Monday, January 31, 2011


Police water cannons against demonstrators--this time in downtown Cairo, Egypt, 1-25-11, photo by APTOPIX

A policy of policing the world, imposing our specifications to every international problem, is now tumbling, from Tunisia, Lebanon, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, and onward throughout the Middle East. The domino theory, coined to justify our war in Vietnam, is coming home to roost, not because of ignoring communist threats, but because of our hyper-intervention. Every one of these country’s top-down governments has accepted massive U.S. military aid over the years.

The War on Terror, with its invasion & occupation and ongoing carnage in Iraq & Afghanistan, has collapsed the balance of power, by its own arrogant posturing. We can do it alone; you are either for us, or against us. It will take decades for us to be mutually respected within the international community again.

These are the fruits of a weapons-only, minimal diplomatic respect, foreign policy. In the last decade we've created a new isolationism of the single superpower, encased in military might, clothed in the armor of permanent confrontation. To break out of these mental and political chains we desperately need a foreign-language-competent, fully-funded State Department Foreign Service corps.

To better achieve this, we should mount a national effort to provide our next generation access to live-in experiences, in countries throughout the world. An interdependence of interests and understanding are the only means to resolving worldwide conflict. A re-invigorated Peace Corps bigger than the Marine Corps. When initiated by Sargent Shriver and JFK in 1962, they envisioned 100,000 and more Peace Corps strong, serving per year. 1 It never came close. We’ve only mustered an average of 4000/yr, in these past 50 years. The Peace Corps budget stagnates, at equal to the armed forces budget for military music bands. Instead of armed services sign-on bonuses, we have Peace Corps minuses.
I’ve been amazed watching my daughter Bridget’s attempts to apply to the Peace Corps this year. The barriers to participation have ranged from a notarized letter from parents making them responsible for all student loans, to a mandate in her case that could have required the extraction of all wisdom teeth. Application has thus far included required, above-standard-care, dental/medical bills of over $1500 {which we’ve paid as she has no extra money, living & working in NYC}. Application is still incomplete. Peace Corps has become, unwittingly, an exclusive club. Bridget has good language & computational skills, can speak practical Mandarin Chinese with 4 years study at U of M and 3 months intensive study in China. She’s been told that if accepted, she’ll probably serve somewhere in Latin America {does have some beginning Spanish}.
Somewhat, but not very much.

We can and must do so much better. The world needs our bright, ingenious, generous, creativity. Not dominating, exported, profits-driven, military firepower. Let’s begin the transition now; bring a halt to falling dominoes, by fully embracing democracy that serves the common good, at home and abroad. Ask not what your predominant country can do for you, but what you can do for the people of your country, and the planet.

You get what you pay for. Pray for peace. Pay for peace. Invest in a future without war.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. -- Mk 10:45


Thanks to Mike Connell for his 1-23-11 Times Herald column on local Peace Corps member Bonnie Campbell, and her experience in Azerbaijan.
For more information on serving in the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps--contact the local organization, Blue Ops: Opportunities for Community & National Service and leave a message for Jeff Coolidge, 810 985 8169, at St. Clair Co. United Way--a cooperative volunteer recruitment project.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Road through Karakoram Mountains, Northern Pakistan, Hindu Kush area

The Pakistani villagers say the road is nice but they still don’t like America, because American drones bomb their houses and fields. Our strategists tell them, “We’ll just weed out your bad guy neighbors.” But as in the Bible, uprooting them destroys the chance of any good harvest. Potential friend dies with enemy. We must all abide the final harvest, and the separation of bad from good, determined by the peoples of these poor remote areas, and in God’s providential time.

Contribute some good seed and irrigation if asked, but they are the landholders, and are the only ones accountable or capable as stewards. Our acting as remote control God, raining down hellfire from the heavens in the midseason of an undeveloped country, only helps cultivate the weeds of war. The road-to-war’s hell, is paved with these double-edged sword intentions.

From a 1-21-21 WSJ article, “Setbacks Plague U.S. Aid to Pakistan” –

A road project in South Waziristan, a tribal region that has been a base for Taliban militants and a focus of the CIA's drone campaign, shows how difficult it is to use aid to change public sentiment.
Predator drone shooting a hellfire missile

A year ago, the U.S. signed an agreement to pump $55 million through a local government body into roads, water and electricity in South Waziristan, where anti-Americanism is rampant. Six months ago, to improve access to markets, schools and health facilities, workers began transforming a winding, potholed mountain road between the towns of Tank and Makin into a wide, paved road. Because of militant attacks, the Pakistani army's public-works division is leading construction.
Road through the Kyber pass from Pakistan to Kabul Afghanistan—a major supply route for U.S. war effort—not far from Tank to Makin Rd.

Habibullah Khan, a senior government official in the region, said the move to fund bigger infrastructure projects in South Waziristan has gained local support. But he said it's too dangerous for now to put any USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] logos on the road because of possible reprisals against workers. He said the government plans to do so once the road is finished.
War driven foreign aid.

Haji Mursalin, a tribal elder from the region, says locals support the road, but don't like America any more as a result. "The construction of roads won't work because our whole social structure has been destroyed," Mr. Mursalin said. "Most of the common people are against drone strikes because most of the time there are civilian casualties and collateral damage." *

hile we try to nation build a road into mountain passes, and across these remote river gorges {a road unlikely to survive or win friends, as it comes wrapped in a drone bombing campaign} our own infrastructure projects in flat St. Clair County don’t have two dimes to rub together. The Port Huron Times Herald, announced on 1-19-11, “Bridge projects delayed indefinitely for funding.” These are CNN railroad overpasses 15 years in the planning stage. The fate of indefinite delay probably awaits the I-94 Bridge over the Black River as well. We’ve undercut our future with a decade of war economy, spent in faraway places, and on over-designed Homeland Security projects. The road to peace is a road less traveled. It takes every bit as much discipline and strength as war, and demands more creativity. At home and abroad it is the narrow path, gives courage and possibility along its course, and is the only way that leads to true resolution of conflict, and hope for the generations to come.

Next week we’ll examine our country’s small “Peace Corps,” attempt to move in this direction, and its legacy—a real challenge for the 21st century.
---Illustrations in body of WSJ article are my own insertions.
---Illumination by Kathy Brahney


Sobering thought for all, of both right and left persuasion, on day of the national Right to Life march.
“But how narrow is the gate that leads to life, how rough the road, and how few there are who find it.”
Mt 7:14

Another road less traveled---

Robert Frost (1874–1963). Mountain Interval. 1920.

1. The Road Not Taken

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 5

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same, 10

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back. 15

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


Monday, January 17, 2011


Typical Pie Chart of Annual U.S. Discretionary Funds Appropriations--for full description see

All the papers and TV networks were trumpeting the news a couple of weeks ago. The Department of Defense was proposing to cut its own budget by $100 billion [over 5 years]. An unprecedented offer-- from the military that has been driving more than one half of the U.S. government's annual discretionary budget for most of my lifetime. This would apparently mean $20 billion less than the $693 billion military appropriations of 2010 [3% savings]. But we need to examine what conservative commentator Paul Harvey used to call "the rest of the story."

The proposed DoD budget "cut" is only from a wish list of budget increases they had proposed. As NPR reports 1-7-10, "Defense Secretary Robert Gates did something of the impossible today: He announced cuts to the defense budget, and at the same time, though, he unveiled a plan to grow military spending." It will in fact grow by 3%. Some programs are cut, but the savings, plus a little extra, are shifted to other places in the Pentagon. 1

Source--Library of Congress, 1913 photo-- Houdini gets ready to take a dip into the water torture cell

Ms. KORI SCHAKE (Former Bush Administration Official): "My sense is that he's actually pulled off one of the great Houdini acts of our time because everybody's talking about this $100 billion-cut in the budget. What Gates has actually done is moved $100 billion from his existing budget to his existing budget." 1

"Retired Republican Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming wanted Gates to make real cuts. Simpson was part of a presidential commission that proposed 100 billion cuts in one year alone and would use it to cut the [national] deficit, not let the Pentagon pocket its savings." 1

The Pentagon, and its business partners, have made the military into our most profitable, but profligate, industry. No audits of its accounts are performed. Cost overruns are guaranteed payment, with profit margins above and beyond, that are also guaranteed. Can there be greater incentive to forever drive up the costs? Waste is "job one" at the Pentagon.

"Military spending has more than doubled since the 9/11 attacks." Article in NYT July 29, 2010 2 Our giant consumer economy and financial sectors certainly outspend the military industry, but it's disregard for good business practice has set the tone for all others, and is bankrupting us.

Remember post 911, shadowed by the tragedy of the Trade Towers in that financial crisis Enron went down, and our investment retirement accounts with it. We were told our patriotic duty was to go out and buy things [using credit for money that didn't materialize]. It would help defeat the terrorists. No need to sacrifice. Up puffed housing bubbles, banking derivatives bubbles—then burst.

We were all using shopping, or a select few playing the financial markets, as a distraction from facing our real situation in the world. We can't spend or shoot our way out of trouble. We live in an interdependent world, in which we are not police headquarters, just one of the neighbors with the nicest {yet some threat of foreclosure} house on the block.

Our reliance on inflated money and military aspirations, was only self-defeating. The U.S. is confined deeper in international debtors' prison—the Bush administration legacy.

On Jan. 19, 2001, Bush inauguration, the national debt was 5,727,776,738,304.64
On Jan 19, 2009, Obama inauguration, it was 10,625,053,544,309.79 Nearly doubled. Unfortunately, we are still bringing it on, as of Jan. 13, 2011 it is
We march on, trillion dollar debtor, war-on-terrorists. 3

"Our future on this planet, exposed as it is to nuclear annihilation, depends upon one single factor: humanity must make a moral about-face. – Pope John Paul II

"The choice today is no longer between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Faith in the dawn arises from the faith that God is good and just. When one believes this, one knows that the contradictions of life are neither final nor ultimate. One can walk through the dark night with the radiant conviction that all things work together for good for those that love God. Even the most starless midnight may herald the dawn of some great fulfillment." Martin Luther King, Jr.




Sunday, January 9, 2011


What does it profit one, if maximum security gained, at the price of your own soul?

Airport Security in the homeland. We inflict humiliation upon ourselves in the vain and un-necessary attempt to ward off every possible threat, no matter how empty. We genuflect to a Dept. of Homeland Security incapable of providing what it advertizes. This agency doesn't understand that it is actually in partnership with the manufacturers of fear.

Our former head of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff took 10 other top DHS officials, and the former head of CIA, to form Chertoff Group, a defense industry consultant group. "After the arrest of the underwear bomber last Christmas, Chertoff hit the airwaves and wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post advocating the full-body scanning systems without disclosing that Rapiscan Systems was a client of his firm." 1 Bingo, the government buys 300. There is controversy as to whether they're even effective. That's an in-country aspect of the fear manufacturing complex. On the outside the DHS nemesis--the terrorists--also profit by our government's inadvertent cooperation in their fear industry.
When Yemeni terrorists send a nervous college kid with make- shift bombs in his pants on a plane to Detroit on Christmas, they are not serious about destroying the plane. If they were, they'd choose a clever dedicated 30 year old who'd been al Qaeda for 15 years and lost 2 brothers in firefights with American soldiers. He'd be outfitted with a high-cost high-tech bomb that wouldn't fail.

In this case they were only attacking our mental stability. They must be very satisfied as we subject ourselves to the patting down of private parts, and install full body scanners—all to the tremendous inconvenience of air travel. We have renounced our freedoms of self- respect and courage, because of the minimalist efforts of two-bit terrorists. Why?

Manufactured fear. We are wasting a lot of money, and surrendering mental ground on this. A writer for the Wall Street Journal in his 1-09-10 "Undressing the Terror Threat" put it bluntly. "As to the question of what the government should do rather than keep playing Terrorball, the answer is simple: stop treating Americans like idiots and cowards." 2 The question has been posed in the media, "Would you want to travel on a plane that didn't board through patters and scanners?" My answer is most certainly, yes. So would the vast majority of Americans I believe.

Martin Luther King had the answer—how to vanquish the violent beast, in whatever country he may be roaring about. "Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that." How? "Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people," -- his first principle for organizing society. As the remembrance of his birthday approaches, lets sidestep the scanners—march on to make justice and peace take flight.

"Hatred is weak love." -- Thomas Merton

Illumination by Kathy Brahney


Monday, January 3, 2011


Nabil al-Jurani/Associated Press
Iraqi children in Basra waved their toy weapons during a holiday in September

The headline in the 01-01-11 NYT begins to indicate how completely we've lost the hearts and minds of Iraq's people, young and old." Iraq Moves to Ban Toy Guns as Play Turns Real" 1 Reading the article reveals that the violent culture, encouraged by our invasion, leads to kids' play mimicking the real horror of war. This in turn raises up children believing that shooting and bombings are their normal way of life. Hurting each other is acceptable. Early death is routine. Killing the enemy is to be praised.

As these psychic wounds of war penetrate the spirits of Iraqi youth, so do they embed in the young hearts of our own society's trained warriors of occupation. What terrible carnage they see and hear, remains to torment, and even though rarely witnessed back in the homeland, continues to poison, in many ways, everyone's hopes and dreams.

Iraqi boys in Baghdad refugee camp 2007, play with toy guns. By Namir Noor-Eldeen, Reuters

The Iraqi official is speaking to all of us. "It's the responsibility of the community to get rid of these toys," said Dr. Emad Abdulrazaq, national adviser for mental health at the ministry. "They make it easier for a child to make the next step to real violence, because every day he enjoys guns."

Though the article's author concludes it's unlikely, let us pray that Iraq bans toy guns. May we also join in a worldwide campaign to ban war toys which has long been the Christmas good tidings of Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy and others. 2 Then may the world move on to renounce all killing machines. As stated from Isaiah 2:4 in the church's lectionary at the beginning of Advent—and now needs completion by all the People of God with God's saving grace:
"One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war any more."

We desperately need this New Year's resolution--to accept the merciful gift of the birth of the child Jesus, banish the curse of war which has plagued so many generations, threatening the mind and heart of our children's children.

1 Please read – informative on the many ways the Iraq war harms the children.

2 From a letter on war toys by Fr. E.C. McCarthy----"For the Christian a peaceful existence for all humanity can only be brought into existence by fidelity to the means for establishing peace revealed to humanity by the Prince of Peace, Jesus. Why? Because for the Christian Jesus is the Incarnation of God and only God knows how to conquer evil and bring peace to humanity. If God says "This is the way to do it," then this is absolutely and for certain the way to do it. Jesus teaching or training a child or an adult to kill others, or to learn to kill is absurd. Yet, Christians are doing just that every Christmas, the Feast and Birthday of the Prince of Peace, when they hand over war toys, which include now Nintendo [Amerca's Army, and Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2--ongoing examples] and other high tech avenues of playing homicide and the destruction of other infinitely loved sons and daughter of the Father/Mother/Parent God."