Ten more years of the drone war

The war in Iraq is pretty much over and the war in Afghanistan is winding down, bringing to an end our wars sparked by 9/11–right?  Well, not exactly.  It turns out the drone war may go on for at least another ten years.  The Obama administration has put together a systematic, on-going kill list.  But in an Orwellian touch, it’s not called a kill list; rather, it’s called a “disposition matrix.”  From Greg Miller of the Washington Post:

Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the “disposition matrix.”

The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the “disposition” of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.

Although the matrix is a work in progress, the effort to create it reflects a reality setting in among the nation’s counterterrorism ranks: The United States’ conventional wars are winding down, but the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years.

Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaeda continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight.

“We can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us,” a senior administration official said. “It’s a necessary part of what we do. . . . We’re not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, ‘We love America.’ ”

That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism. Targeting lists that were regarded as finite emergency measures after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are now fixtures of the national security apparatus. The rosters expand and contract with the pace of drone strikes but never go to zero.

Meanwhile, a significant milestone looms: The number of militants and civilians killed in the drone campaign over the past 10 years will soon exceed 3,000 by certain estimates, surpassing the number of people al-Qaeda killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

via Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists – The Washington Post.

With that milestone, if we practiced the old “eye-for-an-eye” collectivist revenge codes, we could call it even and declare peace.  But the killings are going to go on and on for another ten years!  I am astonished that it’s liberal Democrats who are doing this.  George McGovern, who passed away this week, took the Democratic party, for better or for worse, in the direction of peace.  Aren’t any of you Democrats bothered by Obama’s drone war?  I wish the moderator at the last debate had asked about this topic.  I’d be curious if Romney would continue this “disposition matrix” or if he really is the peace candidate.  I mean, it’s good to protect America against our enemies and all, and drone strikes don’t put our military men and women in danger.  But while we are attacking people overseas with these weapons, we are at war and not peace.

Great quotes of St. Francis that he didn't say

Luther is not the only one that gets credited for quotable lines that he didn’t really say.  (E.g., the principle of voting for “wise turks,” as we discussed.)  St. Francis of Assissi gets the same treatment.  Here a Franciscan priest, Father Pat McCloskey, responds to a question about that phrase, which I have heard even from people who should know better, that suggests preaching the Gospel doesn’t require words.  He throws in a debunking of the “peace prayer”  (“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love,” etc.)

Q: I keep seeing St. Francis of Assisi credited as saying, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” I have looked in several places but cannot find where St. Francis said this.

A: This is a great quote, very Franciscan in its spirit, but not literally from St. Francis. The thought is his; this catchy phrasing is not in his writings or in the earliest biographies about him.

In Chapter XVII of his Rule of 1221, Francis told the friars not to preach unless they had received the proper permission to do so. Then he added, “Let all the brothers, however, preach by their deeds.”

I had been a Franciscan for 28 years—and had earned an M.A. in Franciscan studies—before I heard the “Use words if necessary” quote. That was during Msgr. Kenneth Velo’s homily at Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin’s funeral in 1996.

About a year ago, a friend of mine used the Internet to contact some of the most eminent Franciscan scholars in the world, seeking the source of this “Use words if necessary” quote. It is clearly not in any of Francis’ writings. After a couple weeks of searching, no scholar could find this quote in a story written within 200 years of Francis’ death.

This saying and the “Peace Prayer,” which Francis certainly did not write, are easily identified with him because they so thoroughly reflect his spirit. Unfortunately, they would not have become as widespread if they had been attributed to “John Smith” or “Mary Jones.”

Exhaustive research on the origins of the “Peace Prayer of St. Francis” has led to Christian Renoux’s new book in French. This 210-page study (ISBN 2-85020-096-4) is described at www.electre.com under Les Editions Franciscaines.

An 11th-century French prayer is similar to the first part of the “Peace Prayer.” The oldest known copy of the current prayer, however, dates to 1912 in France. The prayer became more well known in other countries during World War I.

This prayer is sold all over Assisi today—but always under the title “A Simple Prayer.” Whoever linked it to St. Francis guaranteed a wide diffusion of the text. The same is true for the “Use words if necessary” quote. Both reflect St. Francis very well.

via Ask a Franciscan: Great Saying But Tough to Trace – October 2001 Issue of St. Anthony Messenger Magazine Online.

Thanks to Pastor  Matt Richard for the link.  Read his post for an important critique of the notion that we can preach the Gospel without words and the Word.

The third-party candidates

The third-party candidates also had a debate.  Here are highlights:

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee, earned the loudest applause during the debate’s opening moments. He railed against the domestic and foreign policy proposals both major party candidates have put forth, and called for the legalization of marijuana.

“In no category is marijuana more dangerous than alcohol,” said Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico who also wants to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and do away with income and corporate taxes in favor of an expenditure tax.

Johnson also railed against the length of the war in Afghanistan. “I thought initially that was totally warranted,” he said, before adding that we should “have gotten out of Afghanistan 11 years ago.”

The former governor saved perhaps his most memorable line of the night for the end of the debate, when he declared, “Wasting your vote is voting for somebody that you don’t believe in. That’s wasting your vote. I’m asking everybody here, I’m asking everybody watching this nationwide to waste your vote on me.”

Constitution Party nominee Virgil Goode, a former Virginia congressman and hard-line anti-immigration candidate, proposed a moratorium on green card admissions into the United States until unemployment falls below five percent nationally. He earned only a smattering of cheers when he pitched his plan.

Green Party nominee Jill Stein and Justice Party nominee Rocky Anderson rounded out the lineup on stage. Stein, who ran for governor of Massachusetts against Romney in 2002, called for free public higher education. “Let’s bail out the students,” she declared.

The candidates largely kept things cordial with each other during the debate, but there were disagreements from time to time. Goode was at odds with Johnson’s call to legalize marijuana. Stein and Anderson disagreed with Johnson and Goode on education spending.

The debate was moderated by former CNN host Larry King and presented by the nonpartisan Free and Equal Elections Foundation. Individuals submitted the questions via social media. The issues ranged from drugs, to the economy, foreign policy, and civil rights.

via Third-party presidential candidates rail against Obama and Romney at debate (VIDEO).

Hmmm.  Are any of you voting for any of these candidates?  Or do they make the mainstream candidates look good?

A tie in the Electoral College?

One possibility in the election:  Both candidates get 269 electoral votes, resulting in a tie.  From Napp Nazworth:

In a Thursday blog post, University of Virginia political scientists Larry Sabato, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley point out that a tie in the electoral college, 269-269, is a real possibility.

For the Electoral College to end in a tie, Romney would win Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia. Obama would win Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin.

Given recent polls, this scenario is not hard to imagine. It shows each candidate winning states where polls show them polling slightly better than their opponent, with one exception — Nevada. Sabato, Kondik and Skelley point out that of all the states on the 269-269 map, Romney winning Nevada is the least likely.

According to Article II, Section 1, of the U.S. Constitution, if the Electoral College is tied, the newly elected House of Representatives will choose the president with each state delegation getting one vote.

Given current projections for the U.S. House races, Kondik predicts that in a tie race Romney would become president. He would receive the votes of at least 29 state delegations, while Obama would receive the votes of at least 15 state delegations, and six state delegations would either be tied or too close to call.

via Presidential Race: Electoral College Outcome Could Be 269-269.

Theoretically, with an even 50 states, under those rules the House could also split 25 to 25.  We need to admit a 51st state fast.

The World Series

The San Francisco Giants did to the St. Louis Cardinals what the Cardinals had been doing to everyone else, coming back from near certain elimination to advance to the World Series.  They are playing the Detroit Tigers, a team that has the thanks and admiration of most of the baseball world for humiliating the New York Yankees by sweeping them in four games.

So, fellow baseball fans, who do you like in the World Series that began last night with an 8-3 Giants win?  That is to say, who do you think will win AND whom would you like to win?

I think I will pull for the Tigers.  Detroit is a beaten down city that could use the boost.

A new name for God?

From Methodist minister Chris Brundage at Christian Century:

I have a new name for God, at least new to me. The old three-letter word “God” is worn out. Words only last so long before they need to be retired for a season. The word “God” has too much freight on it and too many associations.

I have begun to use a Hebrew word for deity: el. It’s pronounced like the English word ale. (This is an idea I borrowed from Madeleine L’Engle.) El is a simple word, found in the Bible, but it doesn’t have any history for me, and I never use it in my work as a pastor. I walk on the trail in the mornings and talk to el, who hides in the trees. Actually, el is hidden deeply in all things.

I bought a new prayer book to help me talk with el at other times. My old prayer book was looking decrepit, and the cats gnawed off the ribbon markers. My prayer book is published by the Presbyterian Church and includes the psalms along with traditional prayers. It has a Celtic cross on the cover and readings from the daily lectionary in the back, which I read in the Good News Bible or the NRSV. A new prayer book goes well with a new name for God.

via A new name for God | The Christian Century.

First of all, “El” is not a new name for God, simply a word for God in another language.  If a person wants to pray in another language, fine.  If in Biblical Hebrew, so much the better.

But I wouldn’t want to fool with the “name” of God.  The name of God is a concept I suspect we don’t fully appreciate.  In the Bible, God’s “name” is  fraught with spiritual power and taboos, from the Commandment (“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”) to the injunctions to glorify God’s name and Christ’s promises about praying and acting in His name (talk about a claim to divinity).

Of course, “God” isn’t the name of God–just a noun for who and what He is.  The name of God is expressed in the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, and is connected to the verb “to be,” as in what He said to Moses, “I am who I am.”  Now that Christ has come, we have a name by which we are to baptize and to worship:  “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

Coming up with different names for God, though, cuts us off from the historic and universal church that extends back through time and across the whole world.  Making up your own individual name for God enshrines the individual–not YHWH, not the Trinity–as the locus of devotion.


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