Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time


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Bush used phony patriotism to start war

The Russians call World War II “The Great Patriotic War.” The currentlongest of our wars could well be called the same thing. It is a warthat originated in the orgy of patriotism (“U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”)that followed the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and hasbeen sustained by the patriotism of those who support it (“Our soldiersare defending American freedom”) and false promises of some latter-dayprophets (“We are winning the war in Iraq.”) It is likely to be revivedby the Iranian attack that the McCainites see as their main chance ofwinning the election.

Bush used phony patriotism to start war :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Andrew Greeley


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Blackwater: crash lawsuit governed by Islamic law

Blackwater: crash lawsuit governed by Islamic law

RALEIGH – To defend itself against a lawsuit by the widows of three American soldiers who died on one of its planes in Afghanistan, a sister company of the private military firm Blackwater has asked a federal court to decide the case using the Islamic law known as Shari’a.

The lawsuit “is governed by the law of Afghanistan,” Presidential Airways argued in a Florida federal court. “Afghan law is largely religion-based and evidences a strong concern for ensuring moral responsibility, and deterring violations of obligations within its borders.”

If the judge agrees, it would essentially end the lawsuit over a botched flight supporting the U.S. military. Shari’a law does not hold a company responsible for the actions of employees performed within the course of their work. …


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The Wages of Peace

There is no longer any doubt that the Iraq War is a moral and strategic disaster for the United States. But what has not yet been fully recognized is that it has also been an economic disaster. To date, the government has spent more than $522 billion on the war, with another $70 billion already allocated for 2008.

With just the amount of the Iraq budget of 2007, $138 billion, the government could instead have provided Medicaid-level health insurance for all 45 million Americans who are uninsured. What’s more, we could have added 30,000 elementary and secondary schoolteachers and built 400 schools in which they could teach. And we could have provided basic home weatherization for about 1.6 million existing homes, reducing energy consumption in these homes by 30 percent.

But the economic consequences of Iraq run even deeper than the squandered opportunities for vital public investments. Spending on Iraq is also a job killer. Every $1 billion spent on a combination of education, healthcare, energy conservation and infrastructure investments creates between 50 and 100 percent more jobs than the same money going to Iraq. Taking the 2007 Iraq budget of $138 billion, this means that upward of 1 million jobs were lost because the Bush Administration chose the Iraq sinkhole over public investment. … The Wages of Peace


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Prayer and humor hold a combat trauma unit together in Afghanistan

First comes a chirping alarm over the PA system, then a woman’s lilting voice wafts over this dusty military camp: “Attention on the FOB, Attention on the FOB. Mustang blue. Mustang blue.” The tone belies the seriousness of the matter, which is that casualties are incoming and the Army’s 396th Combat Support Hospital team – “the Mustangs” – should be ready. The number of victims are color-coded: red for one, white for two, blue for three, and black for mass casualties.

US medics, nurses, doctors – and a chaplain – converge in interlocking tents that form the hospital, preparing for the arrival of three Afghan National Army soldiers injured when their vehicle rolled over an improvised explosive device. … Military chaplains


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A Presbyterian pastor patrols with his flock of soldiers

“I’ve heard … that a shepherd needs to smell like his sheep, and if
I’m going to care for these guys, I need to be where they are.” ~ Capt. Ron Eastes

From a distance the soldiers are indistinguishable: domed helmets, dark glasses, and tight-fitting armored vests in camouflage grays and greens. But closer inspection reveals differences. From the back of one soldier, a radio antenna quivers: platoon leader. Across the chest of another, only gloved hands – no rifle, no side arm strapped to thigh: chaplain. In orbit around him, another soldier, rifle ready: chaplain’s assistant and bodyguard. Should fighting break out, he’ll shove his charge behind a wall, to the ground, under a vehicle.

Chaplain Ron Eastes is on this patrol with members of his 82nd Airborne Army unit not because he is helping with the platoon’s mission, but because the platoon itself is his mission.    Military chaplains


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Combating Muslim Extremism

American politicians should cease implying that Muslim nations and individuals are different from, or somehow more dangerous than, any other group of human beings, a racist idea promoted by the Christian and Zionist right. They should acknowledge that most Muslim nations are US friends and allies. A wise American policy toward the small networks of Muslim extremists would reduce their recruitment pool by the quick establishment of a Palestinian state and by a large-scale military drawdown from Iraq, thus removing widespread and major grievances. An increase in visible humanitarian and development aid to Muslim countries has a demonstrable effect on improving the US image.

Combating Muslim Extremism


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An Orthodox rabbi mixes faith and patriotism in Afghanistan

Afghan women in dark-colored head scarves and blue, pleated chadris (full head and body veils) queue up at the gate. Egyptian soldiers usher them in, and as the Afghans move from table to table, American soldiers, semiautomatic rifles slung across their backs, reach into the boxes and hand them sweaters, shoes, baby clothes, notebooks, and toys.

Chaplain Felzenberg rummages through a separate box and extracts woolen caps that one of his daughters knitted – “Bless her heart, he says, “she put them in separate bags but didn’t mark the sizes.” Then he pulls out a loose-fitting top he last saw on his wife. “It’s going to be emotional to give some of this out,” he says, “but hey….”

While his supplies last, he hands clothing from his ultra-Orthodox Jewish home to Muslim Afghan children whose mothers wear the orthodox-Muslim chadri.

Military chaplains: An Orthodox rabbi mixes faith and patriotism in Afghanistan | csmonitor.com


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For injured soldiers, new clothes from volunteer sewers

The organization Sew Much Comfort has turned out 45,000 shirts, shorts, pants, and other garments that are altered for special needs.

For injured soldiers, new clothes from volunteer sewers | csmonitor.com

The Monitor needs a new headline editor, but that doesn’t detract from the story. 


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Kite-flying in Darfur

Minneapolis – For Patrick McGrann, the sky isn’t his limit. It’s his field of play, his diplomatic space. It’s where he performs hand-to-hand acts of kindness and low-budget economic development for street kids in Kenya, rural kids in Burma (Myanmar) and, coming soon, orphans in a Darfur refugee camp.

Amid the sand, winds, and despair of Sudan, Mr. McGrann is poised to launch a unique effort in hope of rehabilitating traumatized children. He’s going to tell these young people of Darfur to … go fly a kite.

A ‘kite runner’ says it’s OK to have fun in Darfur | csmonitor.com


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Military chaplain: Marines in Iraq look to pastor for answers to tough questions

Habbaniyah, Iraq – Under a sun-blanched desert sky, Navy Chaplain
Michael Baker and Marine Sgt. Bill Hudson Gross bounce in the back of a
truck as it rumbles across Camp Habbaniyah. Clad in helmets and body
armor in the 110-degree F. June heat, they’re on a mission: to baptize
Sergeant Gross.

“I am going to try to talk him out of it,” confesses Chaplain Baker,
a tall, lanky Methodist minister whose formal Mississippi-tinged speech
and posture mask an often goofy sense of humor.

It’s not the baptism itself; it’s just the part where Gross wants
Baker to immerse him in the Euphrates, one of four rivers that the
Bible describes as flowing from the Garden of Eden. For Gross, an
infantry platoon leader who just weeks before saw two of his men
wounded by shrapnel, the river has a personal connection. Two years ago
he deployed to a small base on the river, where he turned his back on
religion after learning of his father’s death back home. Now that he
has rediscovered his faith, he feels it fitting to be baptized in a
river where, he says, “a lot of people gave up hope.”

Click here to read the rest of this article.


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Neocons Embrace Islamic Terror Group

Daniel Pipes, one of America’s premiere Islamophobes, has a soft spot for one deadly deadly Islamic terrorist organization.

The enemy of my enemy may be my friend, but sometimes it’s hard to see who the enemy really is to begin with.  And who can you believe, among the folks who are telling us who they are?

AlterNet: War on Iraq: Neocons Embrace Islamic Terror Group


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In Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley, peace and a woman rule

Bamiyan, Afghanistan – There is a check post at the entrance to the Bamiyan Valley – one of the scores of shacks set along the earthen roads of Afghanistan designed to provide some appearance of security or, at least, a quiet place for policemen to sip their green tea.

But this one is different. It’s not merely that the building marks the blessed end to an eight-hour ride over unpaved roads that shake the body like a box of matchsticks. It is that this shack seems to mark the entrance into an Afghanistan of which the world has never dreamed.

Beyond it, flowering fields stretch between stark gray mountainsides like a green carpet interspersed with the gold of wheat ready for harvest.

In an unpretentious governor’s residence sits the only female governor in Afghanistan’s history – appointed to rule over a province where 52 percent of the registered voters are women, 10 percent higher than the national average.

And on a rocky plateau, behind knots of barbed wire, stand international soldiers who say they’ve drawn the long straw in the Afghan war. The area is so safe, they haven’t needed to fire a shot since they arrived in 2003.

In Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley, peace and a woman rule | csmonitor.com


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I’m As Mad As The Red Bulls Should Be

This last July and August Minnesota’s National Guard Unit, The Red Bulls, returned after twenty-two months of deployment in Iraq. Theirs has been the longest National Guard Unit deployment in the war. In fact, the Red Bulls served a longer tour than any other outfit, including regular Army and Marine units.

This month many of the “Red Bulls” attempted to “get on” with their lives by registering for college courses around the state. There was one problem: when they tried to use Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits to help pay for those classes, they found they were not eligible. They could apply for lesser National Guard benefits, but once those are in effect they lose out on the Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits. Oh, yes, they were told in July when they returned the “situation would be addressed.”

What happened? The deployment orders were written for 798 days. This is one day short of the 799 required for soldiers to be eligible for G.I. benefits. It doesn’t affect only education, but there are a whole raft of benefits these soldiers have been robbed of.   Backwash – Content – Anything Under the Sun