Monday, August 9, 2010


The tower of Babel didn't actually fall, but its construction was completely confounded, in that early Babylon city located 50 miles south of present day Baghdad. 1 The ancient people there had migrated in from the north. They were building a tower of power and arrogance, to make their society touch heaven rivaling the gods themselves. God struck their plans with confusion. They abandoned the tower and city, unable even to speak with one another, language fractured into many disparate tongues. Genesis 11:1-9

So what will we leave behind in Babylonia this time, if we exit as required by treaty agreement with Iraq's government—all troops out by the end of 2011? [This promise was re-affirmed by President Obama in a speech to veterans on last Monday Aug 2, —but controversy exists as to the shape of remaining U.S. presence on Iraqi ground—we'll address this later]
Construction of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in 2007, largest embassy compound in the history of the world, covering a area equal to 80 football fields.
---Picture from online Vanity Fair

There follow excerpts of recent New York Times articles that illustrate some aspects of the disconnected chaos.

From the first days after the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, America and Iraq seemed divided by more than language; they never shared the same vocabulary. Perhaps they never could, defined as occupier and occupied, where promises of aid and assistance often had the inflection of condescension. These days, though, they do not even seem to try to listen to each other — too tired to hear the other, too chastised by experience to offer the benefit of doubt. 2 [As Obama Talks Peace, Many Iraqis Are Unsure, 8-3-10 NYT]

rom "A Benchmark of Progress, Electrical Grid Fails Iraqis, 8-1-10 NYT" "The [electricity] shortages since have hobbled economic development and disrupted almost every aspect of daily life. They have transformed cities. Rumbling generators outside homes and other buildings — previously nonexistent — and thickets of wires as dense as a jungle canopy have become as much a part of Iraq's cityscapes as blast walls and checkpoints." "The United States has spent $5 billion on electrical projects alone, nearly 10 percent of the $53 billion it has devoted to rebuilding Iraq, second only to what it has spent on rebuilding Iraq's security forces. " [Woefully inadequate security and electricity after 7 years.] "Even Iraqis suspicious of American motives hoped that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would bring modern, competent governance. Still, the streets are littered with trash, drinking water is polluted, hospitals are bleak and often unsafe, and buildings bombed by the Americans in 2003 or by insurgents since remain ruined shells." 3
For NYT slide show of dismal state of Iraqi electricity grid see:

President Obama confirms that we'll be down to 50,000 U.S soldiers in Iraq [from 140,000 at the onset of his administration] buy the end of this month, Aug 31, 2010, and all soldiers out by the end of 2011. Yet are we really leaving Iraq? Many Iraqis don't believe it. "The Americans aren't leaving," Mr. Qahtan Sweid insisted [resident of Baghdad], whatever Mr. Obama had promised. "For one million years, they won't leave. Even if the world was turned upside down, they still wouldn't withdraw." 2 USA Today reports on 8-3-10, "In June 2009, U.S. Forces occupied 357 bases. U.S. Forces currently occupy 121 bases, and are expected to reduce that number to 94 bases by the end of August." 4
nd the U.S. Army paper "Stars and Stripes" in a 8-8-10 article states that we will be down to five major bases by end of 2011, but cautions that disturbing transitions of status and nomenclature are underway. "
Can diplomats field their own army? The State Department is laying plans to do precisely that in Iraq, in an unprecedented experiment that U.S. officials and some nervous lawmakers say could be risky."5 Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is asking that a 6000 to 7000 strong Blackwater type private security force be part of their Baghdad diplomatic mission. In addition to the reported residual five major bases, now renamed "Enduring Presence Posts" throughout Iraq, it's not been revealed how many minor "EPP's", and associated private contract forces, will still be deployed where, nor for how long.

It is certain that much blood has been spilled for oil, and that the U.S. government is extremely reluctant to cancel its investment. In a week ago Sunday's scripture we have the parable of the rich fool who built too many barns in which to hoard his resources. Lk 12:15-21 Death came to his door.

All his labor was in vain. We are trying to build giant barns of occupation over entire foreign countries to secure our economic dominance and requisite storehouse of fossil fuels. Instead, as John Pilch implies in his commentary 6, the traditional honorable thing would be to distribute our surplus wealth in shrewd fashion becoming a respected benefactor in the world community. I wrestled with this parable personally, facing a deadline last week on retirement fund investment decisions. None of this is easy in our culture—the widely touted land of plenty.

Ancient City of Babylon

Hope-filled, informed pragmatic help is on the horizon. We'll take a look at the inspired efforts of a growing number of our nation's young people to counter "Tower of Babelism" next week.

Jesus, truly a man of his culture, delighted in confronting and confounding the norms, with cosmic timeless human imbued truth. We forget to our own peril, that the Samaritan despised enemy [Muslim] was chosen as the model of God-like mercy between neighbors. When will we stop the ten year killing--hundreds of thousands, Iraqi & Afghans, in retaliation for the 3000 of ours killed in the Trade Towers? These grievous wounds inflicted in far-away lands hurt ourselves also terribly—Mystical Body of Christ. Its pain is felt from Wall Street to Wyandotte, Baghdad to Waziristan. Pray for healing of the collective soul.

August 9, 1943: Franz Jagerstatter's death at the hands of the Nazis, family farmer who would not fight in Hitler's unjust wars. Mea culpa.

August 9, 1943: The death of Edith Stein, Jew become Catholic nun, executed at Auschwitz. Mea culpa.

August 9, 1945: Atomic bombing of Nagasaki, which was the largest center for Christians in the Far East. Mea maxima culpa.

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney

1 History of the tower from Catholic Encyclopedia.



6 "The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle C" The Liturgical Press, 1997

7 More on the possible Iraq exit strategy.

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