I'm not talking about Shinseki himself here, I'm just talking about the position.
So imagine my surprise when Republican House Rep Steve Buyer (who I have had praise for before) repeatedly called Secretary Shineseki "General." And to make sure everyone got it, Buyer went into this long song and dance about how he respected generals more.
Excuse me? Shinseki has a cabinet post. He is now a civilian working in a civilian government. For that reason alone, he should be called Secretary.
But for Buyer, that's not good enough. For Buyer, there's some effete about being a department secretary.
It was very insulting.
There was a move to call someone -- I think Michael Hayden -- by his military ranking after he was given a civilian post. I will never agree with him on most things, but I did respect him for correcting people who called him "general" by telling them to call him "Director." He was no longer in the military, he had the position of Director of National Intelligence, a civilian position, and he was as proud of his current position as he was of his past and sensible enough to grasp that the US wasn't a junta and "Director" was a highly honorable title.
Again, I will never agree with Hayden on most things, but I was happy when he did that and I was proud of him for doing it. And I'm still proud of him for doing that.
Eric Shinseki is the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. That's a wonderful position to have and one with many resposibilities.
Steven Buyer may not think so but that's reality.
And his insistence on saying "General Shinseki" over and over reminded me of when Jaqueline Onassis was married and some referred to her as "Jackie Kennedy" still. As if her current marriage was less and they wanted to telegraph how little they respected it.
I'm not a Republican and Buyer fans can kid themselves that's why I'm slamming him. But truth is, I have offered praise for Buyer before (and hopefully will again) but I'm not going to praise that nonsense today where he repeatedly rushed to imply that Secretary of a Department was no big deal and something anyone could do.
Shinseki is now the Secretary of a department, a Cabinet level post. Show some respect for the office and for a civilian government.
Buyer had to open with praise for Committee Chair Bob Filner. That's not a bad thing. I like him, he does a good job running a hearing. But long after Bob Filner had joked back, "You want me to have a heart attack right now?" Buyer was still joshing around. The hearing had started. And when the joshing was finally ditched, it was time for Buyer to insult secretaries of departments. (He does grasp that, right? He doesn't think Shinseki's at the VA all day waiting for someone to buzz him to rush over and take dictation, does he?)
Equally true is that it's not up to Buyer to decide what title to give people. Their title is their current post. If they have no current post and you want to use their former post, fine. But while they hold a post, that is their title with no exceptions.
Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Violence continued in Iraq today and some tried to mask it. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an attack mortars, gunfire and grenades on one Baghdad neighbourhood today was, according to the Defense Ministry's spokesmodel Mohammed al Askari, was "a normal one that could happen in any country." Right. I believe just yesterday, downtown Dulith was shelled with mortars, suffered gunfire and grenades. Hammoudi quotes cosmetic shop owner Maitham Abu Zahra stating, "I was in my shop when I heard the sound of the explosion. It was very loud sound followed by white smoke (that) covered market." Nada Bakri (Washington Post) notes 8 dead and nine injured, "A checkpoint was a few miles away, and many residents said they believed soldiers there had allowed the assailants to pass unhindered." Timothy Williams and Anwar J. Ali (New York Times) add 7 of the sodliers "assigned to the market" have been arrested.
NPR's Quil Lawrence (Morning Edition -- link has text and audio) reports that as Iraqi children return to school, "[m]any of Iraq's schools lack electricity and running water, but they will be getting something new this year: a history book that reflects the enormous changes the country has been through and includes historical events that were once forbidden topics." Quil leaves out what Xinhua and others have been reporting since school started: Overcrowding, lack of desks, lack of supplies, etc. A modern history book? How about a modern school?
FOR JUSTICE FOR IRAQ:
LEGAL CASE FILED AGAINST
FOUR US PRESIDENTS
AND FOUR UK PRIME MINISTERS
FOR WAR CRIMES, CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
AND GENOCIDE IN IRAQ
For immediate release
[Spanish] - [Arabic]
Date: 7 October 2009
MADRID: Today the Spanish Senate, acting to confirm a decision already taken under pressure from powerful governments accused of grave crimes, will limit Spain's laws of universal jurisdiction. Yesterday, ahead of the change of law, a legal case was filed at the Audiencia Nacional against four United States presidents and four United Kingdom prime ministers for commissioning, condoning and/or perpetuating multiple war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Iraq.
This case, naming George H W Bush, William J Clinton, George W Bush, Barack H Obama, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Anthony Blair and Gordon Brown, is brought by Iraqis and others who stand in solidarity with the Iraqi people and in defence of their rights and international law.
Iraq: 19 years of intended destruction
The intended destruction -- or genocide -- of Iraq as a state and nation has been ongoing for 19 years, combining the imposition of the most draconian sanctions regime ever designed and that led to 1.5 million Iraqi deaths, including 500,000 children, with a war of aggression that led to the violent deaths of over one million more.
Destroying Iraq included the purposeful targeting of its water and sanitation system, attacking the health of the civilian population. Since 1990, thousands of tons of depleted uranium have been dropped on Iraq, leading in some places to a 600 per cent rise in cancer and leukaemia cases, especially among children. In both the first Gulf War and "Shock and Awe" in 2003, an air campaign that openly threatened "total destruction", waves of disproportionate bombing made no distinction between military and civilian targets, with schools, hospitals, mosques, churches, shelters, residential areas, and historical sites all destroyed.
Destroying Iraq included promoting, funding and organizing sectarian and ethnic groups bent on dividing Iraq into three or more sectarian or ethnic entities, backed by armed militias that would terrorize the Iraqi people. Since 2003, some 4.7 million Iraqis -- one fifth of the population -- have been forcibly displaced. Under occupation, kidnappings, killings, extortion and mutilation became endemic, targeting men, women and even children and the elderly.
Destroying Iraq included purposefully dismantling the state by refusing to stop or stem or by instigating mass looting, and by engaging in ideological persecution, entailing "manhunting", extrajudicial assassinations, mass imprisonment and torture, of Baathists, the entire educated class of the state apparatus, religious and linguistic minorities and Arab Sunnis, resulting in the total collapse of all public services and other economic functions and promoting civil strife and systematic corruption.
In parallel, Iraq's rich heritage and unique cultural and archaeological patrimony has been wantonly destroyed.
In order to render Iraq dependent on US and UK strategic designs, successive US and UK governments have attempted to partition Iraq and to establish by military force a pro-occupation Iraqi government and political system. They have promoted and engaged in the massive plunder of Iraqi natural resources, attempting to privatize this property and wealth of the Iraqi nation.
Humanity at stake
This is but the barest summary of the horrors Iraq has endured, based on lies that nobody but cowed governments and complicit media believed. In 2003, millions worldwide were mobilized in opposition to US/UK plans. In going ahead, the US and UK launched an illegal war of aggression. Accountability has not been established.
The persons named in this case have each played a key role in Iraq's intended destruction. They instigated, supported, condoned, rationalized, executed and/or perpetuated or excused this destruction based on lies and narrow strategic and economic interests, and against the will of their own people. Allowing those responsible to escape accountability means such actions could be repeated elsewhere.
It is imperative now to establish accountability for US and UK war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Iraq because:
Every Iraqi victim deserves justice.
Everyone responsible should be accountable.
We are before immoral and unlawful acts, contrary to the basis on which the international order of state sovereignty and peace and security rests. Whereas the official international justice system is closed before the suffering of those that imperialism makes a target, through this case we try to open a channel whereby the conscience of humanity can express its solidarity with justice for victims of imperial crimes.
Ad Hoc Committee For Justice For Iraq
Hana Al Bayaty, Executive Committee, BRussells Tribunal
+34 657 52 70 77 or +20 10 027 7964 (English and French) firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Ian Douglas, Executive Committee, BRussells Tribunal, coordinator, International Initiative to Prosecute US Genocide in Iraq
+20 12 167 1660 (English) iandouglas@USgenocide.org
Amanda Nuredin, +34 657 52 70 77 (Spanish) email@example.com
Abdul Ilah Albayaty, Executive Committee, BRussells Tribunal
+33 471 461 197 (Arabic) firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) today introduced legislation to recognize the marriage of fallen U.S. Marine Sgt. Michael Ferschke and his Japanese wife who were married by proxy while Sgt. Ferschke was deployed in Iraq. The Ferschkes' marriage is formally recognized by the military but not the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) -- leaving the immigration status of Mrs. Ferschke in jeopardy.
Michael Ferschke and Hotaru Nakama were married by telephone on July 10, 2008, three months after the couple learned they were having a child. Sgt. Ferschke was killed in combat one month later. The couple's marriage is not recognized by DHS because it was never consummated as dictated by an outdated 1952 immigration law passed during the Korean War.
Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee joined Senator Webb in cosponsoring the legislation.
"Every now and then, there comes an issue that tells us a lot about who we are, and how we live up to our promised, great and small," said Senator Webb today in a speech on the Senate floor. "And particularly the promises we make to those who step forward and place their lives on the line in order to carry out the policies that we create."
Senator Webb's bill would allow Mrs. Hotaru Ferschke, who is currently here under a tourist visa, permanent residency in the U.S., a right granted to all military widows. Mrs. Ferschke and their 8-month-old son, Michael "Mikey" Ferschke III, are currently staying at the Tennessee home of Sgt. Ferschke's parents surrounded by photos and memories of the father Mikey will never meet.
The targeted legislation will have no impact on broader immigration policies. It will allow immigration authorities to recognize the Ferschkes' lawful marriage and, according to Senator Webb: "right a wrong for a Marine's family who paid the ultimate sacrifice for his country."
Death, rather than nation building -- that is what the US army has brought to Iraq and is bringing to Afghanistan according to former US army sergeant and anti-war activist Matthis Chiroux. He shared his views with RT.
For some, Matthis Chiroux is a hero. Others label him a US traitor. The 25-year-old is an army sergeant-turned-war-resistor, and one of roughly 8,000 US soldiers who have reportedly deserted the army since 2003.
He accuses the US military of having become a corrupt institution built upon spreading death as a response to nations' problems by means of conducting illegal wars.
"One hundred per cent, Afghanistan war is absolutely an illegal war under the same conventions that Iraq was an illegal war," Chiroux says.
"They are virtually the same thing," he continues. "They are both experiments in going in, smashing the country and trying to rebuild it in our own image as a trading partner. They are both about resources. They are both defined as illegal wars of aggression by the UN Charter -- that's something people don't understand."
Speaking of President Obama's decision to deploy even more troops in Afghanistan, the activist has said that "more troops in an illegal war aren't going to somehow make it inherently right or even winnable."