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 25, 2012
Mr, President: The Facebook IPO this week has been a testament to the new
regulatory environment. Insiders were allotted shares at $32 while the public flotation
was at $38 -- not entirely unusual except that a forecast cutting revenue growth for
the next quarter was known to Facebook and the underwriters but not made available
to the public. Shareholders are angry, and some have filed a lawsuit. Is this an
orderly capital market, or is this Dylan Ratigan's "Greedy Bastards" capitalism?
The NATO summit is over. According to protesters, there were 75,000 of them;
according to the police a mere few thousand. The upshot of the meeting: a phased
withdrawal from Afghanistan except for the French, who are now leaving this year.
Mr. Hollande, their new President, apparently keeps his election promises. All of this
is being conjured up as another success for NATO.
The other "textbook success" was Libya, where Libyans have had their infrastructure
destroyed including the elaborate system of channels and aquaducts bringing water
from the south to Tripoli. Armed gangs roam the streets. The NTC ruling body is
both ineffective and incompetent, and it cannot handle the frequent armed conflicts
between constituent groups.
Meanwhile in Pakistan the drone strikes continue. They are a major reason why the
U.S. has enraged the people there and lost all popular support: two in two days this
week, the last one was on a village mosque killing at least ten people as they
emerged from morning prayers. So, is the whole village a target? One consequence
is that Mr. Zardari can not reopen the supply routes, unless at exorbitant cost. Even
that will likely cost him the election. Hence the snub in Chicago of not granting him a
face-to-face meeting probably yielded a sigh of relief from the wily Mr. Zardari. In the
end, we will end up paying through the nose because there can be no withdrawal
without those routes to ship masses of equipment back.
All of these wars, which almost never actualize the starting propaganda, confirm what
has happened throughout the last century. Wars seldom achieved what enlightened
negotiation would not have yielded in the first place. Bottled up Germany (and Japan)
was finally after WW II allowed free access to world markets, and the world is better
for it. Had it happened fifty years earlier, Germany would have been spared the
debilitating WW I reparations, its economy would not have been shattered, and Hitler
would never have come to power. Were it not for the greed of corporate titans in
certain major powers, who profited from captive markets, two world wars might have
been avoided, and most likely the great depression, not to speak of the destruction
and carnage on a scale never before seen in history. It is ironic that today Germany
and Japan (together with China) are the world's leading exporters.
The end result in Vietnam was about what would have occurred decades earlier, if Ho
Chi Minh had not been cheated out of promised elections and the country handed
back to the French as a colony after WW II. Except of course for the death and
destruction. The defoliants (like agent orange) used are still causing high rates of
cancer and birth defects. Neighboring countries also did not escape lightly. We all
know about the Cambodian genocide, but the Hmong way of life in Laos has been
extirpated -- the survivors leading a marginalized existence in the U.S.
Korea remains divided with all the heartache of separated families and the military
burden of perpetual confrontation. The South is an economic powerhouse; the North
a military one. Left alone they could have been a souped-up version of present-day
A decimated Iraq has seen the exodus of millions, and is now in an Iranian orbit,
hardly the outcome envisaged by our war planners, who also estimated the cost at
about $60 billion. A trillion dollars and more later, they are in comfortable retirement
-- though some have the temerity to return as experts on major media outlets.
Afghanistan will eventually return to rule most likely by a less rigid Taliban entity
dominated by Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group. It takes time and money to wind
down a war; meanwhile men die needlessly.