Shinseki, at the start of his tenure as VA Secretary, was tasked with determining whether or not his computer system would change -- one had to. DoD and VA were supposed to offer a seamless transition for those going from service member to veteran. How? They'd do it with electronic records. But the two systems couldn't communicate -- this was all determined before Barack Obama was sworn in for his first term as President of the United States. So one of the two would have to change.
Shinseki chose not to. He also sat on this issue that Congress poured billions of dollars into. He's been Secretary of the VA since 2009. This was supposed to have been handled immediately. Robert Gates told him to do what he wanted and the Pentagon would adapt. Then Leon Panetta became Secretary of Defense. He told Shinseki that whatever Gates had already approved was fine. And still nothing. Then Chuck Hagel becomes Secretary of Defense.
Something finally happens.
Hagel's not shedding any tears today over Shinseki's departure. Not after Shinseki tried to blame him to Congress.
April 11, 2013, Shinseki appeared before the House Veterans Affairs Committee which was irritated by the budget request coming to them late and not coming to them in full because, as they pointed out, what the administration submitted did not include all the costs -- even if you set aside issues of discretionary spending, the VA 'budget' request was a joke. Ranking Member Mike Michaud noted the money that was being poured into the VA -- others did as well but he's the one who asked for a status on the electronic health record. And this is where Shinseki chose to lie. There was no progress, he admitted, but that was because Chuck Hagel hadn't added any input.
What the hell was that? It's so high school cafeteria. Did he think it wouldn't get back to Hagel that the House Veterans Affairs Committee was vocal about the fact that there was no progress on this issue despite the funds provided for it in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and now 2013?
It had nothing to do with Chuck Hagel. Good for Hagel that he wasn't going to stay under the bus. He complained to Barack who had a sit-down with Hagel and Shinseki to ensure that a decision was made and there was no 'confusion' about the status.
If you're not getting what a little bitch move Shinseki pulled before Congress, grasp that Hagel was confirmed as Secretary of Defense on February 26, 2013. Not two months later, Shisenski was blaming a multi-year delay to starting the program on Hagel.
Did Shinseki inform Congress then?
He stayed silent. And nothing was said as fall rolled around. Then a few problems emerged, a few veterans weren't getting their checks. These semester checks would cover tuition, rents, etc. And a few were having problems. The VA immediately blamed the veterans and the educational institutions. Their mouthpiece on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Corinne Brown, announced she'd been watching MSNBC at three in the morning and it was time for these institutions to get their act together.
It wasn't the colleges.
And as a few veterans turned to many, finally in October, Eric Shinseki revealed that he'd always known there was a problem. He revealed that October 14, 2009 when he appeared before the House Veterans Affairs Committee. The press didn't care to report that revelation. Even those reporters who were present ignored it. For months after that, veterans continued to suffer. Some families had to postpone Christmas because all the money was being used to cover bills as a result of their still waiting on checks they should have received in August and September.
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The horrors of ISIS preempted any discussion of how the original US aggression, compounded by the routine brutalities of occupation, generated enemies worse than its initial ones. US policy-makers considered the central error to be not the invasion but the departure. The efficacy of the Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish-led ground forces in dislodging ISIS reinforced a preference for proxy war—a perennial imperial strategy—over large-scale US combat. That preference is perhaps the dominant lesson of Iraq drawn by the US foreign policy establishment.
By 2021, President Joe Biden, who had been one of the most important Democratic validators of the invasion, had secured a residual force without a clearly defined mission. Roughly 2,500 US troops are deployed in Iraq, with 900 more in Syria. Ostensibly, they’re a backstop against an ISIS resurgence, but in practice, they’re targets for Iranian proxies. Biden, his Republican critics, and the security institutions all regard this as more responsible than ending an imperial misadventure. Doing so ensures they can persist in a delusion central to their hegemonic project: that the world is a grenade and America the pin.