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 17, 2013
Mr. President: On May 14, a video was released. It shows the prominent Syrian rebel
leader Abu Sakkar, cutting out the heart of a government soldier and eating it. Do
the rebels have any prisoners of war?
Bilal is a 22-year Tunisian, who left home telling his widowed mother Aziza he was
going to Libya to purchase clothes to bring back and sell. She never heard from him
again. The Syrian government released a list of rebel fighters it had captured and
was holding as POW's. On it were 26 Tunisians including Bilal.
Who is backing the right side?
As in Libya, where they killed the American ambassador, the likes of Abu Sakkar are
the ones most likely to seize power (and chemical weapons) should the Syrian
government fall. The latest figures from the U.N. have raised the estimate of the
numbers killed in Syria to at least 80,000. In sparsely populated Libya the most
frequently quoted figure is 30,000. Without interference, the escalation could never
have been that intense and things would have most likely settled down with a few
hundred lives lost. Libya would have continued to lead all African countries on the
Human Development Index, and women would have continued to enjoy almost equal
rights; they are now shuttered. The same holds true in Iraq -- no more Zaha Hadids,
for a while.
This week the benighted, ethnically cleansed Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (Burma)
suffered the ravages of a tropical storm. About a hundred or so died trying to escape
it in a boat. Human Rights Watch has documented how the government is part of the
abuse and restrictions, and the Nazi-like supremacist violence (according to Human
Rights Watch) inflicted upon them. Volunteers working there report on the
in-your-face racism now prevalent.
It all started in 1972 after the military dictatorship having recently seized power
resorted to fanning ethnic animosity to bolster their popularity much like Milosovich
did with Serbian nationalism in Yugoslavia. First, the government took away their
citizenship declaring them illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Guess how long they had
owned land and farmed in Burma? About twice as long as the United States has
existed. The government in Myanmar first blamed the British for importing them from
then British India, but in fact they had lived there for several centuries before the
colonialists arrived. Perhaps the British can be blamed instead for carelessness in
drawing up the border when they ruled both countries. Surely, the U.S.has some
leverage with a Myanmar desperate to open up to the outside world and with Ang San
Su Ki, the Nobel Peace Laurate, who has notoriously been silent on the issue.
The home news this week has been dominated by the IRS targeting tea-party
affiliated organizations, and the Justice Department's scrutiny of phone conversations
of over a hundred Associated Press reporters in a leak investigation. You have
defended the latter policy maintaining the importance of national security in a balance
with press freedoms. That is of course the crucial point, but should not the balance
question be left to the judiciary, as is customary, rather than an interested party like
the Administration? The Justice Department could very easily go to a Federal judge
for a warrant, provided it has reasonable cause, and the rest of us would feel