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Monday, July 28, 2014

BLESSED FRANZ, HELP US STOP TRUSTING WAR

s long as we continue to claim that our recent wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, ... were just and good projects of who we are as a people, we condemn ourselves to repeat tragic unnecessary violence. The war we left behind in Iraq rages on, as it will in Afghanistan.  Violence once again burns out of control in the Middle East. In Libya, where all our bombs and bullets intervention have left only lawless militias in charge, we've just had to evacuate all our embassy personnel and their Marine guards.  They went to Tunisia, the country that initiated Arab Spring's nonviolent movement for change that succeeded there.  After Tunisia all the weaponeers of the world rose up to nip that Spring in the bud, as it tried to reach neighboring countries.  We reap only bad harvests from this conviction, might makes right, guns are like gods.

There is another way.  The way that follows Jesus in his nonviolent love of friends and enemies, the solving of conflict by the belief that death is not the end, only love conquers evil.  We have many heroes of faith to remind us of this eternal life and love.  One is Blessed Franz Jagerstatter.  A Novena of prayer for his intercession to help end all wars begins at our Holy Trinity parish this Friday, August 1st, till August 9th, a day that also commemorates his execution by the Nazis because he wouldn't fight for them.

More of his story is included below.  Please join in the Novena [prayer at this site] for the conversion of the world to Jesus' way of courageous nonviolent peacemaking.



Blessed Franz Jagerstatter – The Family Man Who Wouldn't Fight in Hitler's Wars
Franz Jagerstatter, an Austrian Catholic who was executed on August 9, 1943 by the German Reich because he would not fight in Hitler’s unjust wars, has been recently recognized as on the path to sainthood.  Franz was beatified on October 26, 2007 in Linz, Austria.  He was a loving husband and father of four small children, a peasant farmer, and a sacristan at the local church.  He knew the wars of Hitler were unjust, and that faith in the Fatherland was taking the place of faith in God.  He couldn’t understand why more German Christians didn’t see this danger.  Pope Benedict XVI who is from the adjacent Bavarian region of Germany, neighbor to where Franz grew up in Austria, has met with Franz’ widow Franziska, helping to shepherd this beatification.
 
Franz was born in the small farming village of St. Radegund near Linz, Austria on May 20, 1907.  Due to the poverty of his parents {servants too poor for marriage}, he was raised during early childhood, in the home of his grandmother who had 13 children of her own.  He was as hungry for learning as for food, both which were limited in those days.  His natural father died in World War I.  When his mother did marry in 1917, he found more opportunity for learning, with a good library in the farmhouse.  From early on a lover of books, Franz later advised his godson, "People who don't read will never be able to stand on their own feet and will all too easily become a football for the opinions of others."

The driving lessons were a welcome interruption of the army basic training. Winter 1940/1941 under extreme weather conditions.
Franz Jagerstatter in basis training--deployment he later refused.


As a young man he is remembered as fun-loving and popular, went to dances and the pubs, owned the first motorcycle in town, sometimes a “Raufer” [brawler], and also took part in the yearly Passion Play.  In his Catholic region this play was thought equal to Oberammergau’s.  He’d had a child out of wedlock, the mother’s family wouldn’t allow marriage, but he remained a supportive loving father, very unusual for those times.  Franz went then to mass regularly and attended social events at church, where he met his wife Franziska. She was a great joy and inspiration for him. They had three small daughters to whom he was dearly devoted, and they together operated the family farm.

he Jagerstatters continued attending daily mass and were well respected in the village. Yet some thought they were carrying things too far in their criticism of the Third Reich.  The family rejected the state’s social aid payments, and then Franz refused to report for army duty, when called up, after basic training, a second time.  For this he was jailed in March 1943 and sentenced to death that summer.  He could see clearly that Hitler’s wars were unjust, and knew that he was one of those given the grace to resist this evil.

Franz had been in prayer constantly the six months he’d been in jail, praying the scriptures and the rosary.  On the day of his execution, a priest at the prison, Fr. Jochmann, offered spiritual readings. With an unforgettable joy in his eyes, Franz replied, “I am completely bound in inner union with the Lord, and any reading would only interrupt my communication with my God.”  The priest later stated, “I say with certainty that this simple man is the only saint that I have ever met in my lifetime.”

On August 9, 1943 he was beheaded in Berlin.  His consolation was his trust in God, and the promise that his family would be reunited in heaven.  Now in our time of terrible war without end, Franz is a shining example of faith in the Gospel life, conquering death by refusing to kill.

Edited from a previously published article in Ligourian magazine, by Michael McCarthy 



References
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/07/26/libyan-embassy-evacuated/13195671/
http://mccarthysweekly-paxvobiscum.blogspot.com/2012/06/2012-blessed-franz-jagerstatter-novena.html

Illumination by Kathy Brahney


Monday, July 21, 2014

REFUGEE KIDS ON OUR DOORSTEP - MATTHEW 25 THE ANSWER

The map shows the number of unaccompanied children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border by origin (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras) from January 1 to May 14, 2014. Over 2,200 children, the largest number, came from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the city with the highest murder rate in the world according to latest rankings from Mexico's Citizen Council for Public Safety and Justice.
Recent reader comments in our local paper suggest that Rep. Candice Miller’s approach to the surge of Central American children at our Southern border is best.  Just cut off all aid to those countries until their people stop trying to crash our gate.   I find myself apparently in agreement with Rep. Miller, if she is in earnest—all aid, including the military and drug enforcement funds which are the bulk of what we've offered Central America in the past.   She is not specific in her statement [see her newsletter 6-24-14]   If this were to really happen, at least the violence spurred by military operations in those countries would lessen, and perhaps families in those regions could resume hopes for their children’s’ futures, at home.

She begins with an important point, “Unfortunately, Central America has had a long history of bad economies and violence.”  But she neglects to elaborate on our contribution to the problem.

emember the Iran Contra Wars against Nicaragua, where we even sold missiles to terrorist Iran to raise dollars to fight this clandestine war that Congress had outlawed?   [To try to contravene in some measure this misguided/illegal policy, which included an embargo on Nicaraguan commerce, my wife and I living in Croswell, MI regularly bought our coffee beans from a cooperative in Nicaragua.  They had to come from an intermediate Netherlands vacuum packing company.  The small fair trade operation in Ft. Wayne, IN that arranged this is still in the business of doing good 30+ years later—Friends of the Third World, Jim & Marian will serve you well.]

U.S. military money poured into the countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala [where most of these child refugees now are coming from] in the 1980’s to fight a proxy battle to ward off socialist tendencies in places that had been considered our banana republics.  The weapons and drug violence, and very bad economies created from these wars, have been great aggravating factors to the pain and suffering which now piles up on our border.  Interestingly enough the country we certainly did not give military money to, Nicaragua, although as poor as the others, now has the least violence of these four, and is not sending a wave of refugees to our shores.

Number of deaths by border patrol sector along the U.S.-Mexico border between FY2000 and FY2013.


The number of unaccompanied minors (aged 0–17) taken into custody in the Rio Grande Valley sector in Texas exceeded 42,000 for the first eight months of FY2014.

Another conservative, Senator Ted Cruz, from Texas the state with the most influx of child migrants, wants to completely defund President Obama's Deferred Status for Childhood Arrivals order.   “And so a Canada-born senator whose father fled the communist regime in Cuba to build a life in Texas is the point man for reversing the 2012 psuedo-DREAM Act.”   They mistakenly think this cuts the problem off at its roots, while forgetting that, at the root, almost all of us are immigrants.  We must beware of constantly building our walls taller.
Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)” [to Listen] is one of his best-known ballads of all times. First written as a poem in 1948, Guthrie’s song ties a tragic event to the role that Mexican migrants play within the United States’ agribusiness economy

A Cuban √©migr√©, Elise Hilton, [writing for the conservative Acton Institute] was part of the Peter Pan brigade of children during the early 1960’s.  She recognizes better, at least some relationship between her own flight from Castro, when most of the families leaving then had some resources, and these new drug violence refugees from the poorer classes of Central America.  Yet she wonders why they don’t have some more organized setup for their arrival in the U.S., like they did.  Good question.  They were welcomed, these are not.
 
e must recognize our responsibility for this current exodus, especially when the money from U.S. appetites and addictions for drugs is fueling the fires of these Central American families in despair.   Many communities throughout the U.S., including Vassar here in the Thumb, and Catholic churches near the Mexican border, are not only debating the issue, but stepping up to the plate to offer help to these refugees from violence.  Shouldn't this be our response if we wish to answer positively the challenging words of Matthew 25, “Lord, when did we see you a stranger and welcome you…?” 

See previous mcweekly-pv on this
References you may consult –   





Illuminations by Kathy Brahney

Monday, July 14, 2014

EL CAMINO – SPAIN & SOMEWHERE


It’s up and down the hill we go in life
gracefully, thankfully if we can
put aside our kicking and screaming.
It will never be the same
as when we were young.
Thanks be to God we go
step by step to the better place
that completes all our yearnings
makes up all our defects
lifts up all we’ve met rich and poor
we wish we could have done, more --
until the end of our brief moment in time.
Then somewhere mystically we go beyond.

Monday, June 30, 2014

IRAQ--SURGE OF U.S. WALLS & WEAPONS BRINGS ONLY MORE INSURGENTS, MISERY


"Iraqis are already familiar with walls being used to protect key buildings in the capital, but say they will not tolerate them around their neighbourhoods "    photo IRUN  -April 23, 2007

The walls of separation erected in Baghdad other Iraq cities by the U.S over Iraqi objection, and the U.S. troop surges of 2007-2008, were trumpeted by our politicians then as solutions to the rampant violence inflamed by our invasion.  We trained and equipped Iraq’s mostly Shiite army, helped installed checkpoints to control the Sunnis we’d deposed, and then helped train and equip exiled Sunnis to fight the next enemy, Shiite President Assad of Syria.  Now the most radical of those Sunnis [ISIS] march towards and begin to encircle Baghdad, where the Shiites are as of yet in charge but threatened, and many Sunnis there are now trapped within, behind those same walls of separation.

 Iraqi woman walks past a three-mile-long concrete wall around Baghdad's Sunni enclave of Adhamiyah, April 24, 2007. A similar wall is being constructed in Ghazaliya --photo by Ali Youssef-AFP-Getty

 “The bodies arrive in twos and threes most every day in the Baghdad morgue now, a grim barometer of the city’s sectarian tensions. Most have gunshot wounds to the head, some have signs of torture, and most of them are Sunnis. …
In the recent abductions and killings, Baghdad’s Sunnis see sinister signs that the walls surrounding their neighborhoods, built by the Americans to protect them, could also entrap them, making them easy prey for the newly emboldened Shiite militias, some of them the same ones that executed Sunnis by the truckload in the bad years.”

The U.S. says it wants sectarian conflicts to end, but cannot bring itself to stop relying on guns and bombs as the ultimate solution, sold to an ever-shifting cast of characters.

Once again a surge of violence and grief in Baghdad—brought to us by the international trust in weapons and violence as the way to impose security [in this case security of oil supply].  This business of weaponized security will never bring peace to anyone.  It is the Father of all Lies, and the town crier of so many government and political groups; the daily bread of so many military and media machines.  How long will we continue to trust in these lies which continue to bring us so many failed states abroad—and also threaten our own USA with materialistic godless failure from within?

Time to go well beyond President Reagan -- “Uncle Sam, tear down these walls.”   All nations, “Beat your swords into plowshares.”  As pleaded for by the head of the United Nations, all countries should join a moratorium of all military support and arms sales to all Middle East states and factions.   The only way to begin real talk of peace is to stop the message sent by bombs and bullets.














Small part of Green Wall around Baghdad U.S. Embassy-WaPo photo

Three walls desperately needing to come tumbling down.















This July 4th, consider again converting more from our personal support of walls, weapons, and war.  Ande and I continue to strive, yet with incomplete success, to pay less war tax [50% of federal income tax], by earning less, and limiting W-4 with-holding, and 1099 payments.  See the July 1, 2013 posting.   Work and pray for peace, don’t prepay for war.






Monday, June 23, 2014

ON OUR BORDER, CHILDREN -- ABUSED BY MILITARIZED DRUG WAR

From 6-22-12 Port Huron Times Herald

               

“Children Traveling Solo Across U.S. Border Face Dangerous Trip.”   So headlines the NPR story of June 6, 2014.   The children of Central America are piling up on our border in unprecedented numbers.  They are refugees of increasing gang violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.  The militarization of their homelands began in earnest during the “Iran-Contra” “low intensity” wars we fought there by proxy in the years of the Reagan administration.  We were fighting against purported Communist incursions at our borders.  Profits from drug smuggling, that our CIA at times facilitated, were used to bring down leftist governments, and displace suspect peasant communities.
 
At present the descendants of these violent campaigns are being displaced by this legacy.  Some were leftist guerrillas, many more were trained by our School of the Americas as counter-revolutionary fighters, given lots of money and weapons to do so. [for an organization dedicated to its closing—SOA Watch]  When the eagle eyes of war turned to Afghanistan and Iraq, they and their children were left with devastated communities, schooled in violence, but bereft of benefactors.  The drug trade, that had helped sustain the Iran-Contra era wars, flourished in the aftermath.

 The Forward Operating Bases of our current U.S. supported War on Drugs -- from NYT map

Honduras was a central base for the U.S. military to train Central Americans to fight communism on their own turf.  Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, and Guatemalan leftists were the main target.  [The diocese of San Cristobal in Chiapas, Mexico where I’ve worked in a medical clinic, was a major refugee center for those who fled these 1980’s wars in bordering Guatemala.]  Now Honduras is plagued by drug gang violence which according to the NPR report cited above [please spend the 5 minutes], reaches right into the grade schools where students are directly threatened by the gangs.  They come right into the school yards and say, “if you don’t join with us we’ll kill you and your family.”  Often enough they follow through on their threat.   Some kids join, many are leaving alone on the long trip “al Norte” with the blessing and distraught hopes of their families.



hey’re stopped at our border, and now swell to overwhelming, our detention facilities.  Commentators, including our Representative Candice Miller, suggest that this is primarily a problem of lax enforcement of immigration law, allowing too many from these countries to hope that our borders are open to an influx of illegals.  They argue we’ve left the impression with policies, such as the “Dream Act” [makes higher education available to children of families that have entered illegally], of increasingly unfettered welcome to the children the countries to our south.   The number of these children has increased ten-fold in the past three years, to 60,000/yr, and is expected to climb above 100,000 in the next year.

Congresswoman Miller’s approach is to further strengthen the wall on our Southern border by calling out the National Guard, mounting a “don’t come” PR campaign in the Central American countries, and deporting those children that have made it so far, as soon as possible“Congresswoman urges Obama to send National Guard to border.”  Washington Times 6-16-14.   Not realizing the danger these children face, she hopes they can be convinced, not to try to come here in the first place.  I’ll urge her and you to listen to the NPR program, and see the film Sin Nombre which tells the tragic story of what these kids face in their home barrios, and on journey north [has a few terribly realistic, violent scenes.]

There are certainly economic reasons for these people to leave their homes to seek the USA, but the militarization that coincided with drugs trafficking we tolerated to help the cause of anticommunism, has transformed into a full-scale war on the drug networks themselves.  In Honduras we concurred with a military coup of their democratically elected President Zelaya in 2009.  There followed an upsurge of U.S. and Honduran army activity.   The latest weapons and tactics used in Iraq and Afghanistan were imported.   The drug cartels matched us weapon for weapon, [dollar for dollar—paradoxically earned in the U.S illegal market for drugs] and a new battle is on.   The people and their children suffer deeply in between.

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (June 2, 2014) -- Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez -right front- speaks to U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly,commander of the U.S. Southern Command -left front


We won’t solve our immigration problems until we gut the money from the illegal drug trade. Abstinence, the courageous strength received in prayer, creative work for all here and south of our border, and a cogent form of legalizing and controlling the abused substances, are the necessary anti-drug culture strategies.  No amount of military technology, hardware, or training can turn the tide.   No signs saying “Children abused in the war on drugs—Turn back!” are helpful.

From the NPR interview, “…we are spending $18 billion per year on border enforcement. That's a lot of money. And many people who study this say that if we put a fraction of that towards targeted economic development it would slow the flow much more than that 700 mile-long wall would. So I think it's a matter of how you spend your money.”   And Fox News and the AP had the Drug Wars cost-benefit right, After 40 years, $1 trillion, US War on Drugs has failed to meet any of its goals.”  But militarizing this war has driven the economic and human costs through the roof.
  

The Flight into Egypt was a flight from violence, the violence of a Herod obsessed with the protection of his throne and its lifestyle.  For this he was willing to sacrifice the Holy Innocents infant children of Bethlehem, perhaps hundreds.   We are called to reverse this, putting on the mind of Christ, and offer refuge to those who flee suffering and injustice.


One way to help.  Contact Casa Juan Diego, a Catholic Worker community in Houston, Texas.  They have been serving the needs of these refugees for decades.
Another is to call the office of our Representative Candice Miller, and request just Christian solutions to this refugee crisis, that heal, not aggravate, the violence.   1 202 224 3121
***************************************************

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

References
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/drugs/special/cia.html [be sure to read to intro’s final paragraph--and beyond if you’ve the time]




More references -- with exerpts 
“Inside San Pedro Sula – the most violent city in the world”
“City in Honduras has a murder rate of 173 per 100,000 residents, reportedly the highest in the world outside a war zone
Violence began to flare in the early 2000s and has risen steadily since the country took on a bigger role in the drug routes from South America to the US. About 80% of the cocaine headed for America passes through Honduras, according to the US state department. An already frail state has been further weakened by the infiltration of organized crime and a 2009 coup, after which reports of human rights abuses against supporters of the deposed president rocketed. At the same time rival street gangs known as maras – many of whose members were deported from US jails – battle to control local drug markets and extortion rackets.”

“The homicide rate is stoked by the rivalry of the brutal street gangs, mostly descendants of gangs formed in Los Angeles and deported to Central America in the 1990s. Mara Salvatrucha — MS. The 18th Street gang. Their ranks are fed by the economic disaster that is Honduras and emboldened more recently by alliances with Mexican drug traffickers moving cocaine through the country.
The mayhem is compounded by political killings, mostly of leftist activists and those demanding land rights in this throwback semi-feudal country, and vigilante slayings by some police units.”

Pope Francis at Wall of Seperation--, Bethlehem, West Bank, 5-25-14 Catholic News Service

“Lessons of Iraq Help U.S. Fight a Drug War in Honduras”   NYT 5-6-12  -  excerpts
“Honduras is the latest focal point in America’s drug war. As Mexico puts the squeeze on narcotics barons using its territory as a transit hub, more than 90 percent of the cocaine from Colombia and Venezuela bound for the United States passes through Central America. More than a third of those narcotics make their way through Honduras, a country with vast ungoverned areas — and one of the highest per capita homicide rates in the world.
This new offensive, emerging just as the United States military winds down its conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and is moving to confront emerging threats, also showcases the nation’s new way of war: small-footprint missions with limited numbers of troops, partnerships with foreign military and police forces that take the lead in security operations, and narrowly defined goals, whether aimed at insurgents, terrorists or criminal groups that threaten American interests.  …
But the mission here has been adapted to strict rules of engagement prohibiting American combat in Central America, a delicate issue given Washington’s messy history in Honduras, which was the base for the secret operation once run by Oliver North to funnel money and arms to rebels fighting in neighboring Nicaragua. Some skeptics still worry that the American military might accidentally empower thuggish elements of local security forces. …
The third forward base, at El Aguacate in central Honduras, has sprung from an abandoned airstrip used by the C.I.A. during the Reagan era.  Narcotics cartels, transnational organized crime and gang violence are designated as threats by the United States and Central American governments, with a broader consensus than when that base was built — in an era when the region was viewed through a narrow prism of communism and anticommunism.”

“Honduran Villages Caught in Drug War’s Cross-Fire”  NYT 5-23-12
Young people have also started developing a taste for the “narco life.” Drug use was once unheard-of on the Mosquito Coast. Now it is surging. More disturbingly to some, in a country with the highest homicide rate in the world, teenagers are developing a taste for weapons.

“Ousted Leader Is Set to Return to Honduras”  NYT 5-11-11
Mr. Zelaya was ousted by the military in a dispute over his efforts to change the Honduran Constitution.

“The bystanders of Honduras are not fair game in America's drug war”  The Guardian, 5-21-12
“One month after relinquishing control of night raids in Afghanistan, a raid in Honduras led by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has shed light on how the US is beginning to shift resources from its wars in the Middle East to its ongoing drug war in the Americas.
In the pre-dawn hours of 11 May, the DEA and Honduran police (in concert with the US Navy) were tracking a group of suspected cocaine smugglers along the Patuca River, near the village of Ahuas. Using a fleet of US state department helicopter gunships, piloted by Guatemalan military personnel and temporary contract pilots, the operation followed the smugglers to a boat dock, at which point a firefight broke out, killing four.
The raid, or "small-footprint mission", is part of a new counter-narcotic offensive in which the DEA, along with various segments of the US military, is applying tactics developed in the Iraq and Afghan wars to combat cocaine smuggling throughout Central America. The offensive thus far includes the construction of three new military bases in Honduras, which house some 600 American soldiers. This expansion of the US's presence was agreed upon shortly after former president Manuel Zelaya was deposed by the Honduran military in 2009.”

Monday, June 16, 2014

BACK TO IRAQ, COUNTER-ATTACK. WAR CONFOUNDS ITSELF.


April 2, 2003 ---_A_U.S._Army_soldier_stands_guard_duty_near_a_burning_oil_well_in_the_Rumaylah_Oil_Fields_in_Southern_Iraq--- U.S. Navy photo by  Mate 1st Class Arlo K. Abrahamson


The Wall Street Journal communicates the worries.
The deteriorating situation in Iraq—a key global oil supplier—reverberated through financial markets Thursday, sending oil prices sharply higher, pushing U.S. stocks lower and igniting the latest rally in safe-haven bonds“Iraq Scrambles to Defend Baghdad” WSJ 6-10-14
But it goes so much deeper than any oil well.

Our new commitment is to fight preemptive wars by proxy-- not defense of our country, but of big oil’s companies.
But those proxy forces do not always prove equal to the task, and when they buckle, the United States finds itself having unwittingly armed its enemies — a problem the Obama administration has been trying to avoid in Syria by carefully limiting its aid to the opposition there. The militants who swept into control of Mosul on Tuesday are believed to be connected to the main Islamist militant group fighting in Syria.  “Arms Windfall for Insurgents as Iraq City Falls” NYT 6-10-14



 “surge” where is they sting?  O “Awakening” what so deeply disturbs your sleep?  All is violence, violence without end, stirred up mightily, from 1990 Gulf War onward, as our solution to Iraq’s oil riches. 
But who is now our enemy, now our friend?


President Malaki and the Shiites in charge in Baghdad have been allowing arms shipments [Russian-Iranian] through their country Iraq to help our newest enemy the Shiite Assad in Syria, while we have armed the Sunni insurgents through our CIA contacts to depose Assad.   Those terrorism-trained Sunnis return to Iraq, have captured major cities, and march on Baghdad.   Iraq’s government, fast deserted by its own U.S. trained army, now turns to Shiite militias, calls on us for airstrikes, and is confident we’ll fight in tandem with our Shiite enemy Iran [remember that axis of evil—Iran, Iraq, N. Korea] who they’ve invited to send in its crack troops.   Our war situation couldn’t be more complicated.  It couldn’t be more ridiculously, radically evil.

Domination by overwhelming violent force will never work.  Not between countries, not between religious or ethnic groups, not in our local communities.


In these preemptive proxy wars all points on the compass turn towards eventual disaster and suffering.   I’m worried that our war politics strategists are certainly intelligent enough to know this, but are losing any capacity for compassion and common sense.

We the people must strive not to follow false leaders, and to pray for a conversion from the war-like mentality of eliminating those we disagree with, compete for resources with.   Instead we’ll learn the true constructive ways to care for each other’s needs, spiritual and physical—a shared responsibility, of equals, returning to God’s path of real justice and peace.  It will take much time and grace to heal these wounds.


The Times Herald called me the late evening of March 18, 2003, to have my comment as the "shock and awe" bombing of Baghdad began.  All the news media had been put on ready alert for the event. I said, and still pray, "Lord have mercy on our souls."

 

References

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

To get a better idea of the complexity ---

“Exhausted and Bereft, Iraqi Soldiers Quit Fight”  NYT 6-10-14   excerpts
The fleeing troops left weapons, vehicles and even their uniforms behind, as militants took over at least five army installations and the city’s airport. In a desperate bid to stem the losses, the military was reduced to bombing its own bases to avoid surrendering more weapons to the enemy.  American officials who had asserted that the $14 billion that the United States had spent on the Iraqi security forces would prepare them to safeguard the country after American troops left were forced to ponder images from Mosul of militants parading around captured Humvees.  ….
   Before the troops dissolved in Mosul, the army was losing as many as 300 soldiers a day, between desertions, deaths and injuries, according to a security analyst who works with the Iraqi government and requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the military.
With fewer men to face the militants, the army is relying on artillery and airstrikes — including, human rights workers say, the use of indiscriminate barrel bombs — increasing the risks to civilians.
For full article ---

“Iraq Militants, Pushing South, Aim at Capital”  NYT 6-11-14  excerpts
In a further indication of the regional dimensions of the crisis, the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, facing the same jihadist adversary in its civil war against a broader array of armed foes, expressed solidarity with the Iraqi authorities and armed forces, the official SANA news agency reported.
…..  Word of the latest militant advance came as a United Nations agency reported that 500,000 people had fled Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. The International Organization for Migration, based in Geneva, said the civilians had mainly fled on foot, because the militants would not let them use vehicles and had taken control of the airport. Roughly the same number were displaced from Anbar Province in western Iraq as the militants gained ground there, the organization said.
For full article ---

“Kurdish Fighters Take a Key Oil City as Militants Advance on Baghdad,” NYT 6-12-14  -   excerpts
Leaders of Iraq’s Kurds, who have carved out their own autonomous enclave in northern Iraq, said their forces had taken full control of Kirkuk as government troops abandoned their posts there. “The army disappeared,” said Najmaldin Karim, the governor of Kirkuk.  ….
Unlike the Iraqi Army, the Kurdish forces, known as pesh merga, are disciplined and loyal to their leaders and their cause: autonomy and eventual independence for a Kurdish state. With its oil riches, Kirkuk has long been at the center of a political and economic dispute between Kurds and successive Arab governments in Baghdad.  …
Residents of Baiji, a city of 200,000 about 110 miles south of Mosul, [and a major conduit for Iraq’s gas & oil] awoke Wednesday to find that government checkpoints had been abandoned and that insurgents, arriving in a column of 60 vehicles, were taking control of parts of the city without firing a shot, the security officials said. Peter Bouckaert, the emergency services director for Human Rights Watch, said in a post on Twitter that the militants had seized the Baiji power station, which supplies electricity to Baghdad, Kirkuk and Salahuddin Province.  …
Some residents who remained in Mosul reported on Thursday that militants used mosque loudspeakers and leaflets to invite all soldiers, police officers and other government loyalists to go to the mosques and renounce their allegiance to the Baghdad authorities or face death. The occupiers also banned sales of alcohol and cigarettes and ordered women to stay home.
For full article ---

More ---
140614-In Iraq Crisis, a Tangle of Alliances and Enmities - NYTimes.com
140614-Iraq Rebels Stall North of Baghdad as Residents Brace for a Siege - NYTimes.com
140615-U.S. Plans to Evacuate Many Embassy Workers - NYT
140614-Oil Industry in Iraq Faces Setback to Revival - NYTimes.com



Monday, June 9, 2014

WHEN WAR COMES HOME—LORD HAVE MERCY

Scouts Train to Fight Terrorists, and More - NYT - 5-13-09 * {click on for story}

Explorers ready to enter a building taken by terrorists, in an exercise--photo by Todd Drainin NYT

We take many of them right out of high school, train them to fight to the point of death—kill or be killed. Later they'll lethally guard our borders [now belatedly recognized as overkill], or we'll ship them off to combat.  Then they’re supposed to return home to normal family life.



he real soldier training it takes to make a warrior is intense and desensitizing.  Then society trivializes the bloodshed of war, while celebrating war, in video games, war training tourism, and arms bazaars.  Examples of these last two and others appear below.  Start with the 20 minute video on SOFEX, one of many incredibly elaborate extravagant forums dedicated to the business of war.



There is current controversy over the exchange for a soldier held captive by the Taliban--a deal with terrorists for their own captives we’ve held at Guantanamo.  {Does anyone remember the deal made by Ronald Reagan with Iranian terrorists, right before he was first elected President?}

“Sometime after midnight on June 30, 2009, Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl left behind a note in his tent saying he had become disillusioned with the Army, did not support the American mission in Afghanistan and was leaving to start a new life. He slipped off the remote military outpost in Paktika Province on the border with Pakistan and took with him a soft backpack, water, knives, a notebook and writing materials, but left behind his body armor and weapons — startling, given the hostile environment around his outpost.”  This was the comment given by an army commander to the New York Times.   Reading this and another article, one gets the idea Bergdahl was an introspective individual, willing to risk his life, and was asking no one to come looking for him.

Whether now Pfc. Bergdahl was "worth it" is a hard question.  In God’s economy all lives are precious, making all war transactions absurd, a contradiction to the message of God’s Son, the eternal peacemaker.


ar is not a place where people act rationally.  War is hell.  And which takes more spiritual courage—to march diligently into this hell, or to walk resolutely away from it?  The conservative Pope Benedict XVI has readily admitted to deserting from the German army in 1943.  Untold numbers of conscientious objectors to war down through history, liberal and conservative, have done the same, quite often paying with their lives.  Who are we, the consumers of the lifestyle fruits of modern warfare, to judge?

The ones who also dearly pay the price are the soldiers who return, scared inside and out by what they’ve seen and done, and those citizens and fighters who are maimed or no longer alive in the theaters of war, where our soldiers had to play their violent part.    Those who did their job well still face PTSD, suicide, alcohol, an inadequate VA medical system, scarce work opportunities—and families sometimes frightened or threatened by what the returned have been through, unable to understand.

The only hope is to not go to war in the first place, to outlaw the business of war.   The prayer we sing this Pentecost, “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, enkindle in us the fire of your love.”  The ongoing petition for our Offertory at mass, “Lord, may we end our reliance on war, and trust in you.”




References --

The bizarreness of the war industry.


 The real scout's honor view of war from the page of a Boy Scout's Handbook of an earlier era.




 Illuminations by Kathy Brahney