Weekly Letter to the President
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INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
January 6, 2017 (Posted January 11, 2017)
Mr. President: Yet another mass shooting, this time at Ft. Lauderdale airport,
Florida's second largest. A certain Esteban Santiago flew from Alaska changing
planes en route at Minneapolis. Arriving, he headed to the baggage collection area,
claimed his suitcase, opened it in the privacy of a toilet, removed a gun, methodically
loaded it, and began shooting in the baggage area. When the police reached him, he
was sitting on the floor with the gun in front of him. He offered no resistance.
His family says he has had mental problems since he returned from the Iraq war. Yet
he was allowed to work as a security guard and have a gun. Of course the pay is low
and the firms aren't choosy. Five dead and eight injured is the tally. Questioned, he
volunteered to the FBI that the government was forcing him to watch Islamic State
videos. He heard voices.
So the Iraq war continues to claim victims both at home, and of Special Forces
personnel in Iraq/Syria as the battle with IS (or whatever the latest name is)
continues. Special Forces were deployed in an astonishing 138 countries in 2016. A
violent society, which discards those least able to take care of themselves, made the
mentally ill shooter also a victim.
The neocon enterprise of destroying every country that could possibly be a threat to
Israel, handily executed by Democrat and Republican administration alike has
boomeranged badly. Thus the Islamic fundamentalist actors unleashed are more of a
threat given their asymmetric warfare than the countries with established static
centers of power ever were. Israel has qualitatively a vastly superior military, and
President Obama has just given it a $40 billion military gift including state-of-the-art
goodies to retain that superiority.
The deliberate policy has displaced culturally advanced secular regimes in Iraq and
Libya, although has failed for now in Syria. In the latter, Russia charges that the U.S.,
instead of targeting rebels in its air campaign, is systematically targeting Syria's
infrastructure. Nothing new given the experience of Iraq and Libya.
Meanwhile, the most culturally primitive regime proselytizing an 18th century cleric's
version of a rigid, blinkered Islam, continues to receive the West's support
unquestioned -- even enhanced by the purchase of billions of dollars of arms. So it is
that Saudi Arabia has just sentenced a group of protesting foreign construction
workers to 300 lashes and four months jail for burning a bus during a protest against
unpaid wages. They have not been paid for over six months. The lashing sentence
was reported on January 4th; no doubt on January 6th, a Friday, the Saudis, as is the
custom, were lopping off a head or two in the public square. The crimes vary from
murder to adultery.
Of course the merciless killing of Yemeni civilians continues. Experts and rights
groups have labeled the more horrific incidents war crimes in which the U.S. and U.K.
are complicit for refueling and supplying Saudi aircraft. Both have also sold the
Saudis cluster bombs prohibited under the May 2008 Dublin "Convention on Cluster
Munitions." A significant majority of the world's states, a total of 119, have joined the
Convention according to its website.
A president with great promise who offered greater promises, awarded a Nobel Peace
Prize at the beginning of his tenure, instead of ending wars gave us new ones,
offering change gave us more of the same, instead of diminishing enemies and
developing more friends gave us the opposite, instead of lessening inequality
increased it, instead of reducing poverty moved the goal posts.
A trip to downtown Chicago, the President's adopted hometown, is revealing.
Beggars, called panhandlers, line the streets in numbers now numbing; they have
increased steadily during his eight years in office. Worth noting, there were none
until 1980 and the start of the Reagan revolution.
So what did the people do? They elected a billionaire! He offers ... promises.