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
May 2, 2014
Mr. President: Lately our method of negotiation has been to lay out a
take-it-or-leave-it deal. The device might hold purchase with the Iranians -- though
they have their pride and the recent demand for dismantling most of the centrifuges
could be a deal-breaker -- but with the Russians, who hold the winning cards in east
Ukraine and enough nuclear weapons to obliterate the world, it borders on the
Overnight eastern Ukraine has heated up. An assault by the Ukrainian military
accompanied by the far right militia is under way and although two of their helicopters
were shot down, they have managed to seize several checkpoints at Slavyansk set up
by the federalist demonstrators to prevent the military from entering the city.
For all his faults, President Yanukovych was (1) an elected leader, and (2) unlike the
current unelected government, he did resort to military firepower against
The corruption charges are valid across the political spectrum. Mr. Yanukovych's
government awarded half the contracts during January to entities affiliated with his
son Oleksandr and a third to his oligarch sponsor Rinat Akhmetov according to
Forbes of Ukraine. The former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko now out of jail
partnered with another prime minister (also just out after serving eight years in a
California prison) for embezzling $100 million from their joint company, United Energy
systems of Ukraine. Tymoshenko's predecessor sold arms illegally to Iraq but was
able to bargain for an amnesty. And this is not a complete list.
While geopolitics, European domination, encirclement of strategic threats (real or
imagined) play a role often trumping economics and odious allies, recent thrusts
smack of a return to the cold war, with the added danger of a Ukranian hot war
removing it as a buffer state. It is a step back to the dangers we lived under during
the cold war; as for that matter is the base being constructed on Jeju island in South
Korea not 300 miles from Shanghai a part of the ring of missiles and nuclear-armed
aircraft around China.
It brings to mind award winning documentary filmmaker Robert Frye's latest effort "In
My Lifetime". It spans the arc of time from 1945 to the present day following the
theme of nuclear weapons, the buildup of an arsenal capable of destroying the
earth. In one scene, a janitor is shown sweeping the floor right next to a neat line of a
score or more bombs each one a hundred times more powerful than Hiroshima and
Nagasaki which together killed 240,000 people. As he casually continues his task,
the contrast between a single human and a bomb capable of killing tens of millions is
a stark reminder of our nuclear insanity.
Evan Thomas' book "Ike's Bluff" reveals an Eisenhower who was opposed to dropping
the atomic bombs on Japan, and who as President used guile and wile to protect us
from a nuclear catastrophe in a perilous time with a raging Korean war, and the
memories of killing hundreds of thousands in a night of bombing fresh enough to
desensitize some policy makers and generals into adding another zero to the
numbers and imagining nuclear war as a real option.
And on Korea, Bruce Cummings' latest book, "The Forgotten War", is a reminder of
the origins of the Korean conflict where the northerners who fought the Japanese in
WWII were branded 'commies' whereas the collaborators with Japan in the South were
installed by the U.S. as a countervailing force. The subsequent hell (1950-1953)
killed more Koreans than the number of Japanese killed in the entire Second World
Fortunately for us, Ike had the courage and the military heft to stand up to the