Category Archives: Military Culture (of Death)

The IRISHMAN

I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread. — Father Brown in the The Queer Feet by G. K. Chesterton.

When I watched The IRISHMAN the first time I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it would be another fictional Mafia saga like The Godfather. But when I realized it was a factual account of real people and events I was hooked. I have always been an amateur history buff and I was fascinated by how the movie revealed new angles to approach many historical events that had occurred in my lifetime. Jimmy Hoffa’s rise and fall as president of the Teamsters, collaboration of the CIA and the Mob in the Bay of Pigs invasion, Bobby Kennedy vs. the Mob, Mob involvement in the JFK assassination, Hoffa’s release from prison and pardon by Nixon. The IRISHMAN saga weaves it all together in a fascinating and provocative manner alongside the recollections of Frank Sheeran, the main character in the story.

So I watched the movie twice and then I read the book it was based on, I Heard You Paint Houses, by Charles Brandt. I was most interested in how the war experience of Frank Sheeran might have affected him and also in the fact that Frank and many of the largely Italian mob figures in the story were baptized Catholics.

The WWII combat participation of Frank Sheeran was intense, violent and traumatic. It is dealt with superficially in the movie but in the book there is much more detail and the author makes it clear that Frank learned to kill in the Army and he learned to take orders without question. These “skills” served him well during his many years spent as a mob thug and hitman. Today we might say that his apparent lack of a conscience was a result of PTSD, but I won’t go there. He does seems throughout most of the book like something less than a man. There’s something missing.

Of great interest for Catholics, Charles Brandt presents evidence in the book that Frank may have repented of his many sins near the end of his life. In prison one day, Frank sees his former “commander-in-chief,” Russell Bufalino, the infamous and powerful mob boss, being pushed in a wheelchair to the prison chapel. Frank laughs and Russell tells him:

“Don’t laugh, my friend. When you get to be my age you’ll realize there’s something more than this.”

Frank acknowledges to the author that “Those words stayed with me all these years.”

Frank’s daughters were obviously concerned for his soul and that (according to Frank) “if I died I couldn’t be buried in a Catholic cemetery.” They arranged to get him to see a priest. I wanted to believe that this very dark and terrifying life story somehow could end as a story of redemption. I had a question so I emailed Charles Brandt to clarify one particular fact and he very graciously responded and gave me permission to post the email exchange. Here it is:

“Hello Mr. Brandt,

….I am most interested in how the war experience of Frank might have affected him and also in the Catholic angle which is very evident in the book but less so in the movie. You present evidence in the book that Frank may have repented of his many sins near the end of his life. ….

But I have a question. You wrote that Frank committed suicide because he stopped eating until he died. Do you think that it was actually a deliberate, conscious act on his part or were there mitigating circumstances such as mental confusion, physical suffering, ignorance of Church teaching, etc.”

__________________________

“Hi Doug,

Thank you for your interest and questions.

I don’t know but I doubt that Frank knew the Church’s position on suicide. We never discussed it. He did repent but he had a humorous way of expressing it. IF I DID ALL THE THINGS THEY ALLEGE THAT I DID AND I HAD TO DO THEM OVER I WOULDN’T DO THEM. THERE IS NO DOUBT IN MY MIND THAT THE WAR PREPARED HIM for crime. It was the hardest thing to get him to speak about. He sought Absolution from three priests and got it. The last thing he and I did on tape was a Hail Mary and Lord’s Prayer. At his suggestion. But he struggled with the words.

A few years ago the Pope publicly asked Mafia figures to repent. I wished I could have told him at the time of Frank’s having already done so.

Regards,

Charlie”

“Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let thy perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.”

Women and the Draft

Episode 41: Women and the Draft

Don’t miss this episode of the CAM podcast with lots of good information on what is going on with women and military conscription.

You can go here to send a quick letter to your representative.

Finally, a new song by our friend, co-author of The Martyrdom of Thomas Merton, Dave Martin!

Mama, Don’t Let Your Daughters Grow Up to Be Soldiers

Jose Antonio Gutierrez

I found out that one of the soldiers whose name appears in Mark Scibilia-Carver’s “Scroll of Remembrance,” whose name I happened to mention on Episode 34 of the podcast today, is actually the subject of a documentary made in 2006 called The Short Life of Jose Antonio Gutierrez.

Don’t miss today’s episode of the podcast on this the 17th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It was the most difficult episode of the podcast that I’ve done, and I had a hard time just getting through it, and honestly I have no idea if we handled such a difficult issue completely correctly. But we did our best, and our goal, our hope was that by publicizing his website, www.thecatholiccostofwar.org, and the Scroll of the Remembrance, we can remember the cost of these wars and the precious lives that have been lost and continue to be lost today, which go far, far beyond just the Catholics of course, and far, far beyond just the Americans, too.

The killing continues in Iraq. This popped up on my Twitter just a few days ago.

Napalm: An American Biography

Here is a fantastic review of the book “Napalm: An American Biography”

“Some 33 million pounds of napalm were used in the campaign overall, with 106 square miles of Japan’s cities burned flat. 330,000 civilians are estimated to have been killed, with burning “the leading cause of death”. Chief of Air Staff Lauris Norstad said the destruction was ‘Nothing short of wonderful’ (84).”

https://original.antiwar.com/Robert_Barsocchini/2018/08/12/the-other-hiroshimas-a-review-of-napalm-an-american-biography/

REQUIESCANT IN PACE

The following was written by Emmanuel Charles McCarthy.

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REQUIESCANT IN PACE

Jean Donovan, Sr. Ita Ford, Sr.Dorothy Kazel and Sr.Maura Clarke were raped and murdered in El Salvador thirty-nine years ago this day, December 2, AD1980. Let those who remember, pray today for the repose of their souls.

May we also today be attentive to the Eternal Holy Spirit of Christ within us, and try to sincerely pray for those responsible for their rape and murder? Daniel Canales Ramirez, Carlos Joaquin Contreras Palacios, Francisco Orlando Contreras Recinos and Jose Roberto Moreno Canjura are the four El Salvadoran National Guardsmen convicted legally of the crimes in 1984. In 1993, a United Nations Truth Commission report concluded that Col. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, the director of the National Guard in 1980, and Gen. Jose Guillermo Garcia, the Minister of Defense at the time, had organized an official cover-up. (Both men have been granted residence in the United States and now live in Florida.) Sergeant Colindres Aleman was also convicted of the murders. He was the head of that contingent of four National Guardsmen. After the women were taken captive and brought to a remote area, he went back to a telephone to get instruction on what to do with them. When he returned the order, ”una orden superior” he gave to the four—according to their own testimony was, “Liquidate them!”

In testimony to Congress in 1981 General Alexander M. Haig Jr., then Secretary of State, argued that the churchwomen might have been shot while trying to run a military roadblock. Even an official State Department post mortem on El Salvador policy that was published in July 1993 reiterated the prevailing wisdom that it was ”more likely that the chaotic and permissive atmosphere at the time, not high-level military involvement, was behind the crime.” In 1983, Judge Harold B. Tyler Jr., after conducting an investigation for the State Department, concluded that ”Colindres Aleman acted at his own initiative” and that ”the evidence of lack of higher involvement is persuasive.” But that finding was based largely on a piece of secret ”special evidence” that was made available to him by the United States Embassy I El Salvador and that remains classified to this day.

But, the operation was led by a sergeant, Colindres Aleman, acting out of  “a persuasive combination of political, financial and sexual interests,” a political officer at the American embassy, Carl Gettinger, wrote in a top secret cable to Washington a few months after the killings. His conclusions were based on a conversation between the sergeant, Colindres Aleman, and a Salvadoran lieutenant who had recorded it secretly for the embassy. “Extraordinary secrecy surrounded the tape,” Gettinger reported; it was kept in a safe in the embassy, “from where it was roused infrequently.”

Robert White, who was the American Ambassador to El Salvador at the time of the killings, said, ”when the act was done, I knew immediately it was the military.” Secretary of State Alexander Haig, asked White to send a cable stating that the military was making progress in the investigation of the murders. White, a career diplomat who had served under every president since Eisenhower balked, and sent his own cable: “I will have no part of any cover-up.” ”It is totally outrageous for the U.S. Government to have singled out four guys who were following orders and to insist they get punished, at the same time it is practically conniving to get the people who were the intellectual authors of this terrible incident off scot free,” White said. Later White added. ”That they have been let off not only with their reputations intact, but with the right of residence in the United States.” Soon thereafter, he was forced out of the foreign service.

The Reagan administration blamed the victims. “These nuns were not just nuns,” said Jeanne Kirkpatrick, one of Reagan’s top foreign policy advisors and his first ambassador to the United Nations,  “They were political activists.”

There is more, much more that could be added, e.g., the women were murdered Mafia style, a shot in the back of the head. But no more details are really needed to spiritually and morally assess this Satanic event. It was the fingers of the four National Guardsmen that pull the triggers of the guns that murdered Jean Donovan, Sr.Ita Ford, Sr.Dorothy Kazel and Sr.Maura Clarke. But what moved those four men to squeeze those triggers is a chain of men and women, who only God can totally name, but who we know stretch back at least to the Dulles brothers, through the School of Americas to the very nano-second before Satanized human energy was intentionally transferred to the firing mechanisms of those guns.

So indeed, let us pray on the 39th Remembrance of this heinous act for Jean, Ita, Dorothy and Maura and pray for them and, perhaps, to them for their intercession on our behalf. But, we are Christians, and as difficult as it may be humanly, let us ask the Resurrected Jesus for the grace to pray as He prayed on the Cross for His murderers, who He was well aware were not just a few Roman soldiers who spirits had been partially Satanized. Love of enemies, even lethal enemies, as Jesus loved His enemies, including lethal enemies, is a sine qua non for any Christian, Christian Church or Christian Peace Group. The humanizing of human beings, as well as, their eternal Redemption and Salvation is found only within it. Outside of love of enemies as Jesus loved His enemies, there is nothing but the continued weeping and gnashing of teeth. The Cross of Salvation is not about enduring animal pain to placate a God who needs that to reconcile with humanity by Jesus enduring pain. The Cross, which Christians are to pick up daily, is about loving human beings, even sinful ones, the Way that God loves those who are at enmity with Him.

The murders of Ita, Jean, Dorothy and Maura are morally not a spiritual scintilla different from the murders of Saint Edith Stein and Blessed Franz Jagerstatter. They are all the direct and immediate fruits of the murderous and deceitful spirit of Satan that has embedded itself in the brains and twisted itself in knots around the hearts of human beings who are politicians, military personnel and their mogul masters. Only a full commitment by the leaders of the institutional Church  and each of its members to the Cross of Christlike love of enemies, which is the power and the wisdom of God, can untie those knots and heal the brain rot—which extends without interruption from Cain to Golgotha to Auschwitz to El Salvador to Fallujah to today’s killing by sea, air and land. of human beings by human beings, of Christian by Christians.

But pray we must for the soldiers who killed Jesus to the soldiers who killed Sr. Maura Clarke, Sr. Ita Ford, Sr. Dorothy Kazal and Jean Donovan. And, pray we must for Pilate, the Dulles Brothers and all those other corporate and government movers and shakers, wheelers and dealers, who kill by a wink and a nod from air-conditioned offices untouched and unmoved by the agony they pour down on those consider unworthy of life because they stand in the way of controlling some form of wealth.

As Christians we must call wickedness by its accurate name, but pray we must: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. It is the only Way because it is the Way of God.

Prayers for the Warrior Caste

In my parish and many others, during the Prayers of the Faithful I often hear: “For the military, first responders, and police, and all who keep us safe, we pray to the Lord.” I personally believe the first and second parts are in many ways mutually exclusive, that (leaving out paramedics and fire fighters) US foreign policy and militarized policing do not “keep us safe”, but in many ways make us less safe. If we are praying for specific occupations, why not for engineers, factory workers, pilots, garbage collectors, teachers, data entry clerks, government bureaucrats, corporate middle managers, billionaire tech executives, mail carriers, sewer workers, waiters, cooks, movie stars, cowboys? Or is the US Catholic Church part of the problem with promoting violence?