Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has been in the line of fire before

WASHINGTON — As Army chief of staff under President George W. Bush, Gen. Eric Shinseki infuriated Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by predicting that hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed in postwar Iraq — and was ostracized by a White House that was later forced by growing chaos to build up U.S. forces in the country to more than 160,000.

When Shinseki stepped down as chief of staff in 2003, a scholar from the Brookings Institution said that an honorable man had been put through "the meat grinder."

Now Shinseki, 71, is under fire once again, this time as head of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Allegations that sick veterans suffered while waiting to see doctors and that the agency hid the extent of the problems have provoked outrage on Capitol Hill, where the ordinarily taciturn Shinseki testified before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee last week that the situation made him "mad as hell."

Already his career has been the stuff of drama. As a young soldier in Vietnam, he lost most of one foot and part of the other but refused to retire as the Army wanted. He went through reconstructive surgery and physical therapy and ultimately rose to the Army's top job, chief of staff. Born in Hawaii to parents of Japanese ancestry, he was the highest-ranking Asian-American in the history of the military.

As chief of staff, Shinseki pushed his tradition-bound service on a difficult path toward transformation. But his four-year term was marked by repeated clashes with Rumsfeld over troop strength and weapons systems.

The most bitter of those clashes involved Shinseki's prediction, shortly before the Iraq War began in 2003, that not enough troops had been sent to Iraq to establish control there. He was pushed aside by the White House and was in a sense disgraced when he left.

But his prediction was ultimately proved correct. Several years after Shinseki retired, Bush, facing a deteriorating security situation and explosive violence in Iraq, committed more troops during the so-called surge in January 2007.

Eric K. Shinseki, 71

Born Nov. 28, 1942, in Hawaii

At U.S. Military Academy earned bachelor's degree in engineering ;commissioned as second lieutenant in 1965

Two combat tours in Vietnam

Earned a master's in English from Duke University (1976) before taking a position as an instructor at West Point.

Commanded NATO peacekeeping forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1997–98); Army chief of staff (1999–2003); named secretary of Veterans Affairs (2009)

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has been in the line of fire before 05/21/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 9:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, NY Times Syndication.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 24: A pilgrim reaches the Cruz de Ferro, an important milestone on the journey to Santiago


    Day 24: Foncebadon to Molinaseca: 20.3 km, 6 hours. Total for Days 1-24 = 561 km (349 miles)

  2. Sprint is reportedly seeking a merger with Charter, the nation's second-biggest cable company


    Sprint, the nation's fourth-largest wireless network, is pursuing a merger with the cable company Charter Communications, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

  3. Steve Cishek latest bullpen upgrade for Rays, who now must translate that to wins

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — The Rays made another addition to change the look of their bullpen Friday in acquiring veteran side-armer and former closer Steve Cishek from Seattle.

    Reliever Steve Cishek has a 3.15 ERA in 20 games after recovering from offseason hip surgery and a 1.86 ERA since a rocky second outing of the season.
  4. Ex-priest in Boston sex abuse scandal released from prison


    BOSTON — A convicted pedophile priest at the center of Boston's Roman Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal settled into an apartment in western Massachusetts on Friday, across the street from a children's dance studio.

    Paul Shanley, 86, has completed a 12-year sentence for the rape of a boy in the 1980s.
  5. Russia seizes 2 U.S. properties and orders embassy to cut staff


    MOSCOW — Russia took its first steps Friday to retaliate against proposed U.S. sanctions for Moscow's suspected meddling in the 2016 election, seizing two U.S. diplomatic properties and ordering the U.S. Embassy to reduce staff by September.