Change

If you are not happy with your life, you can change it in two ways; either improve the conditions in which you live, or improve your inner spiritual state.  The first is not always possible, but the second is.

Leo Tolstoy

Love Wins

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Afghanistan

There is a general consensus in the nation now that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a blunder.  While disagreement continues over whether those who orchestrated and advocated the war acted in good faith or not, most now agree that, in hindsight at least, the war was ill-advised and unnecessary.  Tens of thousands of people have been killed in this unjust and unnecessary war, including over 4,000 American soldiers.  Many thousands more have been maimed for life.  The unintended consequences of the fiasco include the decimation of the 2,000 year old Iraqi Christian community, and profound international distrust of and ill-will towards America.  And the enormous financial cost of the war has contributed to the economic disaster we are experiencing, and will be a debt burden of our country for generations, if not forever.

Barack Obama was elected President, in part because the Iraq experience so soured Americans on the folks in command of the Republican party. 

So it is with a growing sense of uneasiness, if not a scary sense of deja-vu, that many Americans are receiving the warmongering rhetoric of Mr. Obama.

In a speech last week to the VFW, Mr. Obama sounded frighteningly like John McCain, or Dick Cheney:

The insurgency in Afghanistan didn’t just happen overnight and we
won’t defeat it overnight. This will not be quick, nor easy. But we must
never forget: This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity.
Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left
unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven
from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not
only a war worth fighting. This is a — this is fundamental to the defense
of our people.

Of course, we don’t need to be told that the Taliban won’t be defeated “overnight.”  Almost eight years into the war in Afghanistan, with almost 800 American soldiers killed there, and almost $225 billion spent, everyone who is paying attention knows that.  And some of us, who are especially paying attention, recall what has happened to every empire in history that has tried to conquer Afghanistan, including, most recently, the Soviet Union.  It is for good reason that Afghanistan is called “The Burial Ground of Empires.”

Over 70 American soldiers have been murdered in Afghanistan in the last 60 days.  July was the deadliest month since the war began, and August will likely surpass it.

So all the President is telling us is what we already know.  There is a lot more that he isn’t telling us, however, most likely because he has no clue himself.

The war won’t be “quick” and won’t be “easy,” he tells us.  So how unquick and uneasy will it be?  Will we be in Afghanistan five more years?  50?  100?  Until we just can’t borrow any more money?  And how many American lives and how much American treasure does “this will not be quick, nor easy” translate into?

At this point there are almost 70,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan, and another 130,00 in Iraq.  The Obama adminstration has called for increasing the troop commitment to Afghanistan, where the insurgency is stronger than ever.  The U.S Army-Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual estimates that effective counterinsurgency requires a ratio of troops to population of 1:50 and requires 12-14 years.  There are 35 million people in Afghanistan.   And are we willing to commit 700,000 troops to Iraq for 12-14 years, at a cost of several trillion dollars?  The truth is that we couldn’t do that, even if we had the stomache for it.

What we have not heard from either this administration or the previous one is a description of our endgame.  Is this a war that is winnable?  If so, how?  And at what cost? 

And why must our soldiers continue to be murdered in Afghanistan, while our nation is driven into bankruptcy?  The President’s claim that “this is fundamental to the defense of our people” rings hollow.  It simply cannot be true that the “fundamental defense of our people” depends upon who governs Afghanistan.

It is time to end this insanity.  No more Americans should kill or be killed in Afghanistan.  Let us be done with chickenhawk politicians of either party and return America to the foreign policy of the founders–noninterventionism.

Love Wins

The Rainy Season

 

I know a lot of y’all are wondering whether this has now turned into a blog about Haiti.  Obviously our trip to Haiti had a profound impact on me, and that has been reflected in all these blog entries.  I hope to continue posting about Haiti, but I also intend to return more to the things this blog has always been about, whatever they are.

Because it is my nature to want to understand as much about a place as I can, before visiting it, I read a bunch of books about Haiti before our trip.  Cherie has had an interest in Haiti for a long time, and she recommended this one by Amy Wilentz.  I’m glad I read it. 

I do have criticisms.  For example, while she gives a lot of attention to the application of liberation theology in Haiti politics and to Jean Bertrand-Arisitide’s Ti Legliz (literally the “little church,” meaning the oppressed people of God), she seems to see only political issues, through the lens of American ideological squabbling.  I don’t think she does justice to the spiritual and historical forces behind the movement at all.  In other words, what makes liberation theology compelling to oppressed people in ways that atheistic Marxism is not?   It is as if Ms. Wilentz wants to embrace Mr. Aristide as a political hero, but is a little uncomfortable with the Jesus factor.  Further,  she is cynically unfair to the missionaries who have stepped out in love, at the risk of their lives and the cost of their comfort, to help Haiti. 

But as generally unsympathetic as Ms. Wilenz is to missionaries (and that subject is only briefly mentioned in the book), she does present a generally sympathetic portrayal of Haiti and Haitians themselves.  This book describes her experiences in Haiti as a journalist between the fall of Baby Doc Duvalier and the election of then-Father Aristide, the radical priest and liberation theologian, upon whom the Haitian peasants placed so much hope. 

The Rainy Season was a good foundation as I moved into Paul Farmer.  Because I’d read her book, Haitian people, culture and history, were more familiar to me during our visit.  I suppose it made me a little more prepared for the complex, frustrating, sad and confusing mess that is Haiti.  Maybe the dramatic shock of the place was a little bit less shocking.

I read several other books about Haiti, or set in Haiti.  I’m considering putting together a reading list for folks who are going to visit Haiti, particularly for any length of time.  If I do that, this one will be on it, I think.  I’d welcome further suggestions from anyone.

Love Wins

Deep Impact

[Chart]

This is a stunning chart.

Like everyone else who pays attention to such things, I was shocked by last year’s deficit of over $400 billion.  But amazingly, this year’s deficit makes that one pale in comparison.  By historical standards, the 2009 deficit — at 13% or more of the country’s gross domestic product — would be the U.S.’s biggest since the end of World War II in 1945, when it reached 21.5%.  Of course, we’re not coming out of four years of world war.  In fact, we’re coming out of a period of apparent prosperity.  We haven’t bankrupted our country out of necessity, but rather out of pure overconsumption.

The government will not be able to pedal off this debt at ridiculously low interest rates much longer.  When rates begin to rise, so will the already crushingly high interest payments we’re being taxed to make.

All of this is, of course, unsustainable.  Yet instead of reducing our borrowing and spending, our government is careening recklessly in the opposite direction.

Ultimately there will be a deep impact to this fiscal insanity, which will make this recession look mild. 

It is unconcionable that the wealthiest country in the world; indeed the wealthiest country in the history of the world, has so completely failed to live within its means.  And of course in their personal financial affairs, Americans have mirrored the recklessness of their government.  The government has ruined itself with debt and overspending, and so have the citizens.

Through many years of thrift and belt-tightening, we might possibly be able to unwind this disaster.  But Americans have no patience for that, and politicians won’t even consider it.  So instead they’ll try to cure the problems caused by excessive debt and frivolous spending, with more debt and more frivolous spending.  Sadly, that will only accelerate our demise.

Love Wins

Wax moths

Last weekend I looked in on my bees, and found this.

The hive that we rescued from the walls of the old house on our farm, which has been healthy and thriving since I was a little boy, is now gone–completely destoyed by wax moths.

A better beekeeper might have seen this coming.  I knew that the hive split earlier this spring, but had no idea that it had been so weakened that it was vulnerable to wax moths.  Wax moth catepillars can quickly destroy the comb if the hive isn’t strong enough to seal them off or kill them. 

The good news is that they don’t kill the bees.  Once the bees realized that they couldn’t prevent the destruction of the comb, they abandoned it.  So they’ll still be around pollinating our gardens, but I won’t be harvesting any honey from them anymore.

I still have another hive, and with luck I’ll capture more.

But for the second year in a row, we won’t have much honey this year.

From better days, here is what the now-lost hive gave us.

Love Wins

Lubenson

Lubenson is a beautiful and loving four year old boy, one of the many awesome kids at the Hope for Haiti Children’s Center.  He would not be alive today if it were not for the love and care of the devoted women who operate the Center.  And they could not operate it without love and support from everyday folks like us.

Lubenson’s amazing story can be seen here:  http://www.danitaschildren.org/the-children/room-for-one-more/lubenson

Thanks to Danita’s Children, Lubenson is a healthy, happy boy.  He had access to medical care, and the love and support of caring people.

That is a rare thing for Haitian children.  There is virtually no health care to speak of in Haiti itself.  It takes money and privilege for a Haitian to get into the Dominican Republic for health care.  Very very few Haitian children have either.

So many thousands of Haitian children die from things that very simple medical attention could remedy.  And I don’t mean serious problems like Lubenson had.  I mean things like infections and diarrhea.  Things that might keep our kids out of school one or two days, kills Haitian kids.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  The Danita’s Children organization is building a medical clinic in Ounaminthe.  When it is completed the people of that place will have a chance, for the first time, to get decent medical attention.  Many lives will be saved, and in so doing those who help save those lives will reflect back a little bit of God’s love.

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.  1 John 3: 17-18.

Love Wins