Good News. Bad News. Confusing News.

First the good news.

Syria said it would abide by an international treaty banning chemical weapons

Now the bad news.

But it linked this to demands that the United States stop threatening military strikes and arming the rebels in the Syrian civil war. Secretary of State John Kerry rejected these demands.

And finally, the confusing news. 

Which is not so much news as a question: Why are we arming the rebels in Syria? Which leads to another question: Doesn’t this indicate that the real reason for wanting to fire missiles at Syria was to help the rebels win the war and not because of chemical weapons?

Read all about here.

From Russia With Love (or maybe not)

 

Frank Weathers has the story.

It seems that President Vladimir Putin is breaking new ice for Russian heads of state. He is now an op-ed author for the New York Times. Frank has nothing but praise for President Putin’s prose. I, on the other hand, look at it a bit differently.

President Putin wrote an op-ed piece in which he discussed America’s recent foreign policy. He accurately said that we’ve gotten into too many random military encounters lately, and that we are turning too often to force in our international engagements.

He also said that America’s way of dealing with other countries has become a matter of “relying on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan ‘you’re either with us or against us.’” I think he may have been talking about things like the obvious bullying that President Obama engaged in to coerce foreign nations to refuse sanctuary to whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

It is interesting indeed that this particular strategy backfired with President Putin, who, alone of all the heads of state in the world, took Mr Snowden in. President Obama was so miffed by this that he canceled a pre-G20 meeting with the Russian President, an action that, honestly folks, sounded personal and grade school to me.

President Putin goes on in his op-ed to remark about something that is quite serious: Nuclear proliferation. He evidently sees this growing push to develop the bomb by impoverished countries who cannot feed their own people as a defensive measure on their part. He is right again when he says, “If you have the bomb, they can’t touch you.”

In other words, nobody talks about randomly lobbing Tomahawk missiles at nations who have the bomb, no matter how egregious we find their behavior in other matters.

This raises an important question: Is America’s international policy, with its bully-boy tactics and constant deployment of force against small nations who can’t fight back, actually pushing smaller nations to follow a policy of developing nuclear weapons?

That is a discussion for another day, but it is certainly one worth having.

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Having said all this, there is one thing I want Public Catholic readers to understand about President Putin’s op-ed piece. That one thing is that President Putin is using the op-ed to side-step our president and lobby the American people directly.

I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing.

After all, he’s not paying a bunch of lobbyists to slime their way around the Capitol greasing campaign accounts and non-campaign pacs with their donations in order to convince our elected officials to vote against us. He is going out there in the court of public opinion and making his case in a straight-forward and direct way. We know where he’s coming from and what he’s saying. We do not have to listen to hours of lies from bought and paid for cable news talking heads interviewing bought and paid for think-tankers and bought and paid for politicians while they try to propagandize us.

We don’t have to sort through what President Putin is saying to decide what he really thinks. It’s all there, for the reading.

But we should be aware and never forget that he ain’t us.

He is the President of Russia and the interests he’s promoting are the interests of Russia. That doesn’t make what he’s saying wrong, and that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to him. Quite the contrary. That makes what he’s saying important and worthy of our thoughtful analysis.

Odd as this sounds, I have a higher opinion of his motives than I do our cable news people. He, at least, is working for his country.

9/11: Here’s Something I Don’t Want to Write About

9/11.

What a bitter cup.

It appears this nation will drink it to the dregs.

And then lick the cup.

As far as I’m concerned, the best moment of this whole thing was when I heard that Osama bin Laden was dead. Dead and dumped into the ocean to swim with the fishes.

I have no use for murdering monsters.

9/11 cost this country dearly. We have given up so much freedom to these murdering monsters. We are surveilled and patted down and searched; not to mention the lost lives, arms, legs and emotional wholeness of those we sent to fight this evil for us.

I remember the morning of 9/11. I watched the second plane hit the second tower and I knew; this was not random and it was not an accident. I heard that the Pentagon had been hit. I saw the towers fall. I heard there was another plane that had crashed.

And that was the miracle.

Once we saw through their lies, they couldn’t even handle our unarmed civilians. That planeload of people on Flight 93 fought back with boiling water and a food tray and they took those terrorists out on their way to destroy the Capitol.

That crash into the Pennsylvania countryside was the beginning of our resistance. It was the first time they faced Americans who knew the truth of who they were. It was the indicator of how badly they had miscalculated who we are and what we will do if war is forced upon us.

I was in the mood to do whatever after 9/11. I would have been willing, in the first rush of rage, to melt down the mountains of the Middle East to glass. But our president reacted like a president and not an enraged citizen. His initial response, to go into Afghanistan, was not only appropriate, it was controlled, considering what had happened.

This is America. Step on this soil to do harm and take the consequences.

That is my feeling.

Do not attempt, as Lincoln said, “to take a drink from the Ohio by force.”

We welcome people from all over the world. We help people all over the world.

But do not — ever — think that our kindness and our hospitality betokens an unwillingness to defend this country. That would be a mistake.

Today, on this anniversary of that day when someone dared to come onto American soil and kill 3,000 Americans, we are considering whether or not we should advance what has become an unending bleed of random military actions into yet another country. This time we are talking about military action in Syria.

We could, if we wanted, kill everything, everywhere. This country has that kind of power.

But the question is, should we? Not, should we kill everything, everywhere, which I think we all agree is not a good plan, but should we constantly and without much thought zap this little problem and that little problem and go here, there, and everywhere, firing off missiles and sending in troops for various, decidedly random, reasons?

Touch this homeland, defile America itself with your ancient hatreds and tribal feuds, and you will face us. That much is certain and non debatable.

But we need lines — bright, shiny lines — about when enough is enough to our endless military engagements overseas. We need to understand, for ourselves and not for anyone else, what we are doing and why we are doing it when we use our military force.

Random wars are an inexcusable misuse of the lives and treasure that the American people have invested in their military and entrusted to their elected officials.

If I will not sacrifice one of my children to your random war — and I will not — then I do not have the right to sacrifice other people’s children to it, either. So long as the board of directors of General Dynamics and Raytheon and Halliburton and all their almost numberless cohorts do not have their children wearing those “boots on the ground” we keep talking about, then any war we engage in is unjust at the outset.

Take their kids out of their expensive private schools, take away the keys to their cars that cost more than my house and send them to Syria alongside the inner city kids and working-class kids who fight these wars. Insist that the newscasters who are pushing so hard for war, war, any war with anybody anytime, send their children to fight.

That might change the rhetoric a bit. If the people who are benefitting from these wars actually started paying part of the cost of them, it might adjust their thinking.

9/11 still makes me angry. Sadly, that anger is mixed now with a sense of betrayal by my own government.

I pray that this changes.

 

Book Review: Trusting God on the Rocky Bottom of Life

To join the discussion about Rock Bottom Blessings, or to order a copy, go here RockBottomBlessings 1

Rock Bottom Blessings is Karen Beattie’s autobiographical description of finding the hidden blessings in the losses that everyone faces in life.

The rock bottom for Mrs Beattie was losing her job and her dream of adopting an Ethiopian baby.

Mrs Beattie married at the age of 40. She and her husband were both in the grip of delayed dreams they wanted to fulfill while life still gave them enough time to do it. They heard their life-clocks, ticking away the time they had to do these things.

For her husband, the delayed dream was a career change from journalism to counseling. Since his new wife had a well-paying job, they couple decided he should pursue this dream. He was accepted into a good school and received a scholarship to pursue his studies.

At the same time, the couple began trying to fulfill Mrs Beattie’s delayed dream of having a baby. After infertility treatment and two miscarriages, she accepted that she would not be able to have a baby herself, and immediately turned to international adoption.

The couple ran head-on into the spider’s web of government regulations and expense which has grown up around these adoptions, but moved ahead with the process, anyway. Then Mrs Beattie lost her job, and the financial wherewithal to adopt along with it.

Ultimately, they were faced with a decision as a couple as to whose dream they would go for: The husband’s dream of changing careers, or Mrs Beattie’s dream of international adoption. They chose to go for the career change.

I won’t spoil the book by telling you what happens next. What I will do is say that the needs of children are being lost in these adoption regulations.

While we debate what are essentially red herring issues such as whether or not homosexual couples should be allowed to adopt, we ignore the overwhelming adoption issue, which is the red tape and expense we have hung on this process. This spider’s web of regulations often make it impossible to place children in loving homes.

The truth is, children languish in situations which are destructive to them as human beings while their potential parents grieve because they can’t adopt.

Private adoptions have become fraught with the peril of emotional devastation for adoptive parents. So much so, that many people simply won’t try it anymore. I personally know a couple who arranged a private adoption, only to have the birth mother change her mind later and take the baby away from them.

This is hell for the adoptive parents, and hell for the baby.

I do not want to see young women coerced into giving their babies up for adoption. But neither the birth mother nor the birth father should be able to change their mind after the baby goes to the adoptive home. I also think that we need firm limits on how long parents who have had their children taken from them for drug addiction or mistreatment of the children will have to demonstrate changes in their lives. If the parents do not care to change, these children should be placed for permanent adoption so they can have a chance at life. 

This is a difficult issue for the simple reason that social workers are sometimes ham-handed in removing children from homes. I know of instances where this was done for trivial or even bogus reasons. Other times, they leave children in abusive situations so long that the children end up getting killed.

There is one thread running through all of this: The needs of the children come last in our system.

We have developed a “rights based” system of government in which children are not given the power of “rights” of their own to defend themselves.

Mrs Beattie’s book is a small window on this world of adoption. That is not the book’s primary focus. The main storyline of the book is Karen Beattie’s attempt to grapple with the disappointments of her life through her Christian faith.

Don’t be bitter. She admonishes herself at one point, which is good advice for all of us. She struggles to understand how God can love her and still deny her the gift of children.

All in all, the book is an interesting read. The narrative moves well and keeps you interested as you wait to see if this good woman will be able to realize her dream of adopting a child.

Don’t Stop Praying, But We May Be Out of the War-Making Woods

I don’t think there are any lambs in this particular gathering, but it appears as if the lions may decide to, if not lie down together, at least make war another day.

Presidents Putin of Russia, Rouhani of Iran and Assad of Syria have been talking about a proposal to remove chemical weapons from Syria to Russia for several days now. I first read about this before the weekend, but didn’t write about it because the sources were publications inside Russia that I didn’t know anything about.

Haaretz, an Israeli news outlet, has also been running stories about it. The proposal became quasi official yesterday and today the New York Times wrote that President Obama has “tentatively embraced” the idea.

I expect that the war-promoting members of the press (which is a substantial portion of the press) will react to this with an analysis that President Obama has been “weak” and went to Congress “looking for a way out,” etc. I want to say, in anticipation of that, that if this compromise works, a good portion of the reason why is that this president made the decision to involve the American people, through their representatives, in this debate.

I’ve been critical of this attempt to take this country into another unnecessary war from the outset. I expect that I am going to be equally critical of the inevitable future attempts to do the same thing. Our press has become a powerful lobby for armed intervention all over the globe. There is one cable news network in particular that never stops agitating for war. The place where they want this country to use armed force changes, but the demand that we do it is almost constant.

I am not a pacifist. I believe in self-defense.

I am most definitely a patriot. From the soles of my feet to the hair of my head, I am an American.

I believe without equivocation that if we do not take an honest and critical look at this situation, we are dooming ourselves. I’ll write more about this, but we are spending ourselves into bankruptcy to finance a war machine that is out of touch with reality. Then, we are being sold on wars and “military actions” one right after the other to use it and justify it.

War has become our major industry.

This cannot go on if we are to survive. We need an economy that is based on manufacturing the goods and services of the people of this country, not an economy that is based on manufacturing weapons.

As I said in the title of this post, Don’t stop Praying.

We are not out of the woods on this yet.

And the peacemakers in this situation are hardly peaceable people.

But it looks as if there is a real possibility that we will be able to avoid firing Tomahawk missiles at the people of Syria. There may even be a possibility that we can let them work out their own civil war without shedding American blood.

We need to continue praying for peace, and for our Christian brothers and sisters who are so very vulnerable in this war. I’ve read that President Assad has treated the Christian minority in Syria with tolerance and that the rebels have targeted Christian villages for attacks and attempts at forced conversions to Islam. Again, this information has come largely from the Russian press and the Russians have a stake in this war, so I’ve been slow to write about it.

But, the Christians in Syria who have contacted me have said much the same thing.

I am grateful to the Holy Father for his powerful leadership in this matter. I am also grateful to President Obama for making the decision to allow Congress to vote on it.

I hope that is a precedent-setting move that future presidents will take seriously.

Don’t stop praying. It appears to be working.

What We Need: Divine Mercy

 

I pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet every Friday. I also pray the main prayer after Communion. It is a beautiful prayer of atonement and Christ’s unending mercy towards us.

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The Marine Times Answers My Questions, and They Didn’t Even Know I was Asking

 

The  Marine Times answered a couple of the questions I have about this rush to war in Syria, and they didn’t even know I was asking.

Frank Weathers, a former Marine who served in the Middle East, passed the article US considers training Syria rebels along, and the minute I read it, I thought So that’s why we’re being pushed to war in Syria.

It turns out that the president is

“… considering a plan to use US military trainers to help increase the capabilities of the Syrian rebels, in a move that would greatly expand the current CIA training being done quietly in Jordan.”

That one sentence answers just about all the questions I raised in this morning’s post. I asked what we would accomplish by hitting the people of Syria with Tomahawk missiles, given the paucity of legitimate military targets in the country.

While I was typing and musing, I wondered aloud, Is the plan to devastate the infrastructure so that the government crumbles and the rebels win this civil war?

Then, this afternoon, I had time to read the article Frank had found and it was one of those Spoing! moments when the pieces fall into place.

Of course the plan is to destroy the infrastructure of Syria so that the government falls and the rebels win. That is the only military objective for firing Tomahawk missiles that makes any sense. All this stuff and nonsense about “red lines” and “chemical weapons” has always had a How dumb do they think we are? quality to it. 

After all, chemical weapons have been used on civilian populations a number of times in past years and there were no “red lines” and no talk about bombing people for humanitarian purposes. That never added up. 

Our government knows the goodness in the American people. They know that we can be motivated, even against our own self interest, by calls to save innocent people from terrible suffering. They know that we are ignorant about our military, how much it costs us in dollars and lost growth to our economy and our nation. They know that we are so disconnected from these realities that they can feed us any sort of gobbledy-goop imaginable about how bombing people “helps” them, and we will believe it. 

I don’t think there is any other people on this planet who are willing to sacrifice so much to help others as the American people. Our government knows this and it is using it to try to push us into intervening in the civil war in Syria to help the rebels win.

I have a small question. Who are these rebels?

Do we really want them to win?

Why do we want them to win?  

And don’t give me any more lies about humanitarian needs. Tell me the truth. 

That would be refreshing, wouldn’t it, if our government tried telling us the truth? 

Pope Francis: Pray and Fast for Peace

Blessed are the peacemakers. Jesus Christ

 

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For more information, check out Why I am Catholic and Seasons of Grace. 

Late Night Catechism

I need a break from war and rumors of war.

Enjoy.

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A Slide on the Ice is No Reason to Go to War

 

Much of the news media has been hard-selling war in Syria to their viewers for quite some time now.

Economic issues are the toughest issues to discuss with traditional Christians. I believe this is because far too many of our religious leaders have aligned themselves and their teaching with the Republican party rather than with Christ.

I am well aware that there are many religious leaders who have done the same thing with the Democrats. But when it comes to false teachings about money, the worst offenders are the heretical religious leaders who follow the Rs.

I believe quite firmly that money is playing a decisive part in this push for war-war-any-war-we-can-find that is coming out of certain opinion-makers’ mouths. Not so long ago, these same folks were pushing us to go to war with Iran. If we don’t go to war in Syria, they’ll be looking for another war someplace else before you can say bottom line.

There are real issues involved with this debate about Syria, but you won’t find them on the cable news. That is because the various cable news stations are, as I said earlier “opinion makers.”

Think about that.

Noodle with it.

Let the idea roll around in your mind as you look at it from different angles.

Opinion makers.

Not journalists. Not reporters of the news.

But opinion makers, which is, I think, a nice phrase for propagandists.

They’re not trying to inform you. They are trying to use you. Their “discussions” always go one direction, and that is war, war, more war.

I am not, as I have said many times, a pacifist. I believe in defending this nation. I understand the lessons of World War II when those in power were so hungry for peace that they became enablers of actions that resulted in the most destructive war in human history.

On the other hand, I sort of understand the side-step, two-step of the war that to this day nobody can really explain: World War I. The world slid into World War I like a line of cars rear-ending one another on an icy road.

One salient point that is usually overlooked is that World War I and World War II were not isolated events. They are actually one event. I have always regarded World War I and World War II as the same war with a 20-year, depression-wracked truce between engagements. The world oh-noooed its way into World War II by letting the bullies have their run-up. But the real causes of that war were in the first world war and its inconclusive and destructive pause. In a real way, the horrors of the 20th century began with a slide on the ice.

The moral of all this, at least for me, is that a slide on the ice is no reason, ever, to go to war. We need to think things through.

War is evil. It is destruction. Even when it must be fought, it is always a tragedy, and it always destroys precious lives. I have stood beside enough graves, I have witnessed the psychological deaths of enough parents standing like hollowed out husks of themselves beside those same graves, to be very slow to say that we should commit America to war.

War makes money, big money, for some. But I am from the economic class that fights these wars. I have talked to the men and women who’ve come back and can’t stop remembering. I have, as I said, stood beside graves into which we lowered coffins containing bodies so mutilated their parents were told not to look.

War is not a video game.

There are three points I want us to consider in this post.

1. Should President Obama have asked Congress to authorize action in Syria, or should he have acted unilaterally?

2. Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons on the Kurds in Iraq, yet the world did nothing. Why is Syria different?

3. Can the American people resist the “opinion makers” who are trying to hard-sell them on war with somebody/anybody and think for themselves?

A couple of days ago:

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One year ago:

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Eleven years ago:

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