Sunday, April 25, 2010


We're doomed to losing the hearts and minds bodies and souls of occupied Afghanistan. We've taken the shoot-first-ask-questions-later shortcut, and are thus permanently cut off at their mountain impasse. We stretch out an insincere hand across the chasm of lethality. Predator drones are our ambassadors. Somebody fingers an enemy in a land we poorly understand, and someone dies perhaps with family at home in a remote village by remote control from an electronic command bunker in New Mexico. See New Mexico TV report,

My memories of a first encounter with the idea of a killer robot probe come from the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back. At the beginning we see the evil empire's hovering killing machine spy robot pursuing our heroes in a desert of snow. From the transcript:

Evading the dreaded Imperial Starfleet, a group of freedom fighters
led by Luke Skywalker has established a new secret base on the remote ice world of Hoth.
The evil lord Darth Vader, obsessed with finding young Skywalker,
has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of
space... A Star Destroyer moves through space, releasing Imperial probe robots from its underside.
One of these probes zooms toward the planet Hoth and lands
on its ice-covered surface. An explosion marks the point of
A weird mechanical sound rises above the whining of the
wind. A strange probe robot, with several extended sensors,
emerges from the smoke-shrouded crater. The ominous mechanical
probe floats across the snow plain and disappears into the
distance.... The dark probe robot moves past the smoldering ruins of
station three-eight and down a ridge toward the Rebel base. It
raises a large antenna from the top of its head and begins to
send out a piercing signal.
The probe droid has spotted Chewbacca who, not thirty feet
away, has popped his head over a snow bank. Instantly, the
probe robot swings around, its deadly ray ready to fire....*

I’ve left out parts, but the meaning was clear. An evil empire fought by proxy with robots, with overwhelming technical tricks, disdainfully choosing not to meet its enemy face to face.

Although this is only from a popular film, probably seen by few Afghans, we stand convicted by our own cultural court, and if Afghan & western Pakistan citizens were the jury, they would certainly concur. The outrage at U.S. fighting tactics and attributed innocent deaths, along with U.S. pressure on his government, culminated in our man in Kabul, President Karzai, threatening to join the Taliban himself [4-6-10 USA Today report]. Certainly political posturing, but Karzai well knows the feelings of his people, and what it takes to remain in office. In Pakistan, where our Predator drones are based for clandestine missions in both countries, only 9% support this with 67% against. They regard our presence and actions there a violation of their sovereignty. [for further discussion of this CIA assassination program
see ]

More important to the Muslim people of this Central Asian area {called by some Pashtunistan, ancient tribes not accepting a border dividing their people between Afghanistan and Pakistan} is a concept of honor and shame which would regard fighting remotely by drone as incomprehensibly dishonorable. The fact that IEDs and suicide bombers are now being employed by some factions recently is a sign that their honor concept is weakening, or being overcome by the retaliation of “an eye for an eye.”
4-19-10 Afghan villagers said a funeral prayer for the four victims of a shooting on Monday by NATO soldiers near the Pakistani border. [not by drones this time] For story see

The problem is compounded by the fact that our military has farmed this program out to soldiers of fortune. When its already most difficult to know who’s really friend or enemy in this area, we’ve turned the task over to “hired guns.” Their companies, like Blackwater {now renamed Xe}, apparently don’t require even the personal standards of Paladin, from the old western bounty hunter TV series Have Gun, Will Travel. Partial article appears below.

New York Times
March 14, 2010

Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants

KABUL, Afghanistan — Under the cover of a benign government information-gathering program, a Defense Department official set up a network of private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help track and kill suspected militants, according to military officials and businessmen in Afghanistan and the United States.

The official, Michael D. Furlong, hired contractors from private security companies that employed former C.I.A. and Special Forces operatives. The contractors, in turn, gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected militants and the location of insurgent camps, and the information was then sent to military units and intelligence officials for possible lethal action in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the officials said.

While it has been widely reported that the C.I.A. and the military are attacking operatives of Al Qaeda and others through unmanned, remote-controlled drone strikes, some American officials say they became troubled that Mr. Furlong seemed to be running an off-the-books spy operation. The officials say they are not sure who condoned and supervised his work.

For full article:

nother way is possible, a completely different way. I’ll sum up and change direction with a personal reflection on one gift in the midst of the indispensable gracious love I receive from Ande, children, family and friends that keeps me going in these troubled and hopeful times. At daily mass a couple of days per week—Holy Communion, Eucharist, meeting my God creator, in community. United in my center for a moment in time, vibrant warm reminder of eternal wonder of all creation contained within my infinitesimally small yet of some still valued self – all interconnectedness of universal timeless God the perfection of every person—at once—a resurrection gift, reborn out of suffering. I don’t feel this echo with the almighty-minuscule-forever, every time. This week I did. It’s still there always regardless.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

*To read more of these sections of the Empire Strikes Back transcript, see

Sunday, April 18, 2010


For full size copy: see

"Let them march all they want, as long as they continue to pay their taxes."

--Alexander Haig, U.S. Secretary of State

Commenting in 1982 on the march in support of nuclear disarmament U.N. Special Session on the NonProliferation Treaty [largest demonstration in NYC history] -- Renewed demonstration on same issue--May 2, 2010--Consider coming with us.

April 15, Federal Income Tax Day, has come and gone again. Sic transit pecuniae. People here in the Port Huron area, who have hoped and worked for more peaceful prosperous times, can review and settle past accounts, with an eye towards a more demanding future.

small group had invested in an IRS tax redirection idea, Iraq Peace Bonds, to not pay a portion of their tax due until the Iraq war ended. This protest was an attempt to put money where their mouths and hearts had been—against this war and the war industry. In April 2007 a presentation of a $1,300 check was made to the St. Clair Co. Library.

Of the eleven people involved there have been no reported dire consequences. One has still maintained funds in escrow, with no IRS attempt to demand payment. My wife Ande and I had the $300 we'd not paid, and contributed for peace [over 2 years to a peace tax escrow account where that money still exists], electronically subtracted from President Bush's second nationwide tax rebate check program. No prior notification of a tax debt, nor demand for payment—just effective U.S. agency to agency math action.

heckmate for the government this time, but we're re-positioning. And no others had this done to their rebate checks. No one received threatening collection or lien notices from the government, which have been fairly common for tax resisters in the past. Perhaps it's the individually small dollar amounts involved. Perhaps some in the IRS are somewhat sympathetic.

The regular letter we've sent, along with [electronically in our case] filing our 1040 forms, to the IRS [c.c. our Senators and Representative] do help our cause. It appears that with no real end in sight to our wars, despite the election of President Obama, and the rising power of corporations now masquerading in the political process as extremely well-heeled persons, we will have much more to do to bring true change. Will April 15th Tax Day become the new Election Day--war or peace, vote with your citizen tax dollars? Vote up or down with your taxes, because on the second Tuesday in November the ballot box is already stuffed with corporate campaign dollars?

An updated version of this Letter to the IRS and Elected Officials is included below. Please thoughtfully and prayerfully consider sending it or similar to the IRS & Congress, even if you've already done this year's taxes. For more information on the details of these efforts to re-direct tax money for peace please contact the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee, . It's very good for the spirit to do this in community with others in your local area.

"I feel that the supreme obligation of every Christian, taking precedence over absolutely everything else, is to devote themselves by the best means at their disposal to a struggle to preserve the human race from annihilation and to abolish war as the essential means to accomplish this end." --Thomas Merton, 1962

To the IRS and Elected Officials:

I am scandalized by the amount of my tax dollars being used for war. Every month almost $9 billion is being spent on the unjust war in Iraq--no definite end in sight. Now we have re-surged in Afghanistan’s impossible endless war, spending $1,000,000 per new soldier deployed. Approximately 50% of federal income taxes are being used for current and past military expenses. Corporations, many with military ties, are now, by U.S. Supreme Court decision, to be considered persons. As such they will be able to pour even more money into elections, putting them firmly in control of our politics. Democracy is in danger.

I believe in the peaceful purposes of taxation for the common good, but when these funds are used to invade and occupy countries for private company access to oil resources, and when we bail out reckless financial firms, then only evil can come from this abuse of power. It is therefore moral and patriotic to begin withholding and redirecting these monies used in unjust war and propping up corpulent corporations. If instead this money were invested in peace initiatives and aid programs we could truly build a better and more secure world.

I feel so strongly about this that I am in the process of arranging to not pay $______ of my taxes owed to the IRS for 2010. I will either set this money aside to pay when it will not be used for these wars, or will give this amount to programs that help build true peace and security. I will settle this account, when we end our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

I understand that the IRS may use its enforcement procedures to collect this money from me, but I hope that you will instead join me in this refusal to pay for unjust war. Civil rights in the South began to build community, when people started to find ways to cross the line together. Here we have a civil right and duty of peacemaking.

Signature ____________________________________

Date ____________

Name [print] _________________________________

Address ________________________________________

Street City State Zip

Letter illuminations by Kathy Brahney


Sunday, April 11, 2010


There were hopeful news stories this week about a new STrategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed between Russia and the U.S. in Prague. Our President Barack Obama has stated one year ago, the intention to go further, to abolish all nuclear weapons worldwide. He convenes a summit this week of 47 world leader to discuss how to limit nuclear material and technology so it doesn’t get in to the “wrong hands.” Iran, North Korea, and Syria were not invited, and Israel’s Netanyahu excused himself.* As the 4-10-10 AP story headlined, “U.S.: Al-Qaida exemplifies new-age nuclear threat.” In the first week of May the countries of the world will convene at the United Nations, as they do every 5 years, to try again to implement the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty {yet to be signed by Israel, to the dismay of everyone else in the Middle East}. We purport to see well the speck in the evil-axis others’ nuclear arms programs, while we still ignore the huge nuclear weapons plank that distorts our own vision, and is a scandal to the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, the hopeful news about this START treaty just signed with Russia, to reduce the nuclear arsenal by "up to 30%, has its underside—a nuclear warheads shell game. “The new agreement with the Russians is over launchers and delivery systems, and does not require the dismantlement of weapons.” As with the many previous treaties, a great number of nuclear warheads are not required to be destroyed, only to be stored in warehouses not far from the missiles from which they are removed.

And please read the article in the NYT of 4-08-10: Disposal of Plutonium From U.S.-Russian Disarmament Is Likely to Take Decades.** One reason that full dismemberment of warheads continues to be delayed is that the new reactors supposed to be capable of truly dismantling the nuclear cores of bombs, have not yet been built. Not one has been built. After decades of warehousing nuclear warheads, ours and the Russians, we are still not committed to developing and implementing the difficult technology of truly disposing of these weapons of mass destruction. The possibility persists that those that on paper have been part of disarmament will reappear on modernized missile delivery systems. That is the hedged bet of influential strategists in our government who’ve been given the name “the nuclear priesthood” in deference to their devotion to the unmitigated power of our nuclear arms race dominance.

ur president, and a number these nuclear weapons strategists, have begun to defect, towards common sense— you’ll never convince others not to build them when you continue to rely on them yourself. [ One website with details of this movement:, and another movement***--see below] The thousands that lie around in warehouses, as well as those still attached to missiles, all increase the real possibility that a rogue state, terrorist group, or a distinguished superpower, will re-discover a way to explode one, bringing a renewed level of disaster to the whole human race. We must work and pray, in whatever way we can, to support efforts for true effective disarmament, nuclear and conventional. As tax day, April 15, approaches, let’s examine again the connections we all have with WMD and societies that idolize weaponry.

But consider the utterly fabulous amount of money, planning, energy, anxiety, and care which go into the production of weapons which almost immediately become obsolete and have to be scrapped. Contrast all this with the pitiful little gesture: "pray for peace" piously canceling our four-cent stamps! --- Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, 1962. [p. 35 Passion for Peace]

Prayer and sacrifice must be used as the most effective spiritual weapons in the war against war, and like all weapons they must be used with deliberate aim: not just with a vague aspiration for peace and security, but against violence and against war.--- Thomas Merton, 1962 [p.26 Passion for Peace]




Illuminations by Kathy Brahney

Monday, April 5, 2010


Coalition jets over buring oil wells in Kuwait during first Iraq War


An eye for an eye

An ear for an ear

A mouth for a mouth

A toe for a toe

A tooth for a tooth

A finger for a finger

A brain for a brain

A heart for a heart

A bullet for a bullet

A soul for a soul

A Predator rocket and bulldozer, for a suicide bomber.

The spirit of perpetual vengeant homicide and holocaust

Thrives on the ongoing body count

Only to be extinguished by courageous acts

Of forgiveness and reconciliation.

In the West we export the weapons, machines and money that fuel the conflagrations—

Until the stench of human sacrifice tortures our nostrils

Reaches somehow beyond TV sets

And in the face of worldwide asphyxiation the only hope is

To renounce our addiction to the militarized oil economy

To convert our fear to trust, in being all God’s family.

By Michael McCarthy PA-C, 01-23-02

Marsh Arabs in an area of southern Iraq not yet touched directly by first or second Iraq Wars

Certainly our wars in the Middle East continue to rub salt into the wounds of a huge U.S. military presence in this area of the world--and Israel remains our primary foothold--the biggest recipient of U.S. military foreign aid. Since its creation, the unjust displacement of Palestinians remains the open wound that won't allow for peace in the Middle East. The Holy Land is in need of healing no weapons can bring. Israel's "Operation Cast Lead," and ongoing blockade against the people of Gaza is a most recent bad example.

Work and pray for peace in Palestine & Israel this Easter. Let justice and mercy resurrect a right relationship.

For ongoing action opportunities contact: and

For interesting balanced stories of recent events see: and

Illumination by Kathy Brahney