Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What America Has Become

Under the Bush Administration, torture has become an acceptable means of doing business. This saddens me beyond words. Not only has this nation lost its way, ceasing to be a nation that can inspire as it did the young people at Tiananmen in 1989, but it leaves me to wonder how quickly we will be able to restore our collective soul. How long will it take to put the toothpaste back in the tube on this one? We will likely pay a price- for a long time- for the immorality of this Administration.

Two articles relevant to this issue today. They answer the key questions: Did it happen? Did the US government sanction it? Both questions answered in the affirmative. A devastating day- with more to come as the Bush Administration prepares to leave office (as more revelations will inevitably leak out) and we reach the "End of an Error."

Report: Exams prove torture in Iraq, Gitmo

Medical examinations of former terrorism suspects held by the U.S. military at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, found evidence of torture and other abuse that resulted in serious injuries and mental disorders, according to a human rights group.

One Iraqi prisoner, identified only as Yasser, reported being subjected to electric shocks three times and being sodomized with a stick. His thumbs bore round scars consistent with shocking, according to the report obtained by The Associated Press.

[D]octors and mental health professionals stated they could link the prisoners' claims of abuse while in U.S. detention to injuries documented by X-rays, medical exams and psychological tests.

"The level of the time, thoroughness and rigor of the exams left me personally without question about the credibility of the individuals," said Dr. Allen Keller, one of the doctors who conducted the exams, in an interview with the AP. "The findings on the physical and psychological exams were consistent with what they reported."

CIA defended waterboarding, harsh techniques

Torture 'is basically subject to perception,' CIA lawyer advised Pentagon

Torture "is basically subject to perception," CIA counterterrorism lawyer Jonathan Fredman told a group of military and intelligence officials gathered at the U.S.-run detention camp in Cuba on Oct. 2, 2002, according to minutes of the meeting. "If the detainee dies, you're doing it wrong."

[I]n the summer of 2002, Pentagon officials compiled lists of aggressive techniques, soliciting opinions from the CIA and others, and ultimately implementing the practices over opposition from military lawyers who argued that the proposed tactics were probably illegal and could harm U.S. troops.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.

- Frederick Buechner
Wishful Thinking

Friday, May 30, 2008

Real Peace

Real peace will arise spontaneously
When your mind becomes free
Of attachments,
When you know that the objects of the world
Can never give you what you really want.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bush Legacy

From an article by Thomas Friedman in today's NY Times.
The Bush team, by contrast, in eight years has managed to put America in the unique position in the Middle East where it is "not liked, not feared and not respected," writes Aaron David Miller, a former Mideast negotiator under both Republican and Democratic administrations, in his provocative new book on the peace process, titled "The Much Too Promised Land."
Fits within the Pilgrim's thesis that the US position is less secure now than before the Iraq Invasion.  We face real security threats from the Middle East.  Now we are less equipped to deal with them than ever.
The work to be done is greater than any single president can do- of either party.  Regardless of who will be the next president, the work will continue- if it is actually undertaken- past his/her term. 
And it will not be undertaken if the next president holds firmly to the same foolishness as our current president.  In a speech to the Isreali parliament, Bush likened Obama's belief in talking to Iran to the appeasment of Hitler by Chamberlain in the 1930s. 
Our current president's policy is to talk to our friends only, and then either ignore or bomb our enemies. 
Americans need to learn, and elect a president who understands, that peace is only achieved through a willingness to talk to enemies.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Whenever someone feels anger, there is a potential for powerful dignity, a sense of responsibility, and the expression of some deep personal value that has a universal rightness. This value needs acknowledgement.


-David E. Doiron

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Act in Love

 Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

- 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Moon on the Water

A person getting enlightened is like the moon reflecting in the water. The moon does not get wet, the water is not disturbed. Though it is a great expanse of light, it reflects in a little bit of water; the whole moon and the whole sky reflect even in the dew on the grass; they reflect even in a single drop of water. Enlightenment not disturbing the person is like the moon not piercing the water. A person not obstructing enlightenment is like the dewdrop not obstructing the heavens.


Benefits of confusion

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

     ~ Wendell Berry

Friday, April 25, 2008

Into the Light

Let go into the clear light, trust it, merge with it. It is your own true nature, it is home.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

From whom can we learn most?

In my own experience, the period of greatest gain in knowledge and experience is the most difficult period in one's life. ...Through a difficult period, you can learn, you can develop inner strength, determination, and courage to face the problem. Who gives you this chance? Your enemy.

-His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A wise old one...

The wise ones of old had subtle wisdom

And depth of understanding,

So profound that they could not be understood.

And because they could not be understood,

Perforce must they be so described:

Who can find repose in a muddy world?
By lying still, it becomes clear.

Who can maintain his calm for long?

By activity, it comes back to life.

One who embraces this Tao

Guards against being over-full.

Because he guards against being over-full,

He is beyond wearing out and renewal.


The happiness we seek, a genuine lasting peace and happiness, can be attained only through the purification of our minds. This is possible if we cut the root cause of all suffering and misery—our fundamental ignorance.

HH the Dalai Lama


Forgiveness is giving up the right to retaliate. Forgiveness is the willingness to have something happen the way it happened. It's not true that you can't forgive something; it's a matter of the will, and you always have the choice. Forgiveness is never dependent on what the other person does or does not do; it is always under our control. Forgiveness is giving up the insistence on being understood.... Jesus forgave those who crucified him. This is a radically new way of thinking. For those who accept and practice this discipline, there is a release of energy and a sense of freedom.

- Pixie Koestline Hammond

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Surge

It's not what you think.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Deaths among Iraqi civilians, security forces and insurgents jumped in March because of the recent spasm of violence in the country's Shiite regions, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said.
In March, 923 Iraqi civilians were killed in violence across the country and 1,358 were wounded, according to the Interior, Defense and Health ministries. The figure is sharply higher than February, when 633 civilians died and 701 were wounded.

Deaths among security forces spiked as well, with 54 soldiers killed and 100 wounded and 102 police killed and 173 wounded. In February, 20 soldiers were killed and 22 wounded, and 65 police were killed and 122 wounded.


"Anger is the fire in one's mind that burns away all of one's virtuous deeds."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The kingdome of God is within you

 The seed of God is in us. Given an intelligent and hard-working farmer, it will thrive and grow up to God, whose seed it is; and accordingly its fruits will be God-nature. Pear seeds grow into pear trees, nut seeds into nut trees, and God seeds into God.
- Meister Eckhart

In the words of one who died

Is it worth it?  What have we gained?  What is below makes clear what is lost.

A Last Goodbye

Hey beautiful well we were on blackout again, we lost yet some more soldiers. I cant wait to get out of this place and return to you where i belong. I dont know how much more of this place i can take. i try to be hard and brave for my guys but i dont know how long i can keep that up you know. its like everytime we go out, any little bump or sounds freaks me out. maybe im jus stressin is all. hopefully ill get over it....

you know, you never think that anything is or can happen to you, at first you feel invincible, but then little by little things start to wear on you...

well im sure well be able to save a couple of bucks if you stay with your mom....and at the same time you can help her with some of the bills for the time being. it doesnt bother me. as long as you guys are content is all that matters. I love and miss you guys like crazy. I know i miss both of you too. at times id like to even just spend 1 minute out of this nightmare just to hold and kiss you guys to make it seem a little bit easier. im sure he will like whatever you get him for xmas, and i know that as he gets older he'll understand how things work. well things here always seem to be......uhm whats the word.....interesting i guess you can say. you never know whats gonna happen and thats the worst part. do me a favor though, when you go to my sisters or moms or wherever you see my family let them know that i love them very much..ok? well i better get going, i have a lot of stuff to do. but hopefully ill get to hear from you pretty soon.*muah* and hugs. tell mijo im proud of him too!

love always,
your other half
Juan Campos, e-mail message to his wife, Dec. 12, 2006.

When Staff Sgt. Juan Campos, 27, flew from Baghdad to Texas for two weeks last year, there was more on his mind than rest and relaxation. He visited his father's grave, which he had never seen. He spent time with his grandparents and touched base with the rest of his rambling, extended family.

The day he was scheduled to return to war, Sergeant Campos and his wife went out dancing and drinking all evening with friends. Calm and reserved by nature, Sergeant Campos could out-salsa and out-hip-hop most anyone on the dance floor. At the airport, his wife, Jamie Campos, who had grown used to the upheaval of deployment, surprised herself.

"I cried and I have never ever cried before," said Mrs. Campos, 26, who has a 9-year-old son, Andre. "It was just really, really weird. He knew, and I kind of knew. It felt different."

"We both felt that it was the last goodbye," she said.


Sergeant Campos was riding in a Humvee on May 14, 2007, two weeks after returning from Texas, when it hit an I.E.D. The bomb lifted the Humvee five feet off the ground and engulfed it in flames. "That's when we just left hope at the door," Sergeant. Johnson said. Severely burned over 80 percent of his body, Sergeant Campos lived two weeks. He died June 1. Another soldier, Pfc. Nicholas S. Hartge, 20, of Indiana, died in the same attack.

4000 Dead

[T]he 4000th death (and all the rest) does serve as a reminder to the cost of ineptitude and when compared to the early statements and rhetoric leading up to the war, and serves as a harsh reminder of the truth. No WMD. No link to 9/11 or al Qaeda. No threat of "mushroom clouds" over American cities if we did not invade Iraq, while a certain increased risk now because we've allowed al Qaeda to rebuild from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Five years later, what does the 4000-death mark mean to me? It means that today, like yesterday and tomorrow, we will lose some of the finest Americans we have. That is a harsh reminder that disastrous policy decisions have tragic consequences.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Chinese Olympics

We must continually work hard so that each of our actions is a way of carrying on little conversations with God, not in any carefully prepared way but as it comes from the purity and simplicity of the heart. - Brother Lawrence

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Morning Prayer of Lament, based on Psalm 130

Morning Prayer of Lament, based on Psalm 130 and
the Pastoral Letter on the War in Iraq

1Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
2   Lord, hear my voice!

Today is the fifth anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq.
Thousands of precious American lives have been lost;
thousands more have been altered forever by injuries;
Tens of thousands more innocent Iraqi lives are daily being lost
to war and sectarian violence.
We grieve, we weep.
Let your ears be attentive
   to the voice of my supplications!
We struggle in our hearts and in our churches
to know the truth of what is happening to the Iraqi people and to America:
3If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
   Lord, who could stand?
In our name human rights have been violated;
Iraqi infrastructure and lives destroyed.
Precious resources have been diverted
from education, health care, and the needs of the poor.
Efforts to restrain the real sources of global terrorism
have been ignored or subverted.
Trust and respect for the United States
has been traded for self-serving political gain.
4But there is forgiveness with you,
   so that you may be revered.

We confess that too often the church has been little more
than a silent witness to evil deeds:
We have prayed without protest, and without action for peace.
As citizens of this land we have been made complicit
in the bloodshed and the cries.
5I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
   and in his word I hope;

Yet in the midst of our lament we may give thanks -
for pastors and laity who have raised courageous voices;
for military personnel who serve with honor and integrity,
for chaplains who care for soldiers and their families;
for veterans whose experience has led them to say, "no more;"
for humanitarian groups, who care for the victims of violence;
for the fragile Christian community in Iraq
that continues to bear witness to the Gospel
under intense pressure and fear,
for public officials who have challenged this war
risking reputation and career.
The Gospel witness has not been completely silenced, and we are grateful.
6my soul waits for the Lord
   more than those who watch for the morning,
   more than those who watch for the morning.

Today we call for an end
to war, to reliance on violence;
Today we call for humility and courage
to accept the futility of our current path.
Today we cry out for creativity
to seek new paths of peacemaking.
Today we call for repentance in our nation
and for recognition in our churches that security is found
in submitting to Christ, not by dominating others.
7O [People], hope in the Lord!
May we join protest to prayer, support ministries of compassion,
and cast off the fear
that has made us accept the way of violence.
May we return again to the way of Jesus.
Thus may bloodshed end and cries be transformed
to the harmonies of justice and the melodies of peace.
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
   and with him is great power to redeem.
For this we yearn, for this we pray,
and toward this end we rededicate ourselves
as children of a loving God
who gives "light to those who sit in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace."
8It is he who will redeem [our People]
   from all its iniquities.

5 years later...

The most costly war in US History??  Not yet, but perhaps before all is said and done.

It was supposed to be a quick war and a cheap one. Five years later, 160,000 U.S. troops are still in Iraq. And the costs keep piling up - $12 billion every month - putting a strain on an already faltering economy.

The United States has poured more than $500 billion into Iraq, mostly for military operations. But that figure is just a small piece of the much larger bill that taxpayers will pay in the future.

Because the money for the war is being borrowed, interest payments could add another $615 billion. A heavily depleted military will have to be rebuilt at a cost of $280 billion. Disability benefits and health care for Iraq war veterans, many of them severely injured, could add another half-trillion dollars over their lifetime.

Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard University public finance Professor Laura Bilmes, both of whom served in the Clinton administration, have included those calculations in a new study of the war's long-term costs. Their estimate of the war's price tag: $3 trillion.

And Cheney still can't help himself from continuing to lie...

But Vice President Dick Cheney gave an upbeat view of conditions in Iraq as he concluded his unannounced trip to mark the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion. Cheney also defended the toppling of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as part of the struggle against terrorism following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"This long-term struggle became urgent on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 . That day we clearly saw that dangers can gather far from our own shores and find us right there at home," said Cheney, who was accompanied by his wife, Lynne, and their daughter, Elizabeth.

"So the United States made a decision: to hunt down the evil of terrorism and kill it where it grows, to hold the supporters of terror to account and to confront regimes that harbor terrorists and threaten the peace," Cheney said. "Understanding all the dangers of this new era, we have no intention of abandoning our friends or allowing this country of 170,000 square miles to become a staging area for further attacks against Americans."

A happy war anniversary to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and all their co-conspirators.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The responsibility for war rests not only with those who directly cause war, but also with those who do not do everything in their power to prevent it.- Pope John Paul II

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Contemporary American churches in particular do not require following Christ in his example, spirit, and teachings as a condition of membership—either of entering into or continuing in fellowship of a denomination or a local church.... Most problems in contemporary churches can be explained by the fact that members have not yet decided to follow Christ.

- Dallas Willard
The Spirit of the Disciplines

Friday, January 25, 2008

The ultimate challenge of Jesus' ministry was to go to the city, the city of Jerusalem. This city, which was the center of education, religion, and politics, was also the place where corruption and crimes abounded. Yet, Jesus went there anyway. Following Jesus to the city was a risky business. Many would-be followers dropped out when they saw this ultimate danger. What will it require of us to move to the city? I ask this question whenever I find myself wanting to settle down in the comfort of material well-being. God may not ask us to physically move to the city, but God does require that we reach out to hurting people with the gospel, wherever they might be.

- Kyungsig Samuel Lee
Korean Family Devotions

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Greed, I say, is a great flood; it is a whirlpool sucking one down, a constant yearning, seeking a hold, continually in movement; difficult to cross is the morass of sensual desire. A sage does not deviate from truth, a brahmana stands on firm ground; renouncing all, he is truly called 'calmed.'

-Sutta Nipata

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Strange, this love announced by our Lord turns all of life right. To love others is to fill our own empty spaces.
- Thomas A. Becket

Thursday, January 10, 2008

It is only by the constant cultivation of wisdom and compassion that we can really become the guardians and inheritors of happiness.
~ Matthieu Ricard

Friday, January 04, 2008

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Experience v. Judgment

This is the dichotomy presented on the Democratic side between the front-runners Clinton and Obama. Clinton presents herself as "experience" and Obama as judgment.

Well, the Pilgrim chooses judgment.

Two thoughts on this matter.

First, what good is experience if it is not a guide to good decision making? Clinton voted for the war in Iraq, demonstrating that her experience, whatever it is, did not help keep her from throwing her support behind a self-destructive foreign policy. Rumsfeld and Cheney are supremely experienced, and yet they are the architechts of the Iraq invasion, and Clinton fell right in line. Even now she won't admit to her failure- meaning she hasn't even learned from this most recent experience.

Obama opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. He made that clear. His judgment was superior to Clinton's.

Secondly, just what is her experience? Yes, she's served a full Senate term, and he only a part of a term, but that doesn't seem to be what she refers to in her use of the word "experienced." She seems to be referring to her time in the White House with her discussions of foreign heads of state she's met and her being "battle tested" by previous campaigns. Let's remember, when in the White House she was First Lady- not a decision maker. She's obviously an intelligent woman and capable politician, and she clearly advised her husband (not to great success when it came to her healtcare proposal, however). But she was not a policy maker. Her 8 years in the White House were largely ceremonial. She met many people, but did not have an accountable policy making role- she simply delivered messages she was supposed to deliver for the President. Just how important is this experience? Not very when it comes to policy issues, but perhaps very important when it comes to political calculations. Is that what we want- another political calculator as President?

In the end, for all her experience, she gave this nation no better than what Cheney and Rumsfeld fed her.

Clinton's vote for the war in Iraq and her unwillingness to admit her error should be a fatal flaw in the eyes of voters. It may not be, but it should be.

It is for the Pilgrim.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Will Obama win Iowa?

Maybe, Mrs. Clinton, a black man can win.

New Iowa Poll: Obama widens lead over Clinton

Obama was the choice of 32 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers, up from 28 percent in the Register's last poll in late November, while Clinton, a New York senator, held steady at 25 percent and Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, was virtually unchanged at 24 percent.

Far from a lock. But, the trend towards the end is key. Voters have to decide and stick w/ a decision. They begin to do that in the final days. So, the 32% may not change much.

That said: (1) margin of error is going to be around 5%; (2) 6% are undecided; (3) voters' second choice is very important because voters can shift to their second choice if their first choice gets insufficient support in their caucus (I believe the number is 15%).

Remember the Howard Dean collapse 4 years ago? The collapse of expectations can be hard to recover from. If Clinton were to follow up an Iowa loss with a New Hampshire loss (not unlikely given that Obama is w/in 4% in New Hampshire), her campaign could be over. She would then have to adopt a 'southern strategy' that would play, however gently, the race card and hope she could build up delegates there. Not a strategy that endears one to the Democratic electorate.

Remember a couple of months back when Guiliani and Clinton seemed inevitable?

Clinton Campaing nastiness

First, a campaign official has to resign for offering the proposition that Obama sold cocain as a youth. Now, another raises the spector of race in a sly, sinister way:

In Cherokee, one Clinton precinct captain who asked that her name not be used questioned his prospects: “We’ve got to keep an eye on electability,” she said. “Is America ready for a black president?” (source: Politico)

Who did it?

Did US ally Musharraf put the hit out on Bhutto? Did his buddies in the Pakistan military act independently on his behalf in what they thought was his interest?

India's counterintelligence points the finger at the Pakistan military.

Hard to evaluate this report. The Indian intelligence community is not particularly objective when it comes to the Pakistani military. That said, who has better sources and intelligence capabilities than the Indians?

Just seems to me that the rush to pin this on the radical Islamists is not very helpful. And the Pakistani government seems just a little to happy to encourage that rush- not the least example of which would be the police using hoses to wash down the scene of the crime w/in relative minutes of the assassination, washing away any evidence that may have remained.

Imagine a major assassination in the US where days pass and there are no suspects. No hard evidence disclosed- only vague, although logical, speculations. Further, the cause of death can't even be agreed upon.

It seems to me that, at the very least, the government of Pakistan doesn't want to know who did it out of fear that it may in fact have been one of their own.

It's been relatively quiet of late, but...

2007 was deadliest year for U.S. troops in Iraq

The year was the deadliest for the U.S. military since the 2003 invasion, with 899 troops killed.