Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
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 15, 2016
Mr. President: The whole country had been abuzz with the $1.5 billion Powerball
lottery jackpot -- a world record -- until everyone's dreams of cashing in came to an
abrupt end, except that is for the three winners from California, Florida and
The TV news programs and shows talked about the lottery, where and how the
number will be drawn, the chances of winning -- probably less than being struck by
lightning -- no matter, the people buying and the quantities sold swelled
astronomically. They bought for themselves, they bought in office pools, club pools,
bar pools, family pools, all kinds of pools. The jackpot usually grows by the tens of
millions; it leapt from the previous record $800 million to an estimated $1.3 billion and
continued to rise until it reached the fabulous $1.5 billion. Nobody's been immune, for
what the lottery sells is hope -- hope that is increasingly at odds with our reality,
particularly for the poor and middle classes.
So when our president states in his State of the Union (SOTU) address that our
economy is the strongest in the world, he is correct. Yet most of the people do not
receive their fair share of its benefits as wages have failed to keep pace with
economic growth since the 1970s. The top quintile has prospered and the
one-percent have made a killing, but income and wealth inequality are worse than in
some developing countries according to the Gini index.
When our president states in the SOTU address that our military is the strongest in
the world and that we do not face an existential threat, it is true, but only because Mr.
Putin prefers to work with the West despite Russia's interests being undermined.
When the president attributes middle-east instability to the centuries-old enmities, it is
true, but only in part, for the proximate cause of those buried enmities bubbling to the
surface in a cauldron of hate lies with our ham-handed policies initiated by the
George W. Bush administration and continued through the present one.
The war in Afghanistan against a Taliban that had nothing to do with 9/11, instead of
being ended, was continued to no avail in a failed Obama surge. The Taliban remain
undefeated and religious radicalism is a threat to the stability of neighboring Pakistan
across a porous border -- a Pakistan that is a nuclear-armed state.
The unnecessary Iraq war has been a disaster leading to a splintered nation and now
to ISIL. Left in place Saddam Hussein, who was absolutely no threat to us, would
have maintained a stable Iraq without current ethnic violence (a bomb in an eastern
Baghdad shopping mall this week) and without ISIL threatening and carrying out terror
attacks across the world (Paris not that long ago and Indonesia yesterday).
A stable Iraq would have meant that in Syria destabilization would not have been
possible, and a stable Syria would have stopped the exodus of millions into the EU
and the displacement of half of Syria's population. The body of a Syrian toddler
washing up on a Turkish beach horrified us, while we have over time become immune
to the deaths of thousands of others in these failed interventions.
Gaddafi had led Libya for decades developing it to lead Africa in the Human
Development Index. The sum total of deaths as he advanced against the rebels is
now estimated at between 240 and 500. We were instrumental, and the heaviest
contributor, in his removal despite his consistent help against religious extremists. In
fact these self-same extremists were employed against him, and have now spread
their virus south to the center of Africa and west to Nigeria. Libya itself is in chaos
and civil war. Whereas before Africans came to a prosperous Libya to improve their
financial circumstances, it has instead become an exporter of refugees and economic
migrants to Europe.
Saddam and Gaddafi were secular and rational. To keep the peace, Saddam, for
example, barred Shia religious processions during Muharram. One can reason with
rational secularists, not so with fervent religious fanatics who consider themselves
instruments of God's will.
In Ukraine an elected government was removed in a coup. But the final goals (as in
Syria) have been thwarted by Russia, now burdened with one and a half million
refugees. Ukraine's economy is a shambles, the industrial east geared to Russia as
the customer is in civil war.
Our role as the sole superpower in a uni-polar world has been one of a ham-fisted
giant thrashing about wildly causing untold misery in three continents without any
notable success or benefit for our nation. 'The buck stops here' read a sign on
Truman's desk, and, in this story, stops with George W. Bush and Barack Obama.