Why We Fired Shinseski

English: Official image of Secretary of Vetera...

Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki

General Eric Shinseski was forced to resign from his position as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  In essence, he was fired and I think it makes sense to ask why.

Does anyone think removing Shinseski will correct problems veterans face getting medical care?  These are problems that appear to have been systemic for decades.  No, removing Shinseski will do nothing.  He’s the scapegoat.

The timing couldn’t have been worse for Shinseski.  We have an election in November.  Republicans — who don’t have any policy issues to run on — immediately embraced the scandal.  Democrats, not wanting to appear soft or give the PACs soundbites for the billions about to be spent on smear campaigns, joined in.  Outside of politics, there is nothing rational about this at all.

In fact, one might argue that Shinseski should stay to fix what’s wrong.  He is, after all, appointed to do that sort of thing, right?  One would presume so.  But it would be far less scandalous if a problem were uncovered and then fixed.

You could argue, too, that corporate CEOs who resign after a scandal — take Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel who resinged after Target’s data breach for example — should they resign?  Perhaps the real scandal in these situations is the massive compensation these guys get apparently to fail.  And when they do fail they are asked to leave the mess behind them and collect millions more.

No, all of this is about maintaining perceptions of responsible behavior rather than actually being responsible.  Back to VA problems, why aren’t we blaming the people who got us here in the first place?  We keep forgetting about the Iragi boondoggle.  A pointless, unnecessary war that cost billions and billions in unfunded expenses and thousands of lives and hundreds of thousands of injuries, just to Americans.  And then there is Afghanistan.  Same sad story there.  If we stayed out of unnecessary wars, perhaps we would not overwhelm the VA system.  Give that a thought.

General Smedley Butler (left) and New York Gov...

General Smedley Butler (left) and New York Governor Al Smith (right), standing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But the system is overwhelmed.  Congress has actually increased the Veterans Affairs budget in recent years.  Has it been enough?

Some leaders are looking at a mix of solutions, including an increase in funding.  This includes cooperation from Republicans, which will only make this an issue of scandal.  Republicans keep getting elected and the country falls into ruin.  November will say a lot about how and if the systemic issues get resolved.  Very simply, if we’re going to put people in wars we need to be set up to deal with the ugly aftermath.

I would argue that as guy’s like Shinseski get fired, the real culprits behind the scandal get off and in many cases even profit.  In 1935 General Smedley Butler, already one of the most famous men in the United States, made a name for himself by warning us that “War is a Racket.”  He pointed out the costs — and the profits — that war generated.  It would seem to me that we haven’t learned a thing.  The costs go unmet while the profits of war soar.  That’s the real scandal and you can bet that you will not hear much about that.  It is much easier to ask another general to fall on his sword and take the blame.  That’s why General Shinseski “resigned.”  Quite honorable, isn’t it?

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