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 30, 2014
Mr. President: Kathy Kelly began a three-month prison sentence last Saturday. The
nearest person we have to a saint -- she and a companion George Walker had
attempted to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to the commander of Whiteman Air
Force base. The letter asked him to stop his men from flying drones. She was
arrested, tried and sentenced. As she puts it, she was allowed a month to surrender
herself to prison, "but whether you are a soldier or civilian, a target or an unlucky
bystander, you can't surrender to a drone."
And you cannot bomb an Afghan home, where extended families are the norm,
without killing women and children. Of course, one way to reduce 'collateral damage'
-- a word shielding civilian sensibilities that is a testament to this new culture of war --
is to consider every male hostile. The poor soldiers on the ground witness the
butchery first hand , the images of horror, the smell of burnt flesh, the decapitated,
gutted infants, toddlers, children and their mothers -- permanently imprinted images
in the brain and PTSD their enduring legacy of our wars.
A bomb cannot distinguish civilian or fighter; in a civil war, friend or foe. Thus the air
campaign against ISIS is causing more people to flee their homes than the ISIS
occupation ever did. Now in refugee camps, enduring a harsh winter under their
tents, they have lost everything. Their homes flattened by bombing, there is nothing
left to return to. If we are helping them against ISIS, an entity whose pedigree has us
culpable, then simple justice would require they be compensated. Long ago, this
letter pointed out the consequences of bombing ISIS fighters, few in number, holed up
in these cities and towns. Now we have just had 50 civilians killed in one night in
Of course, civilians can be made complicit anyhow, like in Dresden or Hiroshima or
Tokyo or London or countless others. How many ton loads of bombs were dropped
on North Vietnam?
And the end result? Risible if anything. Germany and Japan are major economies
and leading exporters more prosperous than before the war. North Vietnam unified
the country. Iraq and Syria (and Ukraine) are unwarranted wars largely of our
choosing -- as was Afghanistan, particularly as the Taliban were just as unaware of
9/11 plans as we were. All they had was someone living in their country who had
helped them fight the Soviets. Undercover operations and cruise missiles would have
cost pennies in comparison without making the lives of ordinary Afghans pitiable. Ask
Kathy Kelly. She helps run an Afghan NGO (Afghan Peace Volunteers).
Afghan was once famous for its nuts and fruits. But almonds and walnuts and
apricots and mulberries are trees, and trees take years to mature. Destroyed in the
wars, deliberately by the Soviets fighting an insurgency, what could any poor farmer
do? Along came the poppy: a quick harvest, high yield and ready cash. Afghanistan
is now the world's largest heroin producer -- not because it wanted to, but because it
was made to ... by the great powers. Cerebral thinkers with strategic vision following
some plan or drawing some line on a map with scarcely a thought to the people on
either side. As a victim of one such line, I know.
As for Kathy Kelly, she will spend three months in prison (at an annual cost of about
$30,000) for crossing a perimeter line. She is of no threat to society. Is this then the
best use of public funds?