Sunday, February 27, 2011


2-12-11, Doonesburry on costs of guns in wars---and at home [more on this next week] -- Click on image to enlarge

I give much of my space this week to Congressmen James McGovern [Dem.] and Walter Jones [Rep.], who write courageously in the 2-18-11 Washington Post,
“The solution in Afghanistan: Get out.” 1

“No one, it seems, wants to talk about the war in Afghanistan. This week the House debated a budget bill that is touted as reflecting new fiscal restraint, yet borrows tens of billions more for the war. In an hour-long State of the Union address last month, President Obama devoted less than one minute to the conflict. Given the investment and sacrifices our country has made for nearly 10 years, the phones in our offices should be ringing off the hook with calls from those who are tired of being told that the United States doesn't have enough money to extend unemployment benefits or invest in new jobs. But by and large, Americans are silent. ” “…maybe it's because no one feels that they are paying for the war, which is being charged to the American taxpayers' credit card.”

“Whatever the reasons, there is no excuse for our collective indifference. At 112 months, this is the longest war in our history. More than 1,400 American service members have lost their lives in Afghanistan; over 8,800 have been wounded in action. Tens of thousands have suffered other disabilities or psychological harm. The Pentagon reported in November that suicide rates are soaring among veterans;…”

“What are we giving up to maintain the status quo? Columbia University professor Joseph Stiglitz told the House Veterans Affairs Committee in September that the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan, including interest payments on the money borrowed for these wars and care for our wounded soldiers and veterans, is likely to total $4 trillion to $6 trillion.”
From video "The Hidden Cost of War" by GOODMagazine

“Simply put, we believe the human and financial costs of the war are unacceptable and unsustainable. It is bankrupting us. The United States should devise an exit plan to extricate ourselves from Afghanistan, not a plan to stay there four more years and "then we'll see."

This is a necessary letter on responsibility, addressed to American citizens, and I hope you read it in full. But scant mention is made on the magnitude of loss inflicted by this war on the people of Afghanistan. No one maintains an accurate count of civilian casualties there, but rough estimates give 15 to 30 thousand killed as a result of actions by both sides. 2
Afghanistan--photo by James Nachtwey

Besides all the terrible human costs, how do some of the other costs of our never-ending “Wars on Terror” break down? According to a “Marketplace Morning Report” 3 on NPR 2-22-11, the price per year per soldier in Iraq is $685,000 and in Afghanistan $1,200,000. Of this, the least category is in wages paid the soldier. The greatest payout is $200,000 to $350,000 in fuel costs. Taking a $300,000 cost [report says price is going up] with 100,000 deployed, that’s $30 billion for fuel per year in Afghanistan, another $15 billion in Iraq with 50,000 deployed. So in these wars in great part dedicated to protecting the future oil interests of international companies, we are already enriching them.

Shame on Rep. Candice Miller, and all the rest in Congress, who refuse to consider these wars that profit only Big Oil, as they enact their budget cuts that target primarily public services. It’s time for a national examination of conscience, every one of us. Support our troops—bring them home.


James P. McGovern, a Democrat, represents Massachusetts's 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House. Walter B. Jones, a Republican, represents North Carolina's 3rd Congressional District.

“In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ …,” Mr. Gates [Secretary of Defense] told an assembly of Army cadets here. ---at West Point 2-25-11, reported in NYT article, “Warning Against Wars Like Iraq and Afghanistan”

Blessed Frans Jagerstatter, farmer & father who refused to fight in Hitler's wars, intercede for us--the miracle of ending these wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, and becoming peacemakers.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


A homeless veteran in New York City-- Photo by Jonathan Greenwald

Twice as likely to be homeless than the general population—so concludes a recent study by the Veterans Administration and HUD. 1 On a single night in 2009, the count was 75,609 homeless vets. Of these 11,300 were more recent arrivals from the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan. When our trained warriors come home, many find they are homeless. Almost half of these homeless don’t even want the confines of a shelter, so they stay on the streets. Currently, the backlog of VA disability cases climbs above 700,000 [NPR report on Veteran’s Day 2010 2 ]. The cause—burgeoning Post Traumatic Stress Disorder cases, and the federal budget crunch. Our people who’ve been close to the violence of combat, return wounded in soul, whether it’s themselves, their buddies, or their enemies, they’ve seen blown apart.

A boy carries his belongings next to the rubble of his home destroyed in a U.S. air strike in the village of Azizabad of Herat province on Aug 23, 2008. (Fraidoon Pooyaa-Associated Press)

The kicking in doors, shooting people, and blowing up things they’ve been part of has to leave a huge dent in their hearts. Returning stateside to families and community who’ve no real idea of what they’ve been through, leaves them isolated, and often not knowing if they can control themselves given the violence they’ve endured.

ome choose the lonely streets as the only safe way they can find, for themselves, and others, even and especially in their immediate families. In this way, war has been extremely damaging to family values, in our homeland, and undeniably in the far-off neighborhoods our soldiers have seen destroyed. There are no family values to be found in war.
Family Values-sculpture by Alexsander Danel
These veterans left homeless are sad testimony to our Pentagon’s use them, then lose them strategy. Wars now are off-budget, unaccounted for, unpaid for--launched on a business model that views a few speculators’ profit as maximizable, and the soldier as re-deployable, then expendable.

“When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
--- Martin Luther King, from his “Beyond Vietnam” speech April 4, 1967. He was assassinated exactly one year later.

“Love your enemy, pray for them that persecute you.” Mt 5:43

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Monday, February 14, 2011


Mar 8 2009-photo-Ryan Garza -The Flint Journal-AmeriCorps national service members help clear a path earlier this month to start extending the Mott Lake Trail [article linked below * ]

The House Republicans’ new found fight against the federal deficit will attempt to completely eliminate [along with other public service programs] AmeriCorps. Their target-- the only U.S. based unarmed service program that demands a year’s commitment. Since 1994 it has given 634,000 Americans the opportunity to serve our communities in many ways fighting poverty, national disasters, and improving education and energy resources. It is just now beginning to increase numbers, to involve more of us in national service.

This is one of the first items to face the House budget ax [they propose $100 billion in cuts—a mere drop in the $1.5 trillion deficit bucket]. In cutting AmeriCorps they directly contradict the advice of General Stanley McChrystal who’s led the troops in Afghanistan. Writing in the Jan. 31, 2011 Newsweek he counsels,
“We have let the concept of service become dangerously narrow, often associated only with the military. This allows most Americans to avoid the sense of responsibility essential for us to care for our nation—and for each other. …. All of us bear an obligation to serve—an obligation that goes beyond paying taxes, voting, or adhering to the law. America is falling short in endeavors that occur far away from any battlefield: education, science, politics, the environment, and cultivating leadership, among others. Without a sustained focus on these foundations of our society, America’s long-term security and prosperity are at risk.” 1

He speaks of a real, basic, absolutely required homeland security—our spirit of community responsibility and working for the common good. Congress, banks and hedge fund speculators take note. Read the whole article, and search for a change of heart. Give back to the people your ill-gotten gains. That would soon balance the budget, and then erase the national debt. This Wall St. disasters money {2001 and 2008} didn’t all evaporate—it changed hands, from the many to the few. Five hedgefunds directors testify - US House committee - November 13, 2008 - Reuters photo

The $100 billion cut devised by House Republicans could be patched up real quick, if some 20 or more the likes of John Paulson could return to the public’s purse the $5 billion he’s made just this past year alone. Betting against the solvency of home mortgages {the misfortune of many} became his fortune. 2 He must be very savvy, but nothing constructive was done. The speculators should be required, ideally by moral suasion, to return all they’ve deep-pocketed in this way, and skimmed off war in bloated defense contracts. We desperately need this conversion of heart and purpose.

The extremely clever can contribute so much for their country and the world. In addition, they could themselves profit immensely by joining AmeriCorps, and meeting a cross section of their nation’s people. All of us also, no matter our backgrounds or means, should meet the challenge of serving the needs of others, at least for a year {Peace Corps and faith based programs included}, taking a break from expecting always to be served. To learn more about AmeriCorps go to, or in the St. Clair County area contact

“Blessed are the pure of heart, they will see God.” Mt 5:8

Happy Valentine's Day

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Our politicians have a propensity for building myths that lock in their grip on the levers of power.

On Sunday Feb. 6th the big news was that Ronald Reagan would be 100 years old if still alive—a birthday memorial to his policies—and all the pundits eulogized once again. It’s becoming an annual event, and right before the combination Washington / Lincoln national birthday holiday. In President Reagan’s case, what is being celebrated?

Representative Candice Miller put it this way in a special email bulletin. “He built a robust economy out of the malaise of the 1970’s by adhering to fiscal conservatism and his firm belief and steadfast commitment to the cause of liberty brought freedom to countless millions across the globe without firing a shot.”

She is referring to the fall of the Berlin Wall during his watch, and there was certainly merit in that. But it was accomplished by challenging the Russians to a military spending duel. A Star Wars nuclear missile defense shield tech race, with a proliferation of our own upgraded nuclear missiles as a huge side bet. We did out spend them, drinking them under the table, dollar for ruble. But the Reagan presidency left us reeling with an unprecedented tripling of the national debt, and little of trickle-down that Reaganomics had promised the common citizen.

There may not have been a shot fired with the Russians, but Central America was popping with hired Iran Contra guns. As brought out in those hearings, money from arms sales to the Iranians we’d publicly denounced as terrorists, bought us a private army trying to topple the government of Nicaragua. Add to this the collateral turmoil we stirred up in neighboring countries in support of small time dictators. By the end of the Reagan years more than 100,000 had died, many of them peasants in small villages. I’ve met some of the refugees of this “low intensity warfare,” while volunteering in Chiapas, Mexico medical clinics.

Labeled the Great Communicator, there was a certain callousness, incumbent to those holding great power, that shadowed his grandfather image--splitter of wood, teller of stories.

I remember well May 4, 1970, returning from a United Farm Worker march through Virginia to Washington D.C., the radio report of four students demonstrating against the Vietnam War, shot dead at Kent State University. A few days later I read in the MSU campus newspaper, words of Ronald Reagan [then governor of California dealing with campus unrest] that shocked me. To confirm, years later, I’ve researched and found in the April 18, 1970 NYT [reporting on a talk Reagan gave one month before May 4th]:
What did he mean when he told a farmers’ convention in Yosemite that ‘if it takes a bloodbath’ to deal with campus demonstrators ‘let’s get it over with’ ? The audience applauded.

Certainly I don’t believe he would have wanted this to happen, but he was willing to communicate it. An ambience tolerant of violence is fostered in many off-hand ways, by those who hold the reigns of political power.

Knowing what he’d said as governor in the weeks leading up to the Kent State killings by the National Guard {also 1 student dead in California, 4 at a black college Jackson State, by police and National Guard bullets} made him someone I didn’t want to become president.

My admiration for him as president is reserved for the time he sat down with Gorbachov of the Soviet Union, at arms talks in Iceland. He voiced, for everyone to hear, the hope that the superpowers could completely renounce nuclear weapons—and that all nations could beat the nuclear swords into plowshares—a planet with zero nukes. A presidency replete with nuclear weapons, and their countermeasures, had reversed. He was now communicating as our grandfather, a bright future for everyone’s children’s children.

This is the legacy I await. In the mystery of God’s all inclusive heavenly family, may Reagan for us intercede.

Sorry for limited images--having trouble with my system--and email