Monday, July 26, 2010


Today I open with this request:
Please pray for 9 days starting Aug. 1st, this prayer for Blessed Franz Jagerstatter's intercession, to help finally end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for an increase in peacemaking.
[His story [my writing] is now published on the K of C national website. Just Google "Fathers for the Good" and click on Franz' picture in upper right corner.]

Lord Jesus Christ, You filled your servant Franz Jagerstatter with a deep love for you, his family, and all people. During a time of contempt for God and humankind, you bestowed on him unerring discernment and integrity.
In Faith he followed his conscience and said a decisive NO to National Socialism (the Nazi regime) and unjust war. Thus he sacrificed his life. We pray that you may glorify your servant Franz, so that many people may be encouraged by him and grow in love for you and all people. May his example shine out in our time and may you grant all people the strength to stand up for justice, peace and human dignity.
For yours is the glory and honor with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

(Prayer courtesy of the Diocese of Linz, Austria)

There will be a novena of prayer for this intention between Aug.1st and Aug. 9th [the date of Franz' martyrdom in 1943], at Holy Trinity Parish, Port Huron.
Again as last year, the parish is invited to pray at all its gatherings, and in personal prayer, these nine days, for an end to these wars, and an increase in courageous peacemaking.

Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, died Aug. 9, 1943--beheaded by Nazi regime for refusing to fight in Hitler's unjust wars.

The surprising question that opened our parish "stump the staff" fun night last week, was a war stopper. "A country can morally justify the direct killing of innocent people in order to shorten the conflict with its enemy." "True or False?" To our staff's credit the correct answer given was, "False." The opposing parishioners' panel, and audience concurred. We knew the answer, and the game [loosely in the Jeopardy style, and based on the Divinity Board Game—the New Catholic Catechism Learning System] went on, indeed in good spirit.

We all seem to know the answer, but what are the implications for our modern wars? One innocent directly killed is morally unjustifiable. This is true for both abortion, and war. Yet in modern war the calculation is routinely made of how many innocents will be tolerated casualties of a guided bomb's "taking out" an important insurgent on our enemies list. About the Iraq invasion, a former targeting expert who'd worked for the Pentagon in the initial "Shock and Awe" campaign said, the threshold ratio not to be exceeded was 30 civilians to be killed, to execute one high value enemy.1 There you have it--the morally callous thinking that is prohibited by the principles of our faith. Decapitate the leadership to end the war sooner, despite "taking out" innocents at the same time. The concept of "collateral damage" has been invented to obfuscate the fact of the certain unavoidable deaths of great numbers of civilians in all of these wars fought in population centers, large and small.

Since the time of Abraham it is clear that God does not want the violent sacrifice of our children, our young men, our young women.

In Afghanistan / Pakistan this has been one of the major issues in the conduct of the war, with many innocents killed in bombings and raids. Our armed forces are given woefully insufficient information on who is friend and who is foe, and more enemies are being created daily as more civilians die in Predator drone attacks and special forces missions. We might sometimes "get our man" but the local community is more deeply turned against us.
American soldiers near Kandahar carry a wounded comrade [and wounded Afghani?] to a helicopter for evacuation on 6-28-10 --wsj

" [Classified] documents were posted by WikiLeaks, an organization dedicated to public disclosure, shortly before the Afghan government said Monday [7-26-10] that "up to" 52 Afghan civilians have been killed in a coalition rocket attack on a village in southern Helmand province [last week]." 2 The Afghan government is using the 90,000 pages to further their persistent demands, over the past 9 years of U.S. occupation, that civilians be protected.

The ratio of 30 innocents that can be sacrificed for 1 bad insurgent, has not changed to my knowledge, since instituted by the Rumsfeld Dept. of Defense--no public report of any alteration in these rules of engagement. Contrast these numbers with the dialogue between Abraham and God in last Sunday's Old Testament reading. [Gen 18:20-32] Abraham bargains for mercy with God – Sodom & Gomorrah are to be destroyed because of their tremendous evil. But will God destroy the innocent with the guilty? Would God spare the whole evil city if only 50 just individuals are found? The bargaining continues by tens down to 10, and God agrees. If only 10 innocent are found then a whole city of evil-doers survives.

God's reasoning is in inverse proportion to the Pentagon's. Then with the gift of God's son Jesus, the whole calculus of war is subtracted. "Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you." Mt 5:44

1 At 21 minutes into Act 1, Mark Velasco tells his story of being a targeter for the Pentagon. Stream story at [This is the only place in the media I've seen this discussed--worth listening to whole program]:


Monday, July 19, 2010


The New York Times of July 15, 2010 contained two articles that reminded me of why, during 45 years of following national media reports, I've developed a healthy suspicion of the stories told citizens by their governments.

he first one was titled, "Despite Settlement Freeze, Buildings Rise."1 On August 12 2009 Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced, with great fanfare, a freeze on settlement construction in the occupied West Bank territories, "It will enable us to show the world this simple truth: The Government of Israel wants to enter into negotiations with the Palestinians, is taking practical steps to enter into negotiations and is very serious in its intention to advance peace."2 Secretary Of State Hilary Clinton praised this as an "unprecedented" Israeli concession at the time.3 The reality has been the "freeze" was just a smokescreen for a continued building blitz.

"When the freeze was announced, it came with the assertion that some 3,000 units were grandfathered in and would proceed during the moratorium. David Ha'Ivri, spokesman for the [settlers] Shomron Regional Council in the northern West Bank, said the leader of the council, Gershon Mesika, knew a freeze was coming and so approved more than 1,600 units in 2009, nearly 10 times the number that had been approved the previous year for his area.
Data from the Central Bureau of Statistics for 2006 through 2008 show that on average about 3,000 West Bank settlement units were built in each of those years. So the 10-month freeze offered no fundamental change of pace. In addition, the statistics show, in the last quarter of 2009, more than 750 housing units were approved for West Bank settlements. That was double the number of each of the three previous quarters."1
The peace process in the Middle East has a sad history of "now you see it, now you don't" initiatives. The only constant is that Israel for sixty years has been the annual recipient of the most U.S. foreign aid and military weapons sales.

Then followed in the same NYT a story, "Records Show Doubts on '64 Vietnam Crisis."4 Documents released recently from a Senate subcommittee outline elements of their ongoing debates over the Tonkin Gulf Resolution in 1964. News stories on August 4, 1964 hit the papers and airways that one of our ships had been attacked by North Vietnamese vessels. "President Lyndon B. Johnson cited the attacks to persuade Congress to authorize broad military action in Vietnam, but historians in recent years have concluded that the Aug. 4 attack never happened."4 One of these historians was the National Security Agency's own, and it was their signal data that was misused as proof of attack.5

For more on this photo of later discredited Tonkin Gulf incident, see Naval Historical Center webpage at link 6 below

Misused intelligence data helps start a war? Remember Secretary of State Colin Powell's hyper–televised testimony before the U.N. February 2003, prelude to the Iraq invasion one month later? History certainly repeats itself all too quickly.

hese are two of a multitude of government-philandering-with-the-truth examples that could be cited. Call to mind and further investigate / publicize others which have impacted your lives. Truth is the first casualty of war, and not a day of my 62 years have I lived with my country not at war. If truth dies, so does democracy. Our country has basic need of a Truth Commission to get to the bottom of our recent history, to re-establish our values as a society. If South Africa and Guatemala have done this, so must we, but with much greater depth and breadth, as our country has impacted so many others.

Some other time I'll tell the story of my conversion from true believer in the system, to healthy skeptic of politics in the media. It happened during the 1960's in my MSU college years, when I was working in Capac, MI area migrant labor camps, part of a Catholic Church summer project. Volunteers in a parallel Quaker service group gave me a copy of "I.F. Stone's Weekly" [4 to 8 page Washington D.C. critical, insightful newsletter--died with its originator a couple decades back]. That Jewish investigative reporter opened my eyes about one instance of Vietnam War dysinformation. [You'd be right if you supposed that my "Weekly" pays some homage to his.]

Historians note that a few days after the supposed [Tonkin Gulf] attack he [President LBJ] told George W. Ball, the under secretary of state, “Hell, those dumb, stupid sailors were just shooting at flying fish!” 4

"If you live according to my will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Jn 8:32

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney





5 For more on the contribution of the NSA historian, Robert J. Hanyok, to our greater understanding of the depth and complexity of dysinformation [terminology coined by Oliver North, conspirator in the Iran Contra affair], take some time with this article:


Sunday, July 11, 2010


The Fox River [Hemmingway's the "Two Hearted"] near Seney, MI --Photo by M.M.

Last week Ande and I were in Michigan's Upper Peninsula camping in a tent, swimming in Lake Superior, and visiting old friends at a cabin built in the forest, and giant old growth white pines. So no writing, but renewed spirit of still being able to live outside, despite rains, and a decrepit tent, relic of many past expeditions when our four kids and we were much younger. We were surprisingly comfortable, dry and bug free, within faded yellow/maroon backpacker style nylon and patched mosquito netting.

The air was fresh clear pine scented. The water bracing translucent and 20 degrees warmer than usual for early July. We discovered a new favorite spot on the east shore of the Keweenaw Peninsula. A rock plate of Jacobsville red sandstone juts out of the sand beach into the water for a hundred feet and then slopes or forms a ledge dropping down six feet into the blue green beyond. You can wade out on it, a mixture of white sandstone and greenish copper oxides trapped in its brick-red flatness, like a hard beautiful intricate patterned marble cake. With small sea cliff variations of a couple feet, this rock and water tabletop extends along a half mile of shoreline.

To see and feel it you must be there*

Ande found many rock art treasures to add to the collection of more than 32 years of travels together—a geologic travelogue that dots the various corners and bends of our yard in Port Huron, giving definition to the flowers.

On the last night of our trip north, most of the six nights outside, when we both thought we'd settle for the backup of a motel room, we ended up in a municipal campground on Lake Superior shore west of Munising. We took the last tent campsite available. But the place didn't feel as crowded as it looked. Our site faced the great lake, forested islands, and burning crimson sunset.

As we sat a ways back from the soft waves, on the placid big lake, a family of mom, dad, and 3 young boys {maybe 10, 7, and 5} walked by on water's edge. The middle boy was making the most noise, and they all moved disjuncted, the parents punctuated by the kids—but yet all happy to be there. On return pass 15 minutes later, mom a bit more stretched out ahead, dad and kids trailing, we greeted them. The dad said, "It's a beautiful sunset." I answered, "Yes, and it's good of you to be bringing them here to see it."

From the chair next to me I felt the tears welling in Ande's eyes, as they do so often and passionately, when the right thing is done said or remembered. In her eyes were the memories of the two of us with our kids--many camping adventures. Love of the outdoors, and of each other, and blessed that we can still do these things, and see other families continue the trip back to nature.

Image by Kathy Brahney

*For more info on this stone formation see--