Monday, March 28, 2011


Now flying over Libya-- U.S. F-15E Strike Eagles {Saudi Arabia is purchasing 84 in a new $60bn arms deal}--GALLO/GETTY pic

Before we charge on into Libya full force, can we take a look in our rearview mirror at Egypt? A recent WSJ article on the situation of democratic challenge in Egypt, focused on the Muslim Brotherhood and its rising influence. I’m more concerned about the role of General Omar Suleiman. He's totally disappeared from media coverage since Feb. 10, 2010, when he’d been appointed temporary Vice President by Mubarak [to depose Mubarak, which he then helped do], with U.S. concurrence. He quickly resigned that position, but remains in the current central power—The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. He's been our man in Cairo for decades, doling out Pentagon’s largesse and being our point man for CIA “war on terror” illegal renditions.

Dilemma—March 25, 2011---Funeral for Civilians [in Libya after U.S. Airwar begins] Channels Anger, But Raises Questions on Identity of Dead --WSJ--European Pressphoto Agency

What is the character of this man Suleiman, and the military class he’s part of? He’d been head of Egypt’s intelligence/security service since 1993, and some idea is revealed in an article by a Boston area professor, “The Torture Career of Egypt's New Vice President: Omar Suleiman and the Rendition to Torture Program.” 1 Did anyone else see the disturbing feature film, “Rendition,” a 2007 Hollywood dramatization of the problem? Never advertised, it depicted the 911-fueled interrogation apparatus, in Egypt.

As to the military culture Suleiman is part of, we read, “Yet with Washington giving Cairo $1.3 billion a year [to counter the $3bn/yr to Israel] in military aid… Egypt’s for-profit military [they invest in private enterprises] has sometimes found ways to use that aid to further its economic interests.” 2

Suleiman meets with Israeli president Shimon Peres in Tel Aviv, November 2010 [Getty]

The headlines on Feb 10th stated, “Egypt's Omar Suleiman emerges from the shadows.” [to become momentarily Vice President] Not a word’s been heard of him since in the media, though apparently he’s still on the Supreme Council. He's back deep in the shadows now, but what is he doing to mold the new Egypt? Come on reporters, do some digging in the Egyptian sands of change. Will anything really change? If Suleiman’s covertly still in charge in Egypt, heralded as the new hope for Middle East democracy, how can there be any hope at all for Qaddafi’s Libya?

[Having sent a short version of this to a NYT reporter, Michael Slackman, who’d written on current politics in Egypt, he courteously wrote back twice to say I’d made a good point, and they might pursue it {a suggested interview with Omar Suleiman} when time permits.]

What should be the U.S. purpose in the Middle East? Enough of this--saving citizens in Libya, devastating them in Iraq. [Not caring about them at all in black Africa!—Ivory Coast only has cocoa.] We must call for a worldwide moratorium on all weapons sales, financing, and delivery to the Middle East {a good place to begin}---to include all countries, and esp. Egypt, Libya, Israel, Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, the majority our best customers. This was proposed, as a weak trial balloon, by the first President Bush in his speech to the U.N. right after the Gulf War. It is crucial for giving some real space to the difficult negotiations necessary in this oil rich, democracy poor, region of the world. And this step for us, having to quit this part of our weapons habit, may help lead to renouncing our oil addiction as well—even to the point of rejuvenating our own democracy, and moving towards real disarmament! God give us the courage to turn towards a renewed productive, rather than destructive, economy.

< Swords into Plowshares Statue at the UN bldg, NYC

Isaiah II, by David Sharir, Jerusalem >

[Click on any image to make larger.]

2 Egyptian Army’s Business Side Blurs Lines of U.S. Military Aid

More on the complicated situation in Egypt---

Egyptian Voters Approve Constitutional Changes [To a constitution the military has suspended, except for these changes to hold elections—read on]

Monday, March 21, 2011


The Final Temptation in the Desert
Nine Afghan Boys Collecting Firewood Killed by NATO Helicopters
[NYT, March 2, 2011 headline] [1]

Of the 120,000 foreign soldiers occupying Afghanistan 100,000 are U.S. troops. Afghanis know who NATO really is. We are, at 10 years, engaged in an older war than the Russians’ failed attempt of a few years ago. It has been the news release practice for some time now, esp. since the U.S. surge, to attribute tragic civilian deaths there caused by foreign warriors, to “NATO”. No one in Afghanistan is fooled. Even our own soldier casualties often at first receive a “NATO” designation, later sometimes revised to indicate country of origin-- most often ours. Few, who pay any attention, in our country are taken in either.

Blackhawk helicopter gunships

As the media frequently point out, the majority of civilians killed in Afghanistan, in these advanced years of the war, are victims of Taliban attacks, often suicide bombs and IEDs. Their violence increases the longer this war drags on-- directed at rivals, military and police recruits and government institutions in public areas. But everyone understands that the Taliban, ex-mujaheddin warlords, and many Afghan politicians themselves have as their ultimate goal the ousting of another outside occupying force—this time the USA. They, and their common citizens, feel shamed and enraged by our presence. Is this an unspoken reason for our still being there—to persistently create new supplies of enemies? The killing continues to escalate, on their part and ours, until our warriors leave.

What was this killing of the nine boys like? [No photos available in any account I could find—on the ground coverage becomes more dangerous, and unwanted by all sides, as this war prolongs.]

ere are excerpts from the NYT article, March 2,2011 [1]
“The attack on the boys occurred high in the mountains outside Nanglam in the Pech Valley of Kunar Province. American troops are preparing to close their bases in the valley in the next several weeks, in part because their presence has vexed the villagers, who would prefer to be left alone. The area is poor, and the only major road was built to service Forward Operating Base Blessing, according to local residents”.
“The only survivor, Hemad, 11, said his mother had told him to go out with other boys to collect firewood because “the weather is very cold now.”
They fired a rocket which landed on a tree. The tree branches fell over me and shrapnel hit my right hand and my side.”
The tree, Hemad said, saved his life by covering him so that he could not be seen by the helicopters, which, he said, “shot the boys one after another.”

t how close a range was this massacre? Close enough for individual target practice. War is hell, and forward operating bases are not a “blessing”. Enemy rockets had been fired at that base the day before, and this was the retaliation.

What has been our progress in Afghanistan? An attack that left 9 children dead in Ghazni province on Dec. 6, 2003 echoes a stunning similarity to this more recent incident above. We are not learning, but repetitively committing these lethal mistakes. Civilian deaths reverberate through every day of the past decade, and number in the tens of thousands, though no one’s really counting.
NYT photo--Afghan girls walk past the graves of nine children killed in a U.S. air strike, at a local cemetery in village Hutala, in eastern Afghanistan, Sunday, Dec. 7, 2003. A U.S. warplane in pursuit of a 'known terrorist' attacked a village in eastern Afghanistan, Saturday, killing nine children. Clothes of the children are seen placed on graves

Excerpts from the NYT story, Afghan Villagers Torn by Grief After U.S. Raid Kills 9 Children. [2]
Villagers said the dead boys, who were 8 to 12 years old, had been in front of a house, and the girls, 9 and 10, had been fetching water from a stream alongside it when two American A-10 attack jets firing rockets and machine guns struck at 10:45 a.m.
"The boys were playing marbles," said one villager, thrusting forward a gnarled hand with three chipped glass marbles he said he had retrieved from the dust.
The rockets made 30 to 40 small craters in the ground around where the children had died. The 10th victim, an uncle of the two girls, rushed toward the stream after the first plane struck and was cut down beside them, said a woman who identified herself as the man's mother and the dead girls' grandmother.

Same graves in Hutula, different view
[There were a few photos at this early stage of war.]

What does an A-10 Warthog with its gun look like?

Our soldiers have been given an impossible job. Secure a country you don’t understand, in which you don’t speak the language. Demonstrate by our firepower that they must convert to our way of thinking.

The AN-GAU-8a 30mm Avenger seven-barrel gatling gun, only on the A-10 attack jet, is a 30mm, 7 barrel gatling gun used primarily in the air to ground role as a soft target killer and tank buster---fires 3900 high-explosive and depleted uranium rounds per minute.

We should all take a clear steady look at the face of collateral damage, the inherent loss of innocent life, in war. The imperative to kill or be killed is for the Christian taking part in the Devil’s bargain. He offered Christ in the desert all the kingdoms of the world if he would only take part in the power that kills for them. Jesus rejected Satan. Later He went on to say, “My kingdom is not of this world.” And, “If the grain of wheat dies, it rises up one hundred fold.”

This Lent’s examination of conscience must include, “How do I participate in institutionalized innocent death—in the war industry, the abortion insurance network? “ [More on this connection next week.] Turn away from pointing the finger towards the soldier, the unwed mother. Reflect instead on your payment of federal income taxes, that year after year go predominantly for war, and your employer-paid, tax-subsidized private health insurance with companies that provide [more than the government plans] the major support for the abortion industry.

Lord we believe, help our unbelief. Give us the courage to strengthen our non-cooperation with evil. Bless us with the conversion of heart to offer the first fruits of our society for the common good.


"A systematic independent study has been carried out into civilian casualties in Afghanistan by Marc Herold, a US economics professor at the University of New Hampshire. Based on corroborated reports from aid agencies, the UN, eyewitnesses, TV stations, newspapers and news agencies around the world, Herold estimates that at least 3,767 civilians were killed by US bombs between October 7 and December 10. That is an average of 62 innocent deaths a day - and an even higher figure than the 3,234 now thought to have been killed in New York and Washington on September 11." -- The Guardian, Dec.20, 2001

"A Guardian report in February [2002] estimated these casualties at between 1,300 and 8,000 deaths. A Guardian investigation into the "indirect victims" now confirms the belief of many aid agencies that they exceeded the number who died of direct hits. As many as 20,000 Afghans may have lost their lives as an indirect consequence of the US intervention. They too belong in any tally of the dead." -- The Guardian, May 20, 2002

What is the count of innocent deaths nine years later? The policy makers are not counting, and do not care for us to know.

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Photo on 1-20-2005, President George W. Bush's 2nd Inauguration Day, of child whose parents were just shot & killed in car at checkpoint, in Tal Afar, Iraq, by U.S. forces. [Another view from one in my Feb. 4, 2010 posting.] Uncounted children and parents have been killed there before and since. An untold number of U.S. soldiers have been witness to such unnecessary violence.

March 19 is also feast of St. Joseph.

Father & Son, Abu Graeb Prison, Iraq

As an abundantly blessed nominally Christian nation, we should be the first in the world’s history to admit the terrible mistake of unjust war, before forced to by defeat or self-depletion. This should happen on March 19th the day we invaded Iraq in 2003. It would be a day dedicated to disarmament, international justice and conflict resolution.

For God’s grace let us continue to pray, to name this day in the U.S.A., “Unjust War Remembrance Day.” When we invaded Iraq, March 19, 2003, with the slimmest possibility of finding even one nuclear weapon [when Israeli neighbors have hundreds, and we thousands], we tried to change our national justification of war, from defensive move of last resort, to preemptive war—a war of convenience, for perceived benefits. The people of the United States and the people of Iraq will be paying for this for years to come. It will be redeeming to our true national interests, if we remember that war is a bad tree, and you can never get good fruit from a bad tree. The evil of war is always multiplied, as one side is always unjust, and both sides take up evil means.

his idea should be re-introduced each year until we adopt it as a country to celebrate conversion from the way of un-necessary institutionalized wars. It took decades to establish Martin Luther King Day in the U.S., a step towards renouncing racism. It will take as long to declare an Unjust War Remembrance Day, to begin fully dismantling all weapons of mass destruction, and their fundamental nation-state war mentality. But we need to be first in calling all nations to the cause persistently, ourselves assuming world leadership in mea culpas, and practical steps.

embers of Congress and our county’s churches should start petitioning for this Day, as a national, even international, holiday. Almost all powerful countries have been morally, physically, and economically compromised by unjust war, most often of their own initiation.

ay we re-dedicate ourselves as we approach this Lenten season, to turning away from the pride of the single super-power. May we place our human and natural resources in the service of the ever merciful Creator God, origin of all the world’s peoples.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

Breastplate of St. Patrick Prayer [excerpt]

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney

Today is the feast day of St. Maximilian [d. 295 AD], one of the multitude of Early Christian faithful objectors to war. To the Roman authority he said, "I will never serve. You can cut off my head, but I will not be a soldier of this world, for I am a soldier of Christ. My army is the army of God, and I cannot fight for this world. I tell you I am a Christian."

Monday, March 7, 2011


Malcus's ear--Peter's sword
In my last posting, if read carefully, one could find from the Doonesbury cartoon that 270,000 Americans have been killed here on our soil, by our own guns, since 9-11-2001. That’s an average of about 80 per day, and we possess in our home-based arsenals almost one gun per U.S. citizen. Lethal gun violence by Americans against Americans has certainly outflanked Al Qaeda in this decade of the War on Terror.

I must here state that my bias, as a Christian who believes that Jesus teaches firmly against justified violence, and as a vegetarian, is to have decided long ago I would never own a gun. Yet I do respect hunter friends who hunt for food, see what they kill {as humanely as possible}, and dress it out themselves. 1

uns are not inherently bad. As Fr. E.C. McCarthy likes to point out, it is the mind that tells the hand to pull the trigger--killing friend or foe, or deer in the woods. But it becomes a grave problem when a whole society comes to rely on them as personal savior and protector, as the ultimate authority in resolving problems of evil, or threat to personal well-being. Belief that having enough firepower, in our house or in an enemy’s country, can ward off the specter of death itself. Guns are then promoted as an idol, assuming a power over life & death they truly do not have. Only God is author of our time on this earth.

n a 1-12-2011 NYT article [2] the author offers a practical analysis of the gun violence in our country, and lists some solutions. Faced with home invasion, dialing 911 is more effective reducing injury than brandishing a weapon. Children are 11 times more likely to die from a gun accident in the U.S. than in other developed countries. He balances this with the fact that a home swimming pool can be more dangerous to a child, than a gun. Please read for yourself online.

His argument opens this way.
“Jared Loughner [arrested for shooting Congresswoman Gifford and others in Arizona] was considered too mentally unstable to attend community college. He was rejected by the Army. Yet buy a Glock handgun and a 33-round magazine? No problem. To protect the public, we regulate cars and toys, medicines [I’ll add cigarettes] and mutual funds. So, simply as a public health matter, shouldn’t we take steps to reduce the toll from our domestic arms industry?”

y conclusion from this article, and 33 years work as a Physician Assistant, very attentive to preventative medicine, is that we must expand our concern even beyond the proliferation of the guns themselves. The culture of violence, and hateful assault language, epidemic in our mass media, cries out for a mega-dose of public health healing—and spiritual conversion. “Put back your sword [gun, A-bomb, tongue] where it belongs. Those who use the sword are sooner or later destroyed by it.” Mt 26:52

2 “Why Not Regulate Guns as Seriously as Toys?” By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Review of good book on the subject:

1 My gun owner friend Jim sent me a video link on the history of a classic air rifle which helped facilitate the Lewis and Clark expedition, just by a demonstration of its powers to the Indian tribes encountered.
It’s an argument for the benefits of deterrence—the expedition made it thousands of miles apparently with no loss of life in warfare. I’ll look into it more [e.g. what or whom was shot at in the demonstrations?]
My emphasis would be on the value of Sakagawea, an excellent translator of the Indian languages and cultures.


Remember that thou art dust, and to dust you shall return.

Illuminations and Botanicals by Kathy Brahney