Monday, May 30, 2011


As we look back this Memorial Day, and commemorate the grave results of all our past wars, the sacrifices made by our soldiers, we should remember also sacrifices imposed on the enemies, and suffered by families of all involved, on either sides of conflicts. A website dealing with the history of Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, and the different traditions North and South post Civil War says it well. “…Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.” 1 A national Memorial Day was given official proclamation in 1868. Now it’s time to examine deeply the darkness of war in the light of our faith.
A Lantern Floating ceremony at Ala Moana Beach Park, Hawaii every Memorial Day

When I first began to think about what war might mean in my life, just graduating from high school in 1965, it seemed pretty remote, even though Vietnam was beginning to make some media rumblings. Off to Sacred Heart Seminary for first year college, the world and my church were experiencing exciting challenging times. The latter part of high school I’d been regularly following Newsweek, Africa turning from colonies into nation states. That summer I’d read Martin Buber’s “I and Thou.” Now the documents of Vatican II were introduced to us in seminary classes.

War was still a distant horizon, but for some reason I chose the Peter Paul & Mary version of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” as my tryout song for the Skola, seminary choir. Knowing it by heart, and being simple to perform made it come to mind, but its words from then to now, many wars later, are to me a compelling tragic reminder of war’s relentless human cost. Sentimental in tone--at its heart a powerful almost ecological insight.
Lyrics summary: Where have all the flowers gone. Young girls have picked them. Young girls gone to husbands. Husbands gone to soldiers. Soldiers gone to graveyards. Graveyards gone to flowers. Young girls have picked them {again}. Refrain—When will they ever learn [2X].

The problem gradually began to take hold of me in young adulthood--our whole society, and societies around the world, are not learning to reject the destructive hell that is war. We all believe that at some or many levels we need and must accept its protection. It’s not just soldiers and young girls, but all of us, entire economies that are bent towards the directives of war. We trust in war, before God, as a necessary evil. This violates the First Commandment.

Then I learned the realities of war from returning Vietnam vets, scouring news reports, reading I. F. Stone’ Weekly [product of a Jewish journalist adept at criticizing the powers that be], and from the preaching and prayer of Catholic priest friends.

Leaving the seminary I lived and worked in farm labor camps during summers, finished college at MSU, and became a conscientious objector to all wars. Experience living with the poor, and reading the Bible carefully, cover to cover, helped form my opinion. Yet it was the devout faith passed down from parents and church that convinced me. “Love your enemy, pray for those that persecute you,” gives no license to kill them, even when you think you’ve good reason to.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord. He is like a tree planted beside the waters, that stretches out its roots to the stream. Jer 17: 7-8
Jesus was very agonistic, argumentative, powerful in word and spirit, as he confronted evil, but He never justified violence against persons, never called for followers to take up arms for worldly or heavenly kingdom. His kingdom and our salvation were won by dying on a cross, not by killing. [More on this in weeks to come.]
It is very difficult for any of us to live this way commanded by Jesus--complete trust in God. And many of my Christian friends disagree fundamentally with a belief that is not ready to fight lethally to defend home and country. My wife and I in contrast have this belief, but at this point, are paying taxes that sustain our massive infrastructure of death dealing weaponry. We all depend on the grace of an all-merciful, all-loving God. We can all call out with the apostle, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” The deaths of the many courageous before us, in war and against war, can best be honored by choosing life, undeniable right to life for all, friend or foe, born or unborn.
Memorial Day Prayer

In the quiet sanctuaries of our own hearts,
let us call on the name of the One whose power over us
is great and gentle, firm and forgiving, holy and healing…

You who created us,
who sustain us,
who call us to live in peace,
hear our prayer this day.

Hear our prayer for all who have died,
whose hearts and hopes are known to you alone…

Hear our prayer for those who put the welfare of others
ahead of their own:
give us hearts as generous as theirs…

Hear our prayer for those who gave their lives
in the service of others,
and accept the gift of their sacrifice…

Help us to shape and make a world
where we will put down the arms of war
and live in the harvest of justice and peace…

Comfort those who grieve the loss of their loved ones:
in our hearts let your healing be our hope.

Hear our prayer this day
and in your mercy answer us
in the name of all that is holy.


By Fr. Austin Fleming, Concord, MA --

Illumination "Beatus Vir" by Kathy Brahney

Monday, May 23, 2011


Palestinians breached the Israeli-Syrian border on Sunday near Majdal Shams--Troops fired on the crowd, killing four people—Photo by Jalaa Marey/JINI, via Getty Images

The media shudders as the Middle East moves towards nonviolence, searching for justice of its own creation. May 15th articles reacting to simultaneous protests at Israel’s multiple borders tried to assess the situation. This was a new type of Palestinian annual commemoration of Nakba, --the loss by over a million, of their homes in the war that formed Israel 63 years ago. Slate’s title typifies the implied fear. “15 Killed in Clashes at Israeli Borders Could the violence be a sign that the wave of protests sweeping the Arab world are ready to turn on Israel?” 1

But the protestors, as has been true with almost all these “Arab Spring” uprisings [with exception of Lybia’s] have been by-and-large nonviolent. The authorities do the killing. The media is uncomfortable with this nonviolent movement of the people. They favor insurgencies bristling with suicide bombers and fanatical fighters. Witness all the attention on these certain elements in Lybia, Iraq, Afghanistan.
May 15 2011--An undercover Israeli policeman opens a car door after detaining a protester in the West Bank on Sunday--Reuters

In the May 15th accounts, when the Palestinians from the various border countries tried to cross over, flags only in hand, back to the lands over a million of them had been forced out of and fled in 1948, they were met with force; the bullets, whether from Lebanese, Israeli Defense Force, or other police forces’ is uncertain, but no claim is made that Palestinians fired on Israelis, or even had guns. Climbing over and breaching border walls, is unruly, [and was praised by President Reagan in the case of East & West Berlin], but is not violence. All the dead at these protests on Israel’s contorted boundaries were protesters.
Photo by Larry Towell----GAZA STRIP-Rafah Refugee Camp- October 2003- A young man killed in Rafah during the Israeli army's October incursion is buried in the local cemetery.Demonstrators carry a fallen comrade during a march on the Lebanese border with Israel--15 May 2011 Photo by Hassan Bahsoun / Newscom

This nonviolence has been a growing movement, in the West Bank, Gaza strip, Golan Heights, joining with all Israel’s border states, more distant neighbors such as Tunisia and Bahrain, and within Israel itself. Palestinians want recognition of their right to a state, for many to return into, and they are renouncing violence, and recognizing Israel, as a way to really achieve this. Many Israelis agree that this is the way it should be. There is still much hatred and mistrust on both sides. But there have been many working to overcome the divide. A short list that can be googled, explored, and in ways of prayer & action supported, follows:
Abdullah Abu Rahmeh, Juliano Mer Khamis , Rabbis for Human Rights, Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGO Forum, Seeds of Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace, Interfaith Peace Builders, Peace Now, International Solidarity Movement, and Michigan Peace Teams.
The stumbling block has been named. Catholic Bishops meeting at the Vatican from across the Middle East on Oct 22, 2010 urged Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories, which could not be justified by Scripture, so that a two-state solution could be found swiftly.

Israel’s leader Netanyahu criticized the May 15th protests thus, “The leaders of these violent demonstrations, their struggle is not over the 1967 borders but over the very existence of Israel, which they describe as a catastrophe that must be resolved.” 2 He misconstrues what happened that day, and the message sent. He reacts very negatively to President Obama’s 5-19-11 call to reinstall those 1967 borders, to give real definition to a Palestinian state. But this, or some other difficult practical compromise, formed by the two parties, is vital to Israeli-Palestinian peace. To reinforce this negativity, the Israeli government announced the planned build of 1600 new Jewish housing units in disputed East Jerusalem, the same day as Obama’s speech.
Israel exists. Palestine exists. Both must put away attack helicopters & Uzis, slingshots & suicide bombs to live a just, right relationship. The U.S. and all other nations must renounce the weapons they contribute to, and the profits they extract from, the Arab-Israeli conflict. The people of the Holy Land can build the peace envisioned by their prophets, if the profiteers of violence can be banished, or made to see the light.
Photo by Larry Towell---WEST BANK Jerusalem 2004. A Palestinian man runs through an opening in the wall where the last eight meter high concrete slab seal is to be set in place.

Unattributed B&W photo by Larry Towell, Feb. 2003

Sunday, May 15, 2011


We now see the beginnings of a long heralded bridge & plaza constructions project in Port Huron. A nine lane bridge on the Black River will replace the current dilapidated four lanes. Unfortunately the traffic projected up when the planning started in the late 90’s, has instead plummeted, due to an economy driven down by bank, mortgage, and war fraud, so it’s uncertain we’ll need so many new lanes. But at least something is being done.
Yet judgment is still suspended. Does this bridge construction benefit local jobs in any way? A local talkline caller [R-Mac, 5-10-11] to the Times Herald complains he’s a qualified worker, applied to all companies involved, and been denied. So who’s getting the jobs? What percentages of the contracts and wages are going to any county companies or workers? Investigative reporting is needed.
The huge overwrought Bridge Plaza plan has evaporated. Again, lack of funds, but also common sense is taking hold. There may be some additional space taken for truck inspections {blue area}, but the whole new array of “outbound inspection booths” disappeared {was going to go into the green area}, and the heavy hand of national Homeland Security bureaucrats is loosening its grip. Maybe there will be more consideration for our real local needs.

s of now we’re left with a whole neighborhood, 125 homes & 16 businesses, 30 acres demolished, with no real need now for all that space {the green area}. The tax base lost to Port Huron at this juncture is at least $137,546 per year [estimate in 1-3-11 email from Matt Webb MDOT project director]. What further property is still on the tax base chopping block remains to be seen [a $500,000 tax base loss was originally forecast]. Rep. Candice Miller {of both Homeland Security, and Transportation committees} who was instrumental in bringing this albatross upon us, tried to mitigate this past January, requesting from MDOT that it would only be fair, to sell the abandoned land back to port Huron for $1. Maybe we could turn it into a nice park? Right next to a nine lane bridge. An obsession with manufacturing a mammoth-sized national security has left us locals less secure.

To truly represent us at this point, Rep. Miller should expedite acceptance and installation of the seven extra inspections booths that in April were reportedly offered our Blue Water Bridge Plaza, for free, from our neighbors in Canadian Customs. This should be happening now--as summer traffic backups approach. Then our representative should insure that all 20 booths are fully staffed to meet their needs. This would be proper use of her Homeland Security clout. Less transient plum construction contracts, more permanent secure local jobs.

And what should we the people of Port Huron be hoping for next, envisioning a turnaround economy? Proposals for casinos, aquariums, a "portplex" center of marine & trucking customs & commerce, and renewed tourism efforts have been on the table for years. Perhaps they will mature, but they can only be sidelines, as they focus on people passing through. What better hope for the future than developing SC4 into a four year university [as Jeff Hedberg proposed in a column almost 2 years ago] Lake Huron University? Make it a world class institution focused on producing the new ecology of earth responsible energy.

Acheson Technology Center-------------------------- Toronto Hydro Windmills

Nature provides us unexcelled water and wind resources, solar to a less extent. Lake Huron University could draw talent from all over the nation, and be developing our own, as we further create the windmill and hydro- in- river systems, battery and energy distribution systems which have already begun in Thumb, great lake and river. These professors and students would live here, and transpose learning, into gainful activity for the whole community.

Wind turbines--Ubly, MI

This university would go beyond the science, to the best management and practical production methods, moving from prototypes, to developing the manufacturing of these energy devices right here. To make this happen there are many political problems to solve. Let’s get busy. Candice Miller and friends, here’s something worth helping deliver to your constituents.

We have the manufacturing history and ingenuity that made independent auto transportation possible, and tuned on light bulbs around the planet. Why not fully develop our local capacity for creating energy independence? It’s time to stop watching windmill parts pass us by on internationally flagged freighters. We should be shipping these, and many more new energy machines, from our port to the rest of the world.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney
Click on any image to enlarge.
Words that give hope for a world that builds the infrastructure of peace, instead of the monstrosities of war.

"Above all we want to make the voice of Jesus heard. He was always a man of peace. It could be expected that, when God came to earth, he would be a man of great power, destroying the opposing forces. That he would be a man of powerful violence as an instrument of peace. Not at all. He came in weakness. He came with only the strength of love, totally without violence, even to the point of going to the Cross. This is what shows us the true face of God, that violence never comes from God, never helps bring anything good, but is a destructive means and not the path to escape difficulties. He is thus a strong voice against every type of violence. He strongly invites all sides to renounce violence, even if they feel they are right. The only path is to renounce violence, to begin anew with dialogue, with the attempt to find peace together, with a new concern for one another, a new willingness to be open to one another. This is Jesus’ true message: seek peace with the means of peace and leave violence aside."
—Pope Benedict XVI, Good Friday, 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011


Today’s Port Huron Times Herald features an extremely rare front page world news headline [most now are local, or reverberate national war declarations]. “Bin Laden Dead.” Celebrants from all parties surround the White House into the early morning. The mastermind of 911 is dead. Our man in Afghanistan, who helped us defeat the Soviets in that theater of the Cold War, is dead-- three decades later successfully killed by U.S. CIA. special forces across the border in Pakistan. 1

ut the War on Terror is not dead, we are quickly reminded by pundits, the President, and members of Congress. Al Qaeda lives, and will probably retaliate. Bin Laden has achieved in the eyes of many of our enemies, the martyr's death. It will fertilize their fanaticism and confirm their conviction that justice is done by inflicting extra-juridical death sentences. He was killed by a “headshot.” This is the method the U.S. has adopted over the past ten years, and Al Qaeda believes in the same. “Take-no-prisoners” war lives on undiminished, by mutual agreement. We could not have tolerated the trial of a captured Bin Laden, in which the history of consensual war crimes dating back to the 1980’s [when he was our freedom fighter in Afghanistan] would be publicized.

The collateral killing of the innocent is also accepted by mutual agreement. President Obama in his statement late yesterday named Bin Laden a “mass murderer of Muslims” [in addition to U.S. citizens on 911], apparently referring to his routine suicide bombings which target U.S. forces, and Muslim collaborators along with innocent Muslim bystanders. More innocents, especially as we took the sidetrack invasion of Iraq, have died, in the hundreds of thousands, as a result of our firepower and caught in the crossfire with insurgents. 2 Our rules of engagement have ordered that 30 collateral lives are expendable in the effort to target one on our wanted list. 3

Will this help us end these wars? This joint eye for an eye justice enterprise. We cut off the monster's head in Iraq [Saddam hanged 12-30-06]. That war then surged and rages to this day, only to be eclipsed by the current Afghan / Pakistan escalation. As our troops stormed towards Bin Laden’s execution, a probable U.S. missile had just hit a Qaddafi compound in Lybia, reportedly killing his son, and three grandchildren, ages four, two and one. 4

A mother, Alisha Qaddafi, of one of them four days before.
Qaddafi Daughter Provides a Glimpse Inside the Bunker – For story see

These successful attacks all occur a day after a royal wedding, which was not upstaged by Bin Laden’s death, nor vice versa. This is the way official England explained the Lybia event. Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain told the BBC that the airstrike fell within the [UN] Security Council mandate to stop a “loss of civilian life by targeting Qaddafi’s war-making machine.” 5 Perhaps grandkids are construed part of the war-making machine in today’s world, where violating the fifth commandment has become routine business.

Our nation which has most institutionalized war, more or as much as any from Roman empire or German state before, must stop leading in this path of vengeance and hyper-militarized international confrontation. This is not what democracy looks like, whatever the transient positive results. My prayer is, as it was at mass today, “Lord may we truly end these wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and especially, may we end the war in our hearts.”

In sum: Jesus’ way to take out the enemy. “`Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” But ”if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty , give him something to drink; by doing this you will heap burning coals upon his head.” Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good. Rom 12:19-21 These can be the burning coals, of repentance and conversion, that bring blessing to all warring parties.



Act 2 -- is interview with Pentagon targeting expert giving innocents ratio. Whole episode well worth listening to.

Unfortunately the last third of this article was redacted by NYT online from the original by this afternoon. I include the final paragraph of original saved in the am below—contact me if you’d like full article.
Two friends of the Qaddafi family said that the victims included the 4-year-old daughter of Colonel Qaddafi’s daughter, Aisha el-Qaddafi, 36; a 1-year old son of Mohammed el-Qaddafi, the colonel’s eldest son; and a 2-year-old whose father is Hannibal el-Qaddafi, though it was unclear if it was his son or his daughter. The funerals for the victims would be held on Monday, the friends said.

Illuminations by Kathy Brahney