such trouble spots, because so much of what the military is asked to do involves humanitarian or peacekeeping operations.
Gen. Shalikashvili was born June 27, 1936, in Warsaw, the grandson of a czarist general and the son of an army officer from Soviet Georgia. He lived through the German occupation of Poland during World War II and immigrated with his family in 1952, settling in Peoria, Ill.
He learned English from watching John Wayne movies, according to his official Pentagon biography, and he retained a distinctive Eastern European accent.
He became a U.S. citizen in 1958 and was drafted months later. In addition to being the first foreign-born Joint Chiefs chairman, he was the first draftee to rise to the top military job at the Pentagon, the Defense Department said.